Despite the promotions and marketing clout, HBO reportedly never had high hopes for the show’s performance. One of the most telling indicators is how the network decided to call the Perry Mason reboot a miniseries – not a drama series.
It was a way out in case things went south. Should the show fail to bring viewers or executives cancel it, everyone could walk away without losing face. The apprehension was understandable but ultimately proved unnecessary. The first episode of the Perry Mason reboot on HBO brought in 1.7 million viewers — HBO’s biggest debut in two years.
Matthew Rhys Didn't Want to Play Mason
When Rhys received a message about a Perry Mason remake, he wasn’t enthused. It had nothing to do with the role and he didn't like thinking about the weight and legacy behind it. He wondered why anyone would want to remake such a classic and risk ruining it.
Was it even possible to do? It was only later upon receiving more background to the proposed storyline that Rhys became intrigued. They would be leaving the classic Perry Mason well alone, much to Rhys’ happiness. This was a darker take on the show, reimagined for the modern world.
Basing the Show on a Terrifying Real-Life Event
HBO’s Perry Mason bears few resemblances to the original 1957 CBS series. Perry is a bitter, impoverished private detective in this version. A broken man after World War II, his demons continue to haunt him.
Mason investigates the murder of an infant boy, a case based on a real-life event in the 1930s, often dubbed the trial of the century. In 1927, American aviator Charles Lindbergh had flown solo across the Atlantic, making him a celebrity overnight. In 1932, Lindbergh’s infant son went missing – presumably kidnapped for ransom. Investigators later found the boy deceased.
A Formula You Can Rely on
While the storylines in each episode are different, the Perry Mason formula remains constant. Every episode follows a two-part structure, with the initial sections depicting a crime — usually a murder. The story continues when Mason agrees to defend the innocent person from the police. What follows after is a thrilling investigation.
The courtroom scene is tense with emotion and drama, building up to the ultimate crescendo – a dramatic confession or revelation. The show’s compelling and reliable formula scripted television history. Still, it would be woefully reductive to assume that one "Perry Mason" episode is like every other.
Disregard for Law Enforcement
Perry Mason is no ordinary lawyer. Unlike other attorneys, Mason doesn’t leave investigations to the police. He prefers to do a little sleuthing alongside the detectives since he’s certain they will arrive at the wrong conclusion – which they always do.
While ideal for television, it raises questions about the general perception of law enforcement around the time, which as you can guess from the show, wasn't great. We bet the show didn't help cops regain a good reputation.