Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Case of the Season Finales

First, a note. The tribute week will start this weekend, kicking off with a post devoted to guest-star Simon Oakland. And I’ve decided that the only thing I could really feel good about on the 30th would be to make separate memorial posts for William Talman and Wesley Lau, both posted on the same day. I’ll just have to make notations on each post that they are one of two for that day, to try to ensure that everyone sees both posts.

Yesterday I started musing on the Perry season finales. Shows these days usually try to have especially spectacular and intriguing season finales, to keep people coming back for more. I’m not fully sure what the idea was in the past. It seems to me that old shows’ season finales are not always a great deal different or more spectacular from the other great episodes in the seasons.

Nevertheless, there’s certainly some on Perry that are better than others. I tried to sort it out in my mind and break it down from favorite to least favorite. I think for this post I will make a countdown, starting at the lowest number and working up to the one I consider the best.

9. The Final Fade-Out (season 9)

Well, this should come as no real surprise to anyone who’s followed my musings for a while. When it comes to what I personally want to see from Perry, this episode falls very short. I don’t consider it the best send-off for the series that they could have made.

However, trying to look at it objectively, the in-jokes are amusing (particularly the one about being opposite Bonanza) and it’s neat that crew members walked on and off the camera in bit roles. Having Erle Stanley Gardner as the last judge seen in the series is a nice touch.

I do think Hamilton deserved a chance to finally explode and rant after nine seasons of taking defeat from Perry, but the only way I can really appreciate the scene as filmed is as another in-joke. I like to think that Hamilton is really ranting about the treatment he received from the show’s writers, forced to lose to Perry again and again. Otherwise I’m just cringing, because the scene should have happened a lot sooner in the series if it was going to exist at all. In season 9, after all the character development for both Hamilton and Perry, its placement just doesn’t make sense. But season 9 sometimes did seem to forget said development; this episode certainly wasn’t the only instance of it.

Steve is adorable, if I remember correctly. The episode let him shine very well, which was one thing season 9 did right. The only thing I can really remember about his screentime here was him saying he had to escape from Hamilton’s office because of how Hamilton was ranting so much about feeling that Perry had tricked and humiliated him in court.

It was nice to see Hamilton struggle to apologize to Perry at the end. And I liked seeing Perry, Paul, and Della discussing their next case. That was a nice closing shot, showing things just as they should be. Perry’s defending the innocent, Della and Paul are assisting him, and Hamilton and the police are around to lend a hand. All’s right with the world.

8. The Mischievous Doll (season 8)

No, I’m not going to list the episodes backwards all the way through the seasons. It just works out that my least favorite finales are from the last two seasons.

The plot is very interesting and convoluted, with one kind of obnoxious and unladylike girl pretending to be her own double. And William Boyett has a bit part, which is always a joy to see.

I suppose what bothers me most about this episode is that it was Andy’s last episode and it really doesn’t treat him very well. He’s made a fool of more in this episode than in any of his others, I think. The whole scene with the fingerprints and the points of similarity had me cringing.

And it got me thinking. Of course every one of the police are trying to do their best, but Tragg is the one the writers seem to put in more embarrassing situations than the others. Andy is a bit harder to fool, but being young and perhaps a bit trusting and naïve, sometimes it happens. (It seems a bit odd and out-of-character when it does, too, since it’s so infrequent. I suppose the argument could go either that he was being out-of-character or just plain human, whatever floats your boat.) Although with Steve, presumably the youngest of them all, I think Perry only managed to show him up once, in The Vanishing Victim (an episode that really doesn’t represent anyone’s roles by season 9 very well). Steve is tough and hardcore and doesn’t get shown up or fooled easily.

7. The Lonely Eloper (season 5)

Well, I’ve discussed this episode a bit in the past as well. The gal who became the defendant seriously irritated me. She’s twenty but acts fourteen, as is canonically stated. But with the life she grew up in, I guess it’s not much of a surprise.

Then there’s Hamilton’s comment in court that Della deems “nasty”. I was both amused and groaning at it at the same time. As Perry says, “Nasty, but accurate.” Aside from the wild accusations Hamilton makes in the series, most of his comments assessing the various situations are quite accurate. By itself the comment doesn’t bother me much, but in a season finale along with an aggravating defendant . . . yeah, not such a great mix for me. I’d rather see Hamilton shine in a season finale, instead of having one of his not-so-nice moments (which seem to be plentiful in season 5).

The plot itself is fine and intriguing. I remember watching it years ago, particularly the scene of Andy with the suitcase and opening it to find the bloodied clothing wrapped around the murder weapon.

6. The Witless Witness (season 6)

Now we move to the episodes that I really have no problems with.

This is a very interesting one involving a fiercely honest judge who’s framed into a dreadful situation that makes it look like he bought his way into office. He and Perry have a very intriguing and amusing friendship. They don’t agree on interpretations of the law and seem to quite enjoy bantering over it.

One thing I was puzzled about is why Hamilton doesn’t express any reluctance to prosecute the judge. I would think that with the judge’s staunch reputation Hamilton would be an admirer of his, as he seems to be of the General in The Positive Negative. The only explanations I could come up with are either that he was reluctant and the scene just wasn’t written, or that he was skeptical that the judge was all he was hailed as being.

5. The Ugly Duckling (season 7)

The defendant is one angry girl. Usually the Perry characters in her type of situation, pressured by family into being something they’re not all of their life, tend to be quiet and withdrawn. This one’s got a bad temper. I would hate to make her angry.

I’m not much of a romantic person, as I’ve mentioned; I prefer friendships. But I do have a romantic side and I kind of love the pairing set up here. The guy is a scoundrel who starts to seem nice, then appears to be a wretch, and then is proven good when all is revealed. He only pretended to be a cad while trying to protect the defendant, whom he really had fallen in love with.

Also, Sergeant Brice gets a really good and chatty scene with Perry, and William Boyett has another awesome cameo. Overall, it’s a very good example of why the later Perry episodes should be appreciated more.

4. The Rolling Bones (season 1)

Season 1, being the season in which everything was highly experimental as the writers tested what worked and what didn’t, is not my favorite season, character-wise. But plot-wise it is excellent! And this installment is no exception. It also has one of my most favorite moments in all of season 1, when Perry and company realize the office is bugged. Paul thinks Hamilton would be capable of doing it, while Perry is adamant that Hamilton would never stoop to such a thing. I am very sad this scene is sometimes cut from reruns.

3. The Flighty Father (season 3)

A really fun episode involving two men claiming to be one girl’s father, and how Perry unravels the whole mess. The solution is intriguing and surprising, and the epilogue is highly satisfying. This is Perry in top form.

2. The Guilty Clients (season 4)

Well, my romantic side rears its rarely seen head again with this one. I just can’t get enough of this episode, with the divorcing and squabbling couple that apparently, thoroughly loathes and detests each other. And yet the guy goes to all kinds of lengths to protect his former wife when it looks like she killed the victim, and the girl breaks down in tears during court exclaiming that she killed him, when things go bad after her former husband is arrested. I love it. There’s a scene in Hamilton’s office too, and a bit of interaction with him and Perry. Always a plus.

1. The Lame Canary (season 2)

An intense plot, revolving around a wife’s fear that her husband is trying to kill her, and as I see it, the most perfect epilogue. All of the Core Five gather in Perry’s office to tie up the loose ends and mingle. More than just about any other scene, this depicts the whole lot of them as friends. As the camera fades out while everyone laughs at Hamilton’s cheesy joke, there’s such a happy feeling of it being so right. They have conflicts, and they don’t always agree, but at the end of the day they’re all still friends.

Which may be what The Final Fade-Out eventually tried to achieve in its epilogue. But I like how this one did it much better.

Now, aside from all personal preferences, which season finale would I select that best represents our show’s awesomeness? That is a tough call. Tentatively I would break it down between The Rolling Bones and The Lame Canary. The writing is just excellent for both, with intense cases, engaging characters, and the Core Five all getting some good scenes in. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen The Rolling Bones in its uncut form, but I might select it overall.

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