Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Betrayed Bride

One of the things I love about Perry Mason is that it’s a legal drama. There’s usually funny bits in every episode, provided by the characters’ reactions to what’s going on around them, and sometimes there are cheesy things that are unintentionally funny, but the show doesn’t deliberately try to be funny. Nor do things often seem larger-than-life and ridiculous (aside from some of those cheesy things like several of the confessions).

I have nothing against the “dramedy” format for a show. Some pull it off amazingly well, such as M*A*S*H. But again, much of the humor comes naturally. It doesn’t feel forced or overdone.

The Betrayed Bride has never been a favorite episode of mine. I take issue with the family all trying to break up Nellie’s marriage, no matter what they think of the guy. When MeTV ran the episode yesterday, I discovered something else I really don’t like.

For what I hope was the only time, the show tried to deliberately be funny, silly, and larger-than-life. The whole family is a bunch of utter kooks. Nobody can be taken seriously. John Larkin’s Perry characters are always unique and memorable, but the guy he plays here is absolutely off-the-wall. The family reminds me of the nutty families that turn up occasionally in shows such as The Bionic Woman (in the Vincent Price episode) and Diagnosis Murder. But those shows, at least, are noted for falling more into the dramedy category. Perry, being a straight drama, really doesn’t carry such silliness well. It feels so out-of-place with the format.

The episode sticks with this lighthearted strangeness for most of the scenes until the murder happens. The family plotting to break up Nellie’s marriage and sending for the French girl to turn her husband’s head is presented in a largely ridiculous and humorous way. I think Jimmy is the only one who objects, if I remember right. I was out of the room for some parts of the early scenes when it ran on MeTV yesterday.

The episode finally does get down to business and be more serious once the murder has happened, but wow, what a wild ride to get there.

The one positive thing I will say about the nonsense is that everyone is marvelous at being kooky. It really shows how versatile they are as actors. John Larkin, Neil Hamilton, Jeanette Nolan, and all the rest are incredible. You can tell they're having a blast. And Jeanette Nolan, multi-faceted as always, is playing the biggest nut in the family . . . but it’s an act for the character as well as for the actress. She’s actually the darkest character in the story, who murdered not only the young husband she brought home, but the first husband who died off-screen before the episode opened.

Young Jimmy Meancham’s interest in and concern for the defendant Marie is cute. And the episode is unique in another, more positive way as it ends over in Paris. Both Perry and Della came over to explain everything to Marie’s parents. Perry is rarely shown outside of the U.S., and it’s even more rare that Della is with him when he goes!

The script was written by John Elliotte, who also wrote The Frustrated Folksinger and came up with at least some of the story for The Hasty Honeymooner and The Golfer’s Gambit. I don’t think our ideas of good stories mesh very well; absolutely none of those episodes are favorites of mine. The Frustrated Folksinger I like better than any of the others, but I still don’t find it particularly memorable except for Gary Crosby guest-starring. I’ll see if I still feel the same when it airs in a few days. And The Golfer’s Gambit . . . well, it could have been a contender, but as far as I’m concerned, it fell flat on its face once they got to court.

I should add a disclaimer that I realize the utterly silly and bizarre short story I did involving the vigilante The Ruthless Tooth ( is also highly incompatible with the series’ format. But its humor came largely from some of the show’s main characters reacting to the utter lunacy of the vigilante, making me wonder if I would find The Betrayed Bride more tolerable if there had been more of Perry and company reacting to those nutcases instead of just seeing the nuts mostly by themselves in the first half. I believe I would have been highly amused if Perry, Paul, and the rest had encountered them more. I love where Hamilton talks with one of the slightly eccentric old ladies in The Nebulous Nephew. I still wish the scene where Andy goes to the house in that episode had been shown and not just mentioned after the fact.

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