After thinking things over, I decided one tribute post just isn’t enough for such a milestone anniversary. Especially when I slipped up and didn’t get one in at all last year. So, yay! We will celebrate here all weekend.
In fact, why stop there? Just assuming that CBS is celebrating too, with so many DVD releases, we can extend the festivities for as long as we want.
This post will be more particularly devoted to the characters rather than the seasons or other elements. I felt I just didn’t get enough said about the characters in the other post. I was going to make this an entry of all the main characters’ interaction, but I’ve found that it’s impossible. It’s already full-length and I’ve only covered how Perry interacts with the other characters. And I could easily get individual posts out of his interaction with each other main character at a time, instead of exploring it all in one post. So I may decide to do an entire series over the next few posts, on assorted character interactions between others on the show. I suppose I was already kind of tinkering with that, since I did a couple of posts on Andy’s interaction with certain others. But this series will mostly be on the main characters’ interaction with each other, instead of with oneshot characters.
The cast is so wide and varied in personality that it seems there’s surely someone for each viewer to gravitate towards. Each of the main actors really put themselves into their parts, perfectly bringing life to every fascinating character. And even the ones mostly in the background, such as Sergeant Brice, are highly memorable. Brice says very little, but he’s so often there, and Lee Miller makes sure he makes his mark as Old Faithful.
So let’s start with Perry, without whom we would not even have a show.
If we were in trouble, who of us wouldn’t want Perry for our lawyer? Seriously, we’d know we’d be in good hands with him. I may not approve of some of his methods, but I love his devotion to his clients. And although the angle wasn’t really explored as much as it could have been, it is kind of an interesting paradox in how Perry is generally so upright and yet has no problem with bending or occasionally even breaking the law when he feels it’s important. I was rather darkly amused when watching The Absent Artist and witnessing Perry telling Victor Buono’s character that tampering with evidence is a felony. And yet that’s exactly what Perry did several episodes earlier in The Mystified Miner.
For me, Perry is at his very best when he’s uncovering criminals in the courtroom through careful deduction. And I also often enjoy when he’s interacting with his friends.
I may not be that interested in actively pairing Perry and Della, but I do greatly love their interaction and coy banter. It’s immediately obvious how close they are beyond an employer-employee relationship, whether they’re friends or something else. Sometimes it looks like Della really wants that “something else”, but Perry neatly sidesteps the issues any time she brings them up. Usually Della seems quite content with things as they are, but she does look exasperated when Perry skirts topics she introduces, such as keeping a girl waiting for marriage.
Della often says the key thing that gets Perry figuring out how the mystery is solved, whether or not she means to. And they share a love of literature and apparently the Bible and have occasionally quoted passages and scriptures with each other.
I always find it interesting that Gardner insisted a good secretary would never sit on her boss’s desk, yet goodness, how many times it happened over the course of the series. And it definitely is another good indication of how close they are with each other. You wouldn’t do that with someone who is only your boss, unless you’re trying to be very forward!
Perry seems to drive Della to and from work on at least some days. He’s taking her home in The Fraudulent Foto, and it’s mentioned or implicated in other episodes. Della has a car at least by season 6, but I don’t recall if she had one in the early episodes.
She and Perry often go out for lunch or dinner, which often gets interrupted by current or new cases. In one season 7 episode, Perry suggests dinner and dancing. Whether or not they’re actually in a romantic relationship, they both seem to be very much at ease going on excursions generally classed as dates. They are the dearest of friends and love doing things together.
Meanwhile, Perry and Paul have a close but generally understated friendship.
Sometimes it feels unfair, some of the risks Perry has Paul take. But, as I wrote in The Denying Detective, Perry would never ask Paul to do something that Perry wouldn’t be willing to do himself. They usually both end up in trouble. And of course, Paul wouldn’t have to do some of the things Perry wants. But he does them anyway, and definitely not for the money, as he is often reluctant to participate at all. He does it because Perry is his friend and Paul knows that in the end Perry is working towards a greater good. Not that it necessarily justifies everything done (I say it doesn’t), but it does make for a complex situation.
One semi-running gag on the series is how Paul wants to be paid and thinks he doesn’t get enough, while Perry and Della think it’s too much. It’s never quite said whether he’s being unreasonable or if Perry is, but after all the stuff Paul does for him, I definitely think Paul deserves all the pay he asks for.
Paul and I don’t have much in common. In fact, we probably have the least in common of any of the main cast. But neither of us seem to like being teased. Paul looks quite exasperated when Perry and Della tease him about his money, sometimes keeping it from him, and sometimes even deciding themselves what to do with it instead of letting Paul decide (!). Usually, however, he takes the ribbing in stride. Sometimes, particularly with Della, he teases back.
I can’t help wondering if Perry decided to give Paul his money after all when he tore up a check once, claiming he couldn’t afford to pay him, and when he decided to give all of Paul’s check to Steve for some police fund or another. Some of the check would have been fine, if Paul had agreed, but all of the check?
I’ll admit that personally, I don’t generally go for such antics in friendships. I can’t really understand such behavior. I would never dream of it and I would hate it if someone acted like that with me. But I’m assuming that for Perry and Paul, it’s somehow all evidence of how close they really are, since Paul doesn’t just up and leave (and he definitely has left in situations where he feels like he’s being unfairly treated by other people). The Carefree Coronary, where Paul is at death’s door, really serves to show how Perry really thinks of him underneath all of the strange teasing. Perry’s sobered and stunned manner in the face of perhaps losing Paul is one of the most poignant moments in the series, as is Della’s breaking down and sobbing in Perry’s arms when she first comes to tell him the news.
Perry and Hamilton banter a lot too. It seems to be Perry’s preferred means of communicating with friends. And Hamilton himself seems to like it where Perry is concerned. While they spar more seriously in court, out of court it’s just fun and amusing. And they also often talk straight with each other, discussing the cases and what can be done. Theirs is a very comfortable friendship, capable of nonsensical banter as well as serious discussion.
It would be interesting to know what happened with them during the gap between seasons 1 and 2. Season 1 has hints of their friendship, and their banter, while by season 2 there’s a great deal more respect and camaraderie already in place. That’s not to say that Hamilton doesn’t still become exasperated and frustrated with some of Perry’s antics; he does, and often with good reason. But they are very good friends in spite of that, and that’s awesome.
Perry respected Hamilton before they even really became friends. He stood up for Hamilton more than once in the early episodes, my favorite being when he insists Hamilton would not bug the office in The Rolling Bones. Likewise, Hamilton respected Perry in spite of his frustrations. This respect definitely developed over the episodes and became a building block for their friendship.
Perry and Tragg are a bit more difficult to figure out. There’s some level of respect on both sides, perhaps more grudging on Tragg’s. And there’s some indication that they are also friends. Tragg comments that he’s almost like a member of the “family”. Tragg is certainly very comfortable hanging out in Perry’s office. He adopted that habit long before Hamilton started coming to visit. There’s some hint of the book Tragg in that, as Gardner portrayed him as being more receptive than Hamilton.
You know, I kind of wonder how Ray Collins got the part, since book Tragg is supposed to be closer to Perry’s age. I wonder how Ray even ended up auditioning. But I’m sure that once Gardner saw the fruits of said audition, he knew that Ray was just perfect, despite the age difference.
Perry is usually calm around Tragg, but occasionally he does lose his temper. The Mystified Miner is the best indication of that, but the scene still puzzles me a bit, since Tragg isn’t doing anything out of the ordinary (except sitting at Della’s desk).
Perry and Andy are normally quite easy-going with each other. Offhand, I can’t recall Perry ever even getting exasperated or angry with Andy, as he has with Tragg and even Steve, despite the fact that Andy has definitely become exasperated with him in season 8. Perry just stops and stares when he finds Andy sitting at Perry’s desk, talking on the phone, in an early season 8 episode.
And then there’s Perry and Steve. Perry’s reaction to Steve sometimes puzzles me a bit. He knows Steve is an honest, by-the-book cop, yet every now and then he throws an accusation at Steve to the contrary. I can’t recall what episode it is now, but once Perry seems to think Steve was asking questions he shouldn’t have without giving the suspect his rights. Steve assures him he didn’t start questioning until after.
Usually they’re on fairly good and relaxed terms with each other. Steve becomes consumed by his desire to catch the murdered policeman’s killer in The Sausalito Sunrise, which results in him not being relaxed at all and even throwing a few accusations at Perry (which aren’t completely unfounded, considering Perry’s past behavior). Perry even worries that Steve will get too rough with the murder suspects, although Steve promises he won’t do anything except convict them.
I absolutely love how Perry doesn’t give up on Steve and pushes him in court to take a fresh look at the case and the evidence and what doesn’t add up, because he knows he can count on Steve to come through if he can just make him understand. And finally he penetrates the anger and Steve realizes what’s happening. Steve manages to go save Perry’s life just in time, and he thanks Perry for helping to clear his mind. Perry says he had the best thing going for him—one good, honest cop.
In season 9, there’s also Perry and Terrance Clay. In many season 9 episodes, Perry hangs out at Clay’s Restaurant with the others and Clay comes around to chat it up with them. He and Perry are on very easy-going terms, as are Perry and Andy. Clay may offer commentary and suggestions on anything from the cases to life’s confusing conundrums, which Perry listens to with a smile.
I think the next post in this series will be Della’s interaction with everyone. And I’m not sure if I’ll do these posts straight through or if they’ll come now and then with breaks for other topics that come to mind. But I’m looking forward to them. It’s a chance to examine some things I don’t as much.