Dennis Broe, noted film critic from New York and now in Paris, reviews the new Perry Mason HBO series set in 1930s Los Angeles
A special presentation with Dennis Broe
Presented by The Marxist Education Project and Institute for the Radical Imagination
It’s the third most popular book series of all time, a show that ran in some form for over 35 years and is now the flagship production for HBO’s summer lineup.
Perry Mason, the indefatigable defender of hopeless cases that the police have seemingly wrapped up, has been reinvented as a no-account Jake Gittes from Chinatown, a two-bit blackmailer and lost generation PTSD war casualty navigating the streets of 1932 Los Angeles at the height of the depression. Hoovervilles, the Bonus March, and the rich in tuxedos with the poor at their feet form the background of the series and suggest our own era where Trumpvilles flourish and will soon expand when unemployment benefits are exhausted.
We’ll take a critical look at this refashioning of the criminal defense attorney, with a Della Street who wants equal pay in the law office and an African-American investigator, the refurbished Paul Drake, who abandons the very low ceiling of a black beat cop on the LAPD to work elsewhere. Also addressed will be questions of how HBO, now owned and under the tutelage of AT&T, the conservative telecom company from Dallas, may be changing as it becomes the centerpiece of the AT&T/Time Warner streaming service. As well as how the American “period fetish” and faithfulness to the letter but not the spirit of the law of the original plays out in this remake.
For those who are able, the Perry Mason series is available every Sunday from 9 to 10 pm EST for new episodes, and is available on demand for streaming with many local cable / satellite providers of televised content.
Dennis Broe taught Television Studies at the Sorbonne. He is the author of Birth of the Binge: Serial TV and The End of Leisure, Maverick or How The West Was Lostand the soon-to-be-published Diary of a Digital Plague Year: Coronavirus, Serial TV and The Rise of the Streaming Services. His TV criticism appears at Bro on the Global Television Beat. His television, film, art and literary criticism also appears in the British newspaper Morning Star and on People’s World and Crime Time. He is an associate editor of Culture Matters. His radio broadcasts on his show Breaking Glass appear on Art District Radio in Paris and on Arts Express in New York on WBAI and across the Pacifica Network.
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