Thursday, January 17, 2013

Musings on the "later episodes"

One thing that seems to be a constant source of disagreement among fans is the later episodes. And I’m never quite sure what is meant, by and large, by something as vague as “the later episodes.” Some people seem to mean season 6 on. Others refer mainly to 8 and 9. And others probably have other meanings.

Personally, when I use the term, I generally mean season 6 on. Although maybe season 5 on would technically be better, since that is when Lieutenant Anderson first appeared, I believe it’s really season 6 when things begin changing the most. The difference is, I am thrilled with the changes. And many fans I encounter are not.

I suppose the great majority of the complaints I hear are actually about seasons 8 and 9. And said complaints run the full gamut, from the plots are either weak or complicated to Raymond Burr was getting tired of the role and it shows to there’s not enough scenes between Perry and Della! And probably many others.

My main complaint about season 8 is, as mentioned before, the strange way the writers treat Andy. The plots seem fine to me for the most part, save for one or two here and there. The outrageously ridiculous scam in The Blonde Bonanza boggles my mind (although I’m okay with the episode overall). The Sad Sicilian irritates me because of the eponymous character’s behavior and the way Della is so gosh-darn fond of him. And The Avenging Angel (from season 9), while interesting at first, takes such a long time telling us the ins and outs of the music business that the murder doesn’t even happen until there are around fifteen minutes left. I was pretty restless and impatient by that point.

(Then there’s also off-the-wall cases like The 12th Wildcat, which I’ve already ranted about plenty. But for me, the screwy episodes are always an exception, not the rule. Yes, even when it’s season 8 or 9 being discussed.)

Since I’m not an active fan of the Perry/Della romantic pairing, any lack of scenes between them has mostly gone unnoticed by me. Anyway, I thought they had some very nice scenes in the last two seasons, from their interaction in The Paper Bullets, The Twice-Told Twist, and others.

And as for Raymond Burr being tired of the role and it showing, well, maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. I’m starting to think it’s a personal preference, as I’m not the only one who doesn’t really observe this and/or be bothered by it. I realize he was getting tired of the role; that’s pretty much a fact. But I can’t say it’s a fact that it shows.

I’ve been hearing a lot lately that some people don’t appreciate the characters growing more serious as the seasons go on, changing from the happy-go-lucky, more impulsive characters they were at first. This also must be personal preference and not an out-and-out proof that the series was going downhill. I have definitely noticed the increased seriousness over the seasons, and honestly, I love it! I don’t consider it a sign of the actors wearing down, but of the characters maturing. In real-life, I believe many, if not most, people do not remain as happy-go-lucky at some later points in their lives as they were at earlier points. As life goes on and things happen, both good and bad, it changes all of us, and I believe a lot of us do become more serious. If the characters had remained static throughout the series, always happy-go-lucky, I think I would find that irritating. I like that they change and develop all along the way.

Anyway, it’s not as though they completely forget how to laugh (which is the impression some people give). They still have humorous moments in the last seasons. Perry and Della have a good-natured chuckle over Paul ending up riding in the race car at the end of The Runaway Racer (a callback to similar scenes in earlier years). Paul has a ball imitating Perry’s double in The Dead Ringer. And they often hang out at Clay’s having a grand old time with Clay and Steve, and sometimes with Hamilton.

I won’t deny that I enjoy the fact that the series was always contemporary as it went on. The show kept up with the times; it wasn’t just stuck in a permanent season 1 atmosphere. I suppose some people wish it would have been. Certainly if it had, it would be a period piece. And I love period pieces—make no mistake about that. But I honestly don’t love the thought of Perry as a period piece. I love for it to always be contemporary. For me, it makes it far easier to relate. And the show is always Perry to me, as long the writers don’t lose track of the mysteries and the characters and the high moral standards of said characters.

They certainly didn’t lose track of the latter; in fact, I think they become better with that as the show went on, since Perry dropped a lot of his early, rather eyebrow-raising tactics. And as far I’m concerned, the mysteries and the characters themselves were rarely tampered with. They changed, but that doesn’t mean they stopped being enjoyable or in-character. To some people, it seems to. But not to me.

I doubt that the later seasons will ever not be a controversial topic among fans. The opinions on them are extremely varied. Some people dislike everything after the first few seasons. Some only dislike 8 and 9. Some largely dislike the later seasons but still find some here and there that they like.

I have to be honest, it is difficult to find people who actually like the later seasons, and who like them as much or possibly more than the earlier ones. And I have to be honest that for those looking for intense, twisting plots similar to the books, season 1 is their best bet. Many excellent plots came out of season 1.

But there are those fans among us who really don’t care so much about that, who prefer character interaction and who think that the later episodes provided us with fine interaction, just as good or in some cases, better than early on. We also think the plots of the later seasons are exciting and valid, even if they aren’t quite like the books.

There are also people who feel that the show was always solid and the quality never really waned, even as all the changes happened. I am in that category, as well as in the category of especially loving the later seasons.

I love every season of Perry. Every season has its faults, its ups and downs, and every season has episodes I’m not that keen on. Some seasons (such as 7 and 2) have far less of those than others, as far as I’m concerned. I do judge the episodes mainly on character interaction but sometimes on plot, and on the fact that the character interaction I’m most interested in is generally not what many fans seem to be interested in. A great number of my favorite episodes would probably only rarely, if ever, be found in other fans’ lists.

To some extent, the diversity is part of the fun of any fanbase. But it is nice to not be the only one who likes certain things, and I’m proud both to enjoy the later episodes and to know some others who enjoy them too.

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