We strenuously object! Raymond Burr was conspicuously and criminally missing on Entertainment Weekly
's list of the top 100 TV icons. This is a TV Land injustice, but this four-disc set of episodes that complete season 2 lays the groundwork for an appeal. Burr was honored with an Emmy for his commendable work this season as Los Angeles defense attorney Perry Mason, as was Barbara Hale, who portrayed his faithful secretary Della Street. Who knows how many impressionable viewers Burr inspired to become lawyers with his masterful portrayal of the unflappable, incorruptible Mason? No matter how much evidence district attorney Hamilton Burger (William Talman) and Lt. Tragg (Ray Collins) collect, and no matter how damning it is, it will usually collapse once Perry gets the real guilty party to break down on the witness stand or, in one case, in a beatnik hangout. In "The Case of the Lame Canary," a woman is discovered over her dead husband's body, gun in hand, and burning a stack of letters. "If she has any sense, she's at the airport waiting for the first plane out of the country," someone cattily remarks. Nope, she has better sense than that; she's at Perry's office.
Filmed in black and white, Perry Mason has a seductive noir sensibility. Here in sunny California are convoluted cases involving corruption, blackmail, scandal, revenge, and greed. Perry, with the help of private detective Paul Drake (William Hopper), sorts it all out, and in the episode codas, further parses the evidence ("I still don't see what put you on the right track" is a typical query) in inscrutable ways that invite replay. Beyond the pleasure of watching an actor thoroughly embody his character, it's also fun to spot familiar character actors. "The Case of the Petulant Partner" stars Will Wright, who played mean old Ben Weaver on the early seasons of The Andy Griffith Show, and that's a rather fetching Marion "Mrs C." Ross from Happy Days in "The Case of the Romantic Rogue." The episodes crackle with some old-school, hard-boiled dialogue. Almost worth the price of the set is hearing Lt. Tragg make with the beat talk in "The Case of the Jaded Joker." "I'm one of the cool ones," he jokes with Della and Perry. "I don't dig slick chicks trying to goof me up, daddy-o." Once again, this set is guilty of providing no extra features, but we'll let them off with a warning. This time. --Donald Liebenson
Perry Mason is an attorney who specializes in defending seemingly indefensible cases. With the aid of his secretary Della Street and investigator Paul Drake, he often finds that by digging deeply into the facts, startling facts can be revealed. Often relying on his outstanding courtroom skills, he often tricks or traps people into unwittingly admitting their guilt.