I’ll be honest and admit I’ve never watched much of the classic Perry Mason series, but I did enjoy the catchy theme music and how Raymond Burr portrayed the character to become an icon and set the bar for law TV shows. Of all the people in the world that would try to reboot this beloved series, Robert Downey Jr., his wife Susan, and HBO did a great job with it and now it’s home on video with the Perry Mason: The Complete First Season set. It loses the wholesome charm of the original, but those willing to give it a chance will find a gripping mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end.
Taking place during the Great Depression in 1930’s Los Angeles, Perry Mason (Matthew Rhys) is a down on his luck private investigator who is barely getting by on what he makes with his friend and mentor Pete Strickland (Shea Wigham). Thankfully Mason is friends with and works for E.B. Jonathan (John Lithgow), a once big lawyer who is trying to rebuild his business since the Great Depression started, and E.B.’s secretary Ms. Street (Juliet Rylance) who cares about Mason and E.B. but has her own problems to deal with as well.
The biggest case of Mason’s and E.B.’s career shows up in the form of clients Emily and Matthew Dodson (Nate Coddry and Gayle Rankin), victims of a kidnapping that goes horribly wrong despite doing everything the kidnappers wanted, sadly leading to the murder of their baby. As Mason and Pete work to get to the bottom of what happened, they quickly learn they’re in over their heads as everyone from the police, their superiors, and even a mega Evangelical church called the Radiant Assembly of God led by Sister Alice McKeegan (Tatiana Maslany) either seem to have something to do with the murder or is hiding something about it.
To say anymore would spoil the mystery, and it’s one well worth experiencing for yourself. Despite this reboot losing the wholesome charm of the source material by including swears, sex, nudity, aka typical HBO fare, I really enjoyed seeing what was going to happen next as each episode always leaves you wanting more. I’m surprised the series wasn’t released in 4K, but the Blu-ray looks and sounds great, which is critical for a mystery series when you’re looking and listening for clues along with Mason.
There’s a few short but interesting special features included, starting with “The Characters of Perry Mason” that goes over the characters and their back stories, “Under the Fedora” discusses the changes made in the reboot, including Matthew Rhys’ love/hate relationship with the fedora Mason wears. “Robert Downey Jr. & Matthew Rhys: Conversation” has the beloved actor/executive producer sitting down with Matthew Rhys and going over the series. Lastly there’s “Susan Downey and Robert Downey Jr.” features the husband and wife production team going over rebooting the classic show and how it all came together.
While it would’ve been nice to have had the classic TV show’s wholesome charm intact in the reboot, HBO’s Perry Mason: The Complete First Season is still a great series and is a must-see for those who enjoy a good murder mystery that’s part of even more mysteries. A solid cast and acting will keep you binge watching for sure, and I really can’t wait to see what kind of cases Mason takes on in the second season.