Sunday, June 9, 2013

Paul and the "Overshadowed by Awesome" trope

The first half of season 9 is out this Tuesday! I found this very nice review for it on a blog I follow:

I agree with the reviewer’s assessment that the series never jumped the shark. I’m unhappy with certain episodes in season 9, but ignoring them, the season is very good. All seasons of Perry have value to them.

My local station has been having their pledge drive this past week. Usually that means Perry gets kicked off for special programming. This time, however, he stayed! The pledge drive hosts made it clear that the reason is because the viewers have let them know that they don’t like it when Perry is removed during the drives. That is so awesome, both that there were enough people just in this area to complain, and that the station listened!

So I watched The Glamorous Ghost one night this week, via the local station. And it got me to thinking. I’ve already observed how unique the episode is in having Paul and Della do a lot of the investigating together. They rarely have scenes together aside from brief office quips. And there’s something else quite unusual about the aspect as well.

Usually, in Paul’s investigation scenes, he’s either alone or with Perry. And pretty much any time, it’s rare for him to come up with stunts such as in Glamorous Ghost, where he figures out that room 211 is important and why. Normally, it would be Perry deducing such a thing and Paul standing by in confusion and surprise.

There’s a popular website called TV Tropes, which picks apart all media (not just television) by exploring the various plot twists and clich├ęs they use. I’m not a big fan of the site, as somehow it often feels slightly mocking of the shows, especially with the often-humorous names for the specific tropes. But one I always think of in regards to Perry is called “Overshadowed by Awesome.” Basically, it’s when a character who is not of a certain profession seems to do better at the profession than the characters in the series who do belong to it. Perry certainly qualifies.

Usually we think of him overshadowing the prosecution and the police with his “awesome”, but after watching Glamorous Ghost it occurs to me that Paul is often a victim of the overshadowing as well. Paul does get some really neat investigating scenes throughout the series, as do even the prosecution and the police, but it’s generally always Perry coming up with the big brainstorms. Paul is the detective, yet Perry often does most of the visible detecting. More than once on the series, Paul comments on having missed something important, or Perry and Della even joke about just that. It certainly ends up making it look like Paul has trouble doing his job right, especially when he is often baffled by Perry's ideas while they're investigating together. You'd think he might come up with at least some of them himself, or at least not always be so amazed by most of them. But of course, with the formula, Perry must be the main crime-solver, front and center. And everyone must stand in awe of his insights.

I think Paul got more detecting scenes as the series went on and Raymond Burr was growing tired of the role. But, even still, scenes along the lines of Glamorous Ghost are rare for Paul. Usually we only see him finding whomever he’s trying to find, not how he found out where to look or how he put together clues like he does in Glamorous Ghost. With Perry's detecting scenes, we generally see at least some of that (although of course, some surprises are kept from the audience until the climax and epilogue).

All in all, that definitely makes Glamorous Ghost a treat for Paul fans. And I find it very interesting to discover that it isn’t just Perry’s opponents who often get “overshadowed by awesome”!

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