Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Case of the Jaded Joker


I ended up missing The Jaded Joker when it aired on television recently. I decided it would be the perfect time to watch it uncut again, as I think I’ve only seen the uncut version once or twice.

I cringed to remember just how much was cut out. They eliminated both the scene where the titular character Danny tries to kill himself and is stopped by Freddie, and a scene at breakfast the next day where they discuss it. Or Danny tries to discuss it, anyway, and Freddie gruffly brushes it off, saying that he himself has been helped out of jams many times by Danny. They then discuss the murder and Danny tries to give an alibi to Freddie, worrying that he killed the creep who’s caused them so much trouble. Freddie, meanwhile, worries that Danny did it, although he doesn’t say so at this point.

As before, I find the episode just delightful because of the friendship between those two. I am annoyed that those scenes get cut, but even the cut version retains some of the friendship scenes. Danny exclaims on the witness stand that if Freddie did kill the guy, it was for Danny, so Danny should be the one to go to the gas chamber. It’s illogical, but it shows how deeply Danny cares about Freddie. Meanwhile, Freddie is still worried that Danny did it and he’s willing to take the blame to protect Danny.

Paul expresses confusion early on as to why Freddie stays on with Danny and if there’s anything crooked in his mind, since Freddie has a record and was a two-bit operator before meeting Danny. But from all the scenes between them and concerning them, it’s obvious that Freddie has no criminal motives in mind unless said motives are for the protection of Danny. He’s very loyal and caring and they have a truly lovely, deep friendship.

The friendship, however, seems to be largely overshadowed by the main thing people seem to dislike about this episode, which is the fact that it gets into beatnik culture. Danny and Freddie’s friend, Buzzie, is a beat, mostly always playing the piano or occasionally spouting strange statements that people other than beats aren’t likely to understand. He ends up being the murderer, upset about the way his friends have been treated (“friends” also including Sheila Hayes, who was stood up). And the bizarre element of the body being stuffed into the kneehole of the desk is apparently because the victim is a “square” and Buzzie somehow feels that killing him and putting him in such a strange position will enable him to be “born again” and eventually find salvation.

It’s definitely weird, that’s for sure. But there have been other Perry episodes with strange resolutions. Whether or not they are accepted any better is something I’m not sure of. In any case, while I do think the solution to the crime is why my mom doesn’t like the episode, from what most people have said, it seems to be the idea of anything beatnik-related at all that makes their skin crawl. It kind of interferes with their ideas of what Perry cases should be like. They prefer more mainstream plots and characters, such as the ones from season 1, and do not care to see unusual subcultures. (Or stuff about the Space Age, as another example.)

While some of that may be a desire to keep the plots and characters more relatable to more people, I think another large part of it goes back to the idea of wanting to keep Perry a period piece, taking place even before beatniks really started coming into being. Beatniks properly place the series in the present day of its time, plus I suppose some people would say that the presence of beatniks dates the episode today.

I’m all for contemporary Perry, as everyone probably well knows by now, and I enjoy seeing them encounter the things that were happening at that time. I see nothing wrong with that and don’t think it should take away from the enjoyment of the episodes.

That being said, I do think it’s better to keep jaunts into the beatnik or Space Age worlds as something occasional and not the main thing. And the show did that very well; most plots are more mainstream, with more average, relatable guest-stars. (Although I think Danny and Freddie’s friendship should be relatable for most people.)

While the majority of people dislike this episode, however, one thing it seems most of them still appreciate is the hilarious adorableness of Lieutenant Tragg spouting off beat talk. Tragg is totally in tune with the slang of the day and would definitely be able to carry on conversations with members of the younger set who actually talk like that most of the time. I just love that priceless, mischievous grin as he says, “Don’t bug me, Granny. I’m one of the cool ones. I don't dig slick chicks trying to goof me up, Daddy-O.” Classic Tragg.

And now I have an image of Tragg in my stories (which are set in the present day) carrying on a conversation with a kid about video games like Mario and Sonic. If he could keep up-to-date on beatnik talk, I bet a present-day Tragg would also keep up on current interests of the young people. That would be pretty adorable too.

But I digress. I find The Jaded Joker a very enjoyable and fun episode, largely because of the friendship between Danny and Freddie. The beatnik elements certainly make it unusual, and the solution to the mystery is very trippy and strange (I can’t think of any other episode that resolves itself in a beat joint!), but I see no reason why those elements should have to make the episode overall any less fun to watch. And anyway, being a fan of Bobby Troupe, I found it intriguing to see him in this early role.

Actually, it’s interesting that The Jaded Joker is rather a musical episode, with music personalities in the form of not only Bobby Troupe, but Frankie Laine, who plays Danny. But despite Frankie Laine’s status as a singer, he doesn’t so much as hum one note in the episode. I’m always slightly amused when a famous singer comes onboard and then doesn’t sing. I suppose he wants to be known for something other than solely singing, or else the staff working on the episode doesn’t want the episode to turn into little more than a vehicle for the singer to sing.

Both Frankie Laine and Bobby Troupe are excellent in their roles, and I’m also very impressed with Walter Burke as Freddie. But then, I generally am impressed with the quality of the guest-stars on Perry. Maybe occasionally a slip is made, such as how I’ve heard that people forgot their lines in The Lost Last Act when Tragg comes to arrest Stacy Harris’s character, but it’s covered up so beautifully I never would have realized it hadn’t played out the way it was really supposed to be. Ray Collins is awesome in that scene, with his gentle prompting and ad-libbing. No wonder they kept it in instead of asking for another take!

Anyway, aside from the beatnik elements, the story of The Jaded Joker is very much like any other Perry mystery in that it has a wide variety of character types often seen on the series, a puzzling murder, and nice character interaction as the crew works to solve it. I study the episode trying to find something wrong with it since it’s so universally disliked, but I always end up coming away feeling that it’s just fine.

Friday, September 12, 2014

In Memoriam: Raymond Burr


Today it’s 21 years since we lost our Perry Mason, Raymond Burr. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long.

Raymond was, and really still is, the quintessential Perry Mason. His acting style isn’t appreciated by everyone, of course, but I and many others found him just perfect in the part. His ability to deadpan and be serious is what’s often remembered about his interpretation of the character; even Raymond himself forgot that Perry also has a definite mischievous streak, usually in the form of teasing Paul Drake. And he often smiles in amusement at things that are going on or being said by other characters. It wasn’t just in the later television movies when his sense of humor came out.

Perry can become emotional in court, even raising his voice when speaking to certain witnesses (often the real murderers). Other times he becomes very sarcastic and mocking, such as when he talks to fortune-teller Marius in The Fatal Fortune. It doesn’t happen often, so it might be easy to forget, but I enjoy The Fatal Fortune in general and found the role-reversal of Perry’s sarcasm and Hamilton objecting to it to be very interesting. Hamilton certainly doesn’t believe in fortune-telling and the like, but he still found Perry’s sarcasm inappropriate in the cross-examination.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Perry is very kind. Raymond always brought it out perfectly, showing how Perry would help many destitute clients who wouldn’t be able to pay, patiently teach David Gideon in the matters of the law, and even refuse to prosecute a juvenile for the stripping of his car. And who can forget the lovely exchange between Perry and Della from The Weary Watchdog:

Della: How far would you go for a friend?

Perry: How far is forever?

And with Perry, you know he’s not exaggerating. Many of the impossible cases he takes on are for his friends. And he’ll keep fighting to save them as long as there’s even the slimmest thread of hope. Even if one doesn’t always agree with his methods, his intense loyalty is certainly an admirable quality. It would be difficult to find a more faithful friend than Perry.

I read something recently, perhaps at the Yahoo Group, where someone commented that the reason The Restless Redhead may have been chosen as the first episode aired was because of how excellently it shows how Perry champions the underdog. That was one of the main themes they wanted to sell in the series, and it’s very true that Redhead shows some classic examples of it. (It also right off the bat shows some of Perry’s most jaw-dropping less-than-legal actions by firing more bullets around the crime scene!) While I still sort of wonder why The Moth-Eaten Mink wouldn’t have been either the first aired or one of the first eight, I do agree that if they were trying to sell the underdog concept, Redhead was probably the better choice for the first one aired between those two.

Raymond was always excellent at any part he took on. Robert Ironside is a much gruffer man than Perry, but his heart is just as big underneath all the growls. I don’t like how Perry in the reunion movies sometimes acts more gruff like Ironside, but if it was a deliberate action I suppose it was the fabled grouchiness of old age.

Perry is definitely the role for which Raymond is most singularly remembered, and with very good reason, since Raymond not only did a perfect job, he played Perry right up to the time of his death. His final role was the television movie The Case of the Killer Kiss, which was actually released more than two months after his death. I still have it recorded from MeTV and haven’t seen it yet, and it will likely be a very bittersweet experience when I do.

I wonder what it was like for people watching the original broadcast in 1993? It must have been extremely sad and bittersweet, knowing it was Raymond’s final performance and that he had passed on over two months earlier. The emotional wounds of the fans would have still been very fresh.

21 years later, it’s still very sad to think that Raymond is gone. But it’s a comfort to know that there’s such a treasure trove of his work available for us to still share in the joy of watching. My friend Crystal often bemoans how the BBC destroyed many priceless recordings of their old shows. Thank goodness that wasn’t the case in America! We can still watch every episode of Perry Mason, Ironside, the Perry television movies, and many other things that Raymond Burr appeared in. And while of course watching them is not like having him still here, I like to think that he’s happy knowing he still brings happiness to people with the shows he made.

Here’s to you, Raymond. Still remembered, missed, and loved.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

In Memoriam, Part 2: Wesley Lau


The second post of the day is for Wesley Lau, another very talented and special man.

I have actually seen at least one new thing with him, and curiously enough, it was an accident. I was looking up an old episode of Suspense because Joseph Campanella had a walk-on part. Then I started skimming through it to see if he appeared again. Instead, I found a man who both looked and sounded very much like Wesley.

It didn’t take long before I knew it really was Wesley. And interestingly enough for Perry fans, the plot of the episode had Wesley’s character accused of a murder he didn’t commit. He turned out an amazing, heartbreaking performance, completely falling apart under pressure and screaming that he didn’t do it.

Thankfully, the real killer is finally caught and Wesley’s character is exonerated. And since Wesley wasn’t even credited for that episode on IMDB.com, I added the credit right after watching the episode.

I took a few low-quality pictures and put them on my Tumblr account: http://lucky-ladybugs-lovelies.tumblr.com/search/Suspense

It’s always interesting to me that Wesley never even wanted to act. He was just a natural at it. His characters are so believable and so human. Most times they are sympathetic. Occasionally they are not. He was equally wonderful at playing good guys and bad guys.

The other day we re-watched I Want to Live!, to see Wesley as well as Simon Oakland. As the fourth husband of Barbara Graham, Wesley’s character Henry starts out seeming fairly mild and sweet. But he’s mixed up in criminal activities and also has a crippling drug habit. It isn’t far into the marriage when Henry is drug-tripping and becoming violent, even striking Barbara while holding their baby. He then disappears, not reappearing until found by the police and brought into court during Barbara’s trial. He looks somewhat dazed, which he very likely is; the newspaper headline comes up that he isn’t any help and had a “foggy day” in court. He apparently can’t remember whether the events of that last night of him being at home happened or not.

The character is certainly not very sympathetic. I can’t say whether or not the way he was written was much like the real Henry Graham; reports I’ve read on him seem a bit contradictory when attempted to be put together. But what I can say for a surety is that Wesley’s portrayal is, as always, very unforgettable.

Perry-wise, it’s always interesting to put his two characters side by side and examine their similarities and differences. Amory Fallon jumps to conclusions, is tortured by said conclusions, and unravels into a completely stressed-out and irrational person. Lieutenant Anderson is detached and businesslike, but often puts together the pieces of a case the wrong way, can be made to look ridiculous on the witness stand, and eventually allows the more stressed-out side of his personality to take over a lot more frequently.

He can’t be faulted too much on how he tries to solve cases, since the same problem plagues all Perry police and is just a fault of the formula. But I still wonder what could have caused him to become so stressed-out by season 8.

Just in that fact of being stressed, he is similar to Amory. But the way they behave while stressed is different. Amory is irrational, sometimes even bordering on hysterical. Andy is just frustrated, angry, and fed-up.

It’s intriguing how Wesley even approached that same basic characteristic of stress in different ways. Amory goes so far as to start running his fingers into his hair so much that it gets downright messed-up. Andy presses his lips in a thin line and becomes clipped. Sometimes, but not always, he doesn’t even raise his voice when his temper snaps.

While writing The Malevolent Mugging, which focuses a great deal on both of them, I had to do my best to make sure they were always portrayed as the two different people they were meant to be. When calm, they can both behave in similarly businesslike ways, which can present a problem in writing. But Amory almost always seems a bit more open with his emotions, even in calm times, so I try to bring that out and also to keep them different in whatever other ways are possible, such as Amory commenting on how Andy is trained to risk his life but he, Amory, hasn’t been and wouldn’t ever be able to think of some of the things Andy comes up with.

I ended up inspired by discovering Deputy Sampson exists in the books and I wrote a new chapter of that story: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/8342827/ I have Andy finally end up pushed to the limits of his patience and he becomes stressed even to the point of being somewhat irrational. Luckily, Tragg brings him back to Earth.

I’m hoping to keep that story rolling to its conclusion now. I came up with one plot twist that may hopefully be the start of bringing all remaining loose ends together.

The story was originally meant as being largely for Andy and Amory, then later expanded to also be for the district attorney’s office and Hamilton and Sampson. A tribute to several wonderful characters and hence, the actors who brought them to life and made them memorable.

The actors for three of those characters are gone now, the actors whom are being remembered with the posts today. Thank you, Wesley, and William, for the amazing performances, characters, and the creativity you have helped to inspire. You will both always be unforgettable.

In Memoriam, Part 1: William Talman


So today is the day of the two tributes, honoring our district attorney and the second of our police lieutenants, both gone far too soon. I thought I’d post one early in the day and one later, since I don’t really want to combine them.

I’ve been wondering exactly what to say on this one. It’s still so difficult to find the remaining things William Talman has been in, save for some of the ones in which he plays the villain that I haven’t gotten the strength to see yet. I always enjoy his performances, but naturally I lean towards preferring good guys over bad. And it seems I’ve talked so much about William on Perry that there wouldn’t be anything left to be said! I was hoping to be hit with some new angle to follow, but I haven’t yet.

I was surprised, as I mentioned, to actually like book-Hamilton when I read through some of The Caretaker’s Cat. I was expecting an extremely pig-headed person, but at least in this novel, he wasn’t. I was particularly impressed by him saying how he has a horror over the possibility of convicting an innocent person.

That sort of attitude certainly parallels that of Hamilton in the television series. William brought the character to life so beautifully and so humanly, always making sure that he showed his kindness and concern towards witnesses, families of the victims, and even the defendants. He always wanted justice done above all else and was happy to cooperate with Perry as soon as Perry could provide good reason to believe why someone else may have been the killer.

I encountered someone once who complained about Hamilton gloating whenever he had one over on Perry, claiming that in the books he doesn’t do that. I honestly can’t comment there; I don’t know, although I’ve been told by others that he does indeed gloat in the books, too. I suppose it is rather immature, as the person complained, but it is such a part of the television Hamilton and William was so good at it. Many of his comments are downright hilarious, and his expressions, when gloating and especially when he’s exasperated, are just priceless. Some actors are just masters of epic expressions, and William Talman was definitely one of them.

I was surprised by how this person I talked to seemed to prefer the characters to stay the way they are in the books, relationship-wise. She felt that they were overall more distant and she preferred that, I think because she said she wanted the emphasis on the cases. I can’t see myself ever preferring a verse where Perry and Hamilton don’t become friends, when their friendship was the key element that drew me in years ago and it’s one of the keystones of the television series. It grows and develops so much over the nine seasons, as do the characters themselves. As I recall, Hamilton does a lot less of the gloating in later seasons, as he becomes a more mature person. Occasionally he’ll even joke about it, such as at the end of The Shoplifter’s Shoe when he says “Well, Perry, it looks like I was wrong. For once. On this case.” I love that little mischievous smile and how it’s obvious that he and Perry are sharing a laugh.

The significance of the scene totally went over my dad’s head, as he could only say, “This time? He’s wrong all the time!” But I saw the beauty in Hamilton cracking the joke, and that little smile which said he knew it was an ironic joke, and the fact that he was comfortable enough around Perry to actually make the joke and have it understood. Truly, a scene like that never could have happened in season 1, where Perry and Hamilton usually are either aloof and distant or at war—although even then, there are scenes that show a certain respect at times and the budding friendship that will emerge in full bloom later on.

It’s lovely how the actors were such good friends in real-life; William even commented that Raymond was his best friend. And that definitely comes out in the series. When actors have an amazing rapport, there’s no way to stop it from transferring to their characters. And no reason to want it to, either, as it makes everything feel more real and gel better.

Could the Perry and Hamilton dynamic have happened with another actor in William’s place? Yes; there are many talented actors. But no one else could have played the character like William did. And I’m not at all sure that any other performance would have become so incredibly memorable even so many years later. William just fit the part like a glove. He made it his own. And that is why it’s so easy to picture him whenever we think of Hamilton Burger.

I hope that he and Raymond have continued their friendship on the other side. Perhaps they’ve even found some new things to perform in. That would certainly be a treat for anyone luckily enough to see it.

Meanwhile, as we miss wonderful people like William down here, we have many incredible performances to treasure, including every Perry episode in which he appeared. They make for highly enjoyable repeat viewing again and again.

William, we still think about you and love you. And I am thrilled that all the Perry episodes are still around and have even been restored to pristine glory. We’ll be able to share in your adventures as Hamilton Burger for a long time yet.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Case of the Shoplifter's Book


I am absolutely ecstatic! I have learned something I asked the Yahoo Group in vain some time back, whether or not the Deputy D.A. Sampson character exists in the books. Apparently he does! A deputy D.A. named Sampson figures into at least one book, The Case of the Shoplifter’s Shoe. I’ve asked the person who reviewed the book what the character is like, but I haven’t received a reply yet.

Just judging by what I subsequently read at Storrer’s site, I can’t quite figure out what he’s like. I don’t like that at one point he’s coaching a witness on what to say. But I’d have to actually read the book to see what’s fully going on; I would imagine that Sampson fully believes that what he’s saying is the truth and hence, doesn’t think it amiss to coach the witness into saying it. Yet still, it sounds more like the impetuous Bill Vincent than Sampson.

The television Sampson is sharp, smart, and seems upright almost to a fault. He does try to drag answers to leading questions out of some uncooperative witnesses, but just by treating them as hostile and demanding they simply answer Yes or No, which certainly isn’t the same as coaching them on what to say. And when accused of offering immunity to someone wanted for manslaughter in Tennessee, he responds, “We resent that, Your Honor!”

I suppose, depending on the context, I might not find it out-of-character for him to coach the witness. But I don’t think it’s right for either side to do that with a witness, and knowing Sampson, he would likely agree and not knowingly be a party to it.

Of course, however, the book versions of the characters really are different in many ways from their television counterparts, and not always flatteringly so. I imagine it could be argued that the book characters have more faults and hence are more human, but I say there are many ways to have faults and the way the books do it isn’t the only way, nor necessarily the best way.

One definite, but superficial, difference between the Sampsons is that his first name in the book is given as Larry. I still like my choice of the name Gregory; Larry just doesn’t sound as fitting for a character as strong and determined and brash as H.M. Wynant portrayed him. And the television series already has a deputy D.A. Larry anyway, in the form of Larry Germaine. So I’ll probably keep using the name Gregory. It wouldn’t be the first time the books and the television series have diverged on a name.

What’s really weird is when the books and the television series agree on a name . . . even if the titles and plots are completely different! On Friday night MeTV showed The Shattered Dream, a television series-only episode. And after reading the aforementioned very interesting review of the book version of The Shoplifter’s Shoe, I have come to the realization that The Shattered Dream used several names from The Shoplifter’s Shoe! This can hardly be a coincidence. And since the stories are completely different, it’s a very weird deliberate act.

First off, the most glaring parallel is that both stories feature a prominent character called Virginia Trent. In Dream, she’s the heiress to a diamond business. In Shoe, she’s the niece of the defendant and is always spouting psychology to explain people’s actions.

I suppose that if that was the only parallel, one could possibly assume that it’s a coincidence, even though Virginia isn’t a very common name. But it doesn’t stop there.

In Shoe, Virginia’s aunt is named Sarah Breel. In Dream, the murder victim is using the alias Breel when he leaves his wife. And his wife’s name is Sara.

And it gets weirder still. Dream features a character called Irene Bedford, who owns the diamond that’s absolutely central to the whole plot. Shoe features Ione Bedford, who pretends to own nice things like the Bedford Diamonds, which are also fairly critical to the story.

What in the world? How did all of that happen? It almost makes me wonder if Dream was originally intended to be a very loose adaption of Shoe, but somewhere along the line someone decided it should be its own story. Later on, when they finally got around to adapting Shoe in season 6, they kept all the names. In fact, so far it seems to be one of the only times I’ve seen where the book and the television names remain the same.

As mentioned, I looked through Storrer’s site to see the details of the book version of Shoe. I was impressed to see that aside from some fleshing out of things, the basic plot was almost completely retained for the television episode . . . until we came to the solution of the crime.

In the television Shoe, of course, we find out that while Virginia thinks her gunshot killed Austin Cullins, it actually went wild and Leonard Nimoy’s character Pete Chennery was the actual murderer. But if I understand the book version’s plot, it looks like in it, Virginia really did kill Cullins! She did it out of reflex when he shot at Sarah, so it certainly couldn’t ever be construed as cold-blooded murder. But Perry fixes things with legal trickery so that Sarah Breel is exonerated and Virginia is unlikely to be prosecuted. And, he says, the police are likely to think Chennery did the killing.

Um . . . does that mean that Perry basically just set up someone else who’s guiltless to take the blame? Or else he did nothing and just plans to continue to do nothing and stand idly by if the police find Chennery (as Perry admittedly thinks they won’t)? I know book-Perry does a lot more shady things than television Perry, even at his worst, but this? I suppose I’d actually have to read the book to know for sure what’s going on to that effect, but it definitely doesn’t sound good from here.

In any case, book-Perry really is quite a piece of work. I’m thinking more and more that he and book-Della would probably make great friends with either version of Simon Templar.

It really puzzles me as to why, when Erle Stanley Gardner wanted to write something to show lawyers in a better light, he instead wrote Perry as acting a lot like a shyster and doing downright illegal things in at least the earlier novels. How would that help public opinion? I guess it must have, or the books wouldn’t have taken off so much, but I’m just sitting here thinking What in the world? and being glad that the television Perry had his act cleaned up quite a bit. I may be in the minority, but I really prefer when the protagonist doesn’t have such questionable morality, especially if he’s in a position like Perry.

I suppose it could be argued that the difference between a regular shyster and Perry is that Perry really cares about his clients and he isn’t just out for money. But I don’t like how book-Perry doesn’t care whether his client is guilty or not, since one of the defining traits of television Perry is that he cares very much. Nor do I like that book-Perry really doesn’t care if the murderer goes scot-free as long as he gets his client off (regardless of whether the client is the killer). I know book-Perry is probably closer to real lawyers, since I don’t imagine most real lawyers go around solving crimes and digging up the killers except in unusual cases. But I guess even though Hamilton is my favorite, I still kind of romanticize Perry a bit! That’s definitely the television show’s influence, and I don’t mind at all.

Interestingly, I guess the fact that book-Perry defends guilty clients sometimes and doesn’t seem to care about exposing the real murderers in any case might mean the reduction or elimination of the police apparently not doing their jobs well, which is certainly how it looks in the television series when the wrong person is arrested near constantly and Perry is solving the cases and discovering the real criminals. Alternately, however, book-Perry’s attitudes don’t always make him seem like such a great hero. Sometimes I like antihero characters, but I’m just not crazy about Perry being one. And Sergeant Holcomb, in the books, seems a lot more idiotic than any of the television police ever did.

I guess, just as with those who prefer early episodes over later ones, and vice versa, it really comes down to what’s wanted out of entertainment. And since I prefer characterization over twisty plots, and feel that the television characters deliver the type of characterization I find most pleasing, I will always prefer the television series to the books, even if I can come to enjoy the books as sort of an alternate universe.

That said, I would still like to see a fanfiction story where book-Perry and television-Perry somehow meet and compare differences in personalities and attitudes and such. It would be so much fun! And looking at it in a meta light, it could be very helpful for me and others to really see the similarities and differences between the versions of the character.

If anyone reading this has read the book version of The Shoplifter’s Shoe, I would really like to know more about how Sampson is portrayed! I’m going to be trying to track down a copy of the book, but since I really prefer shiny new books to second-hand books, and it’s unlikely I can find a shiny new one, I’m not sure when I’ll find a copy I want to buy. It’s also on Kindle, for those who like intangible books. (I don’t.)

Monday, August 18, 2014

The news is good for Perry fans!

MeTV's fall schedule is up and Perry fans are in business! Apparently The Love Boat wasn't working out as well as they hoped; it's back to Sundays only and we get the morning Perry episode back! The evening showing stays in place too, thank goodness, and Ironside will air right after Night Gallery!

There were some disappointments for me on the schedule, but nothing I hadn't already expected. Cannon, Kojak, and The Fugitive are going on hiatus for a while. So is The Twilight Zone, to my surprise, but I really doubt that will last long since it didn't work out when they tried that last summer.

Overall, there is much to be excited about on the Perry front!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

More recurring characters!


The Buried Clock isn’t an episode I watch often, so when I do, I seem to find some surprises!

When Perry talks to his client on the phone near the beginning, the show employs a tactic it rarely uses: a split-screen. It’s a fun way to see both ends of a conversation at once, but I believe Perry only used it two or three times, if not just this once. It’s definitely surprising, even jarring, to see it on this show, as its lack of usage makes it seem somewhat out of place. Still, it’s a change from the regular way telephone conversations are shown, and it’s fun to have a change.

Also, when the sheriff wanders in, Perry greets him as though he knows him. That intrigued me enough that I decided to find out if both he and the district attorney are the same characters from season 1’s The Angry Mourner. I knew that Paul Fix’s D.A. always had a preference for bow ties, but I was thinking I’d learned that his guest-spots did not all revolve around the exact same character.

Apparently I was wrong. The character in The Angry Mourner, The Buried Clock, and two other episodes (The Barefaced Witness and The Potted Planter) is always called District Attorney Hale, albeit his first name changes from Darwin to Jonathan. Perhaps they’re twin brothers!

As for the sheriff, he bears the same name in the two early episodes, Burt Elmore, but the actor changes from James Westerfield to Robert Foulk. The latter actor also plays a different law-enforcement character in Paul Fix’s final episode as Mr. Hale.

As I’ve often said, I love continuity in old television shows, especially since they often didn’t have any. I’m rather excited to discover more recurring characters, even if one of them changed actors and the other changed first names! They’re apparently meant to be the same people regardless. And I believe they’re the only (or at least, the first I’ve discovered) out-of-county recurring characters! Sergeant Landro doesn’t count, as he’s in the county, just not the city.

Personality-wise, I’ve usually remembered Paul Fix’s district attorney character by the fact that he’s played by Paul Fix rather than that he had a particularly unique way of handling things. The more I think about it, however, the more it seems to me that he not only did a fine and professional job, he did put an unusual spin on his prosecuting. He seemed to add a bit of a calm, small-town, Mayberry-ish flair instead of being very out-and-out forward and blunt and raising his voice. I’ve meant to watch the uncut Barefaced Witness sometime, as I have the feeling the television version may be one of the most chopped-up of the series, so perhaps this will give me the added push to actually do it. I’ll pay close attention to Mr. Hale and see how he comes across.

From what little I saw of the sheriff in The Buried Clock, he seems to be a fairly friendly sort and on good terms with Perry, which is rather interesting and not always usual. I’ve never seen either The Angry Mourner or The Buried Clock uncut, either, so I believe I shall embark on that quest to see more of what the sheriff is like.

And tomorrow MeTV reveals the complete Fall schedule! I’ve been anxiously waiting for it for several reasons. I’ll be sure to report on any changes that will affect Perry or other projects of interest to Perry fans, such as Ironside. I would love to see Ironside return, either in the morning or following the nighttime airing of Perry. I would also love to see the morning Perry airing return, but given the choice, I would rather keep Cannon and Kojak and have one of them fill the slot. I know they’re leaving the Sunday block and I’m afraid they’ll both be booted instead of moving elsewhere.

Tentatively I’d say that the most we can probably hope for is that MeTV will at least keep the nighttime Perry airing as they have hitherto done. It seems to be a staple of the station, as its weekday afternoon Westerns are. Hopefully it will stay that way. MeTV’s prints are certainly less chopped-up than Hallmark’s, and for me, MeTV is the only way to see all of seasons 7, 8, and 9 on the television since my local station has eliminated so many episodes from its run.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ohh wooow....

One very quick note, even though I just made a post a few hours ago. Amazon sent an email and Perry is the Deal of the Week again! Every single volume is under $20 for the week! If there's volumes you're missing, this would be an excellent time to pick them up. I am staring at Amazon's page with starry eyes.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Season 2 vs. Season 1


Well, two episodes into season 2 on MeTV and we have two undeserving deaths in a row! Man.

The season opens with The Corresponding Corpse, and although it wasn’t very good of the victim to be hanging out with another woman while being married, I wonder if in his mind she was always a friend and not a romantic interest. He called her a friend in the episode, after all, which was what got her so upset. And in any case, he had decided he wanted to make things right and go home to his wife and let her know he was really alive. It was really sad that his wife’s coworker decided to kill him so he couldn’t come back. The wife seemed upset, too. The murderer said she didn’t want her husband back, but I wonder how true that was. And even if she didn’t want him back, she sure wouldn’t want her coworker either, after he murdered the guy! Poor wife ended up with no one.

Then, in The Lucky Loser, the victim is thought to be the wife’s mysterious boyfriend, but we learn later that he died months ago and the victim is really her poor husband, whom she cold-bloodedly shot to get him out of the way. Oh good grief. With him, he was trying to cover up what he thought was a death he had caused, which wasn’t good either, but he didn’t shoot the guy on purpose. He seemed more like a defendant character, since several of them thought they killed people when they didn’t, rather than a victim himself. Overall, both he and George from the previous episode were minor offenders compared to most of the murder victims. Both of them are quite sympathetic characters who really deserved their chances to live.

One other unique thing about The Corresponding Corpse is that it’s one of the few times when we have a defendant who really is engaged in some not so nice things, this time by wanting to be romantically involved with the victim even after finding out he’s married. The same thing happens in The Singing Skirt, only the romantic interest isn’t the one who dies—his wife does. Usually, even when it looks seriously bad for the defendant, the worst they generally do is try to cover up for someone else whom they suspect, so it’s unusual when the defendant is more morally grayer than that.

I’ve appreciated season 1 more on this round, and I wondered if I would have a hard time adjusting to the switch to season 2 and a majority of television-only storylines. But as it turned out, I didn’t find the switch too hard and heavy to handle. Actually, even as much as I enjoyed season 1 and its complex, noir-ish storylines, I welcomed the return of season 2.

I think perhaps at least part of the reason is because of season 2’s relative lack of noir-ish elements. Noir is fun and dark and shadowy, but sometimes I like things a bit more upbeat than a noir. And noirs often feel like period pieces and I often prefer a more contemporary feeling. Season 2 seems to throw off the noir atmosphere and appear brighter and cheerier in some respects, and certainly contemporary. Even with the darker elements of the first two episodes, they still don’t quite come across with that certain noir feeling. The television-only scripts might not be as deep as the early ones based on Mr. Gardner’s books, but they’re enjoyable too, and in season 2 there’s still a lot of that Core Five element, with everyone getting a good amount of screentime.

And one other thing about season 2, it can be pretty dark when it wants, both in its television-only and book-based storylines. The Romantic Rogue and The Howling Dog are both rather disturbing, the latter especially so. Bodies buried on private property and dogs howling about it . . . that’s some unsettling stuff. The Howling Dog is also particularly haunting because of the brother and sister both being killed in addition to the woman’s lover. The murderess is such a horrible person. Occasionally I could feel some pity for some of the murderers, but I certainly couldn’t for that one! She absolutely makes my skin crawl.

I wonder if The Howling Dog is also unique to the series in the respect of how many people die. Usually it’s one and very occasionally it’s two, but I’m not sure I can think of another episode off-hand where it’s three. The murderess tried to kill three people in The Empty Tin, but one of them lived, so that doesn’t count.

Season 2, also, as I recall, marks the beginning of Perry toning down many of his law-bending activities, although they’re still present now and then. I believe he pulled a stunt in The Howling Dog, for one. And then again in season 3’s The Singing Skirt. Both are book-based, so I’m assuming that is largely the reason why he’s returning to his stunts after abstaining for various lengths of time. I think his most eyebrow-raising stunts are almost always in the book-based episodes. Season 5’s The Mystified Miner remains another book-based one with shenanigans, still perhaps the most appalling in the series. Deliberately obscuring the defendant’s fingerprints on the evidential car, good grief!

One thing that amuses me about those stunts more than it probably should is when he tries to play tricks on Hamilton and the police and it totally backfires on him. I can think of at least three or four times when that happened: in The Long-Legged Models and The Rolling Bones in season 1, The Singing Skirt in season 3, and The Golden Girls in season 9. All are book-based episodes. On the one hand, I feel bad for him and his clients when the antics end up making everything look worse for them. But on the other hand, I can’t help thinking, And that’s what happens when you toy with the law, kids.

Both The Long-Legged Models and The Singing Skirt involve Perry trying to mix things up with the multiple guns and only muddling everything worse. In each case, the gun that isn’t supposed to be the murder weapon turns out to actually be the murder weapon—albeit in The Long-Legged Models the defendant deliberately switches guns because of not wanting to possibly incriminate her old crush. In The Singing Skirt, the switch is a total shock to both Perry and the client.

A gun is also the problem in The Golden Girls. Perry and Paul are trying to escape from the police with the case they think has the murder weapon in it. It’s only in court when Perry discovers the gun isn’t in the thing at all and is back at the Golden Bear Club.

The Rolling Bones is a bit more of an iffy case, since Perry has realized the office is mysteriously bugged and he naturally would want to fight against that and would really be justified in doing so. I wonder exactly what he thinks is the explanation for it, since he says outright he knows Hamilton wouldn’t bug the place illegally. (I was thrilled to finally see a print on television with that part in it! Usually it’s cut.) But so Perry tries to throw the police and Hamilton off-track with a fake telephone conversation and makes up a crazy story to tell Della as they talk. However, the bug is in the phone, so Perry’s side of the conversation is picked up anyway. And he seems to be a better detective than even he realizes. The crazy story turns out to be true and is very incriminating for his client! Uh oh.

Season 1 certainly is unique for its twists and turns and its emphasis on book-based storylines. There’s a lot of fun to be had. But the Perry experience is just beginning! I will never understand people who feel like season 1, or in some cases, seasons 1-4, are the only decent episodes to be had or that the show has to feel like a noir to be good. There’s a lot to enjoy in every season and I’m looking forward to continuing the ride with season 2.