Perry Mason (2020 TV series)
|Based on||Perry Mason|
by Erle Stanley Gardner
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||8 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||56–64 minutes|
|Budget||$74.3 million (s. 1)[a]|
|Original release||June 21, 2020 –|
Perry Mason is an American period drama television series based on the character of the same name created by Erle Stanley Gardner which premiered on June 21, 2020, on HBO. The series was developed and written by Rolin Jones and Ron Fitzgerald and stars Matthew Rhys in the title role. In July 2020, the series was renewed for a second season.
The series focuses on the origin story of famed defense lawyer Perry Mason. In 1932, Los Angeles is prospering while the rest of the U.S. is recovering from the grip of the Great Depression. Down-and-out private investigator Perry Mason is struggling with his trauma from The Great War and being divorced. He is hired for a sensational child kidnapping trial and his investigation portends major consequences for Mason, his client, and the city itself.
Cast and characters
- Matthew Rhys as Perry Mason, a private investigator
- Juliet Rylance as Della Street, the loyal and driven legal secretary of E.B. Jonathan
- Chris Chalk as Paul Drake, a beat cop
- Shea Whigham as Pete Strickland, Mason's work partner
- Tatiana Maslany as Sister Alice McKeegan, a preacher and leader of the Radiant Assembly of God
- John Lithgow as Elias Birchard "E.B." Jonathan, a struggling attorney and regular employer of Perry Mason
- Gayle Rankin as Emily Dodson, the mother of Charlie Dodson, a one-year-old child who is mysteriously kidnapped
- Nate Corddry as Matthew Dodson, a grocery store owner whose one-year-old son, Charlie, is kidnapped
- Veronica Falcón as Lupe Gibbs, a pilot who is in a sexual relationship with Mason
- Jefferson Mays as Virgil Sheets, an attendant at the city morgue and a friend of Mason's
- Andrew Howard as Joe Ennis, an LAPD detective
- Eric Lange as Gene Holcomb, an LAPD detective
- Robert Patrick as Herman Baggerly, Matthew's father, a powerful man who hires E.B. and Mason to investigate the kidnapping
- Stephen Root as Maynard Barnes, the district attorney of Los Angeles County
- Lili Taylor as Birdy McKeegan, Alice's mother and advisor
- Matt Frewer as Judge Fred Wright, the judge in the Charlie Dodson murder case.
- Diarra Kilpatrick as Clara Drake, Paul's pregnant wife.
- David Wilson Barnes as Elder Brown, a member of the Radiant Assembly of God
- Taylor Nichols as Elder/Deacon Eric Seidel, a member of the Radiant Assembly of God
- Aaron Stanford as George Gannon, a man with a critical connection to the Dodson case
- Molly Ephraim as Hazel Prystock, Street's fellow boarding house tenant and romantic partner
- Gretchen Mol as Linda Mason, Perry's ex-wife
- Jenny O'Hara as June Pitlick, the owner of the boarding house where Street lives
- Justin Kirk as Hamilton Burger, assistant district attorney offering Mason legal advice
- Todd Weeks as Jim Hicks, an accountant who worked for George Gannon and others
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||U.S. viewers|
|1||"Chapter 1"||Tim Van Patten||Teleplay by : Rolin Jones & Ron Fitzgerald||June 21, 2020||0.884|
|In late 1931 Los Angeles, private investigator Perry Mason is assigned by his friend and mentor, E.B. Jonathan, and at the behest of mogul Herman Baggerly, to the case of Charlie Dodson, a baby boy who was kidnapped and had his eyes stitched open before his death under mysterious circumstances. Mason quickly becomes suspicious of the circumstances surrounding the case, especially the $100,000 ransom. Mason himself struggles with drinking, separation from his estranged wife and son, and his attempted blackmail of Hollywood executives which goes poorly. Meanwhile, as Mason gains intel, corrupt detective Ennis visits Charlie's kidnappers and kills all three of them.|
|2||"Chapter 2"||Tim Van Patten||Rolin Jones & Ron Fitzgerald||June 28, 2020||0.799|
|Detectives Holcomb and Ennis, as well as Los Angeles district attorney Maynard Barnes, accost Charlie's father Matthew with evidence planted by Ennis and the revelation that Baggerly is Matthew's father; Matthew is placed under arrest. Mason and Baggerly begin to distrust each other; Mason due to Baggerly's non-divulging of his fatherhood, and Baggerly due to Mason's "blue ticket" discharge from the military. Adept police officer Paul Drake, who found the bodies of two of the kidnappers, is questioned by Holcomb and Ennis, who treat him with bigoted condescension. Mason tracks a series of mysterious phone calls made by Charlie's mother Emily to a man named George Gannon, finding him dead of apparent suicide and letters proving an affair with Emily. At Charlie's funeral, following an emotional and largely improvised sermon by evangelical preacher Sister Alice, Emily is publicly arrested as a result of Mason's findings.|
|3||"Chapter 3"||Tim Van Patten||Rolin Jones & Ron Fitzgerald||July 5, 2020||0.950|
|Barnes seeks a conspiracy conviction for Charlie's mother Emily as well as the death penalty. At Emily's arraignment, unrest erupts when Emily nearly enters a guilty plea and Barnes requests a $25,000 bail, which the judge accepts. Believing Emily's guilt, Baggerly abruptly stops funding Jonathan and his team. Meanwhile, Mason's partner, Pete Strickland, digs up information that ties Gannon to a job at a local casino, but Gannon's former boss tells Mason he left voluntarily for religious reasons. Increasingly convinced Gannon was set up, Mason seeks out Drake for clarity on Drake's police report; Drake refuses to speak with him, having been threatened by Ennis. However, Drake's skepticism leads him to share his evidence with Mason, including broken dentures he found near the crime scene. Mason and Strickland sneak into the morgue and confirm the dentures belonged to Gannon. Della Street, Jonathan's secretary, discovers Ennis and Holcomb attempting to violently coerce a confession out of Emily. Alice suffers a sudden seizure during a church performance, and upon recovering, claims God told her to "resurrect" Charlie.|
|4||"Chapter 4"||Deniz Gamze Ergüven||Steven Hanna & Sarah Kelly Kaplan||July 12, 2020||0.711|
|Horrified by Alice's claim, Baggerly and the other bankrollers of the church demand a retraction after her statement reaches the newspapers. Alice begins to issue a public retraction, but when one of her congregation makes a show of support, she instead proclaims Emily's innocence and reaffirms her statement. Mason and Strickland, having stolen Gannon's body, dump it onto a golf course in order to coax an official autopsy out of coroner Virgil Sheets. Additionally, while retracing the steps of the kidnappers, they discover a connection to a local Elks Lodge, finding Ennis in attendance. They share their evidence and theories with Jonathan, who attempts to use them to get Barnes to drop charges - only for Barnes to threaten him with spurious claims of larceny that would get him disbarred. Shaken by this, and by the bank refusing to give him a loan, Jonathan intends for Emily to plead guilty, but has a change of heart and urges her to fight. However, the next day, a despondent Jonathan commits suicide.|
|5||"Chapter 5"||Deniz Gamze Ergüven||Eleanor Burgess||July 19, 2020||0.884|
|After Street finds Jonathan's body, she and Mason travel to San Francisco to meet with his family. Mason leaves early to visit his son Theodore and ex-wife Linda, who denies Mason's request to have Theodore temporarily live with him. Meanwhile, Strickland begins tailing Ennis, who eventually finds him and attempts to shift blame to Holcomb; this only increases Strickland's suspicions. Alice convinces her skeptical mother, Birdy McKeegan, to use church funds to post Emily's bail and serve as her guardian, causing the church to divide further. When Emily's new court-appointed lawyer quickly makes a negative impression, Street discovers he is working with Barnes. As Mason's rage at the legal system reaches a breaking point, Street forges a letter from Jonathan appointing Mason as Emily's new representation, to which he agrees. With help from deputy district attorney Hamilton Burger, Mason passes the bar and becomes a lawyer.|
|6||"Chapter 6"||Deniz Gamze Ergüven||Kevin J. Hynes||July 26, 2020||0.959|
|The trial gets off to a poor start when Mason struggles delivering his opening statement and Barnes calls a surprise witness - a hotel manager who testifies that Charlie was placed alone in a room while Gannon and Emily had a tryst in an adjoining one. Strickland uncovers evidence suggesting Gannon was stealing from the church. He also encourages Mason to use Gannon's dentures in court, though Mason is apprehensive about betraying Drake. Mason attempts to get Drake to mention the dentures himself during cross-examination, to no avail. Drake later visits Mason and, determined to help, gives Mason an official evidence envelope so he can present the dentures in court. However, the judge rules it inadmissible. Street uses Strickland's information to find evidence implicating Baggerly, but Barnes' final witness falsely testifies overhearing a confession by Emily, causing chaos. Mason travels to an address procured by Street, finding a man named Jim Hicks who tells Mason he has been waiting for him.|
|7||"Chapter 7"||Tim Van Patten||Howard Korder||August 2, 2020||1.038|
|Hicks, who was the accountant for Gannon among others, reveals to Mason (and later in his testimony) that he was a hesitant participant in a financial collusion scheme between Gannon, Baggerly, and church deacon Eric Seidel. Mason presents Hicks' financial records proving the church was $100,000 in debt. Strickland tails an anxious Seidel in hopes of getting him to testify, but Seidel escapes. Seidel goes to Ennis for help, but Ennis murders him. Drake begins his own investigation into the dead kidnappers, discovering yet another connection to Ennis. Mason learns from a local brothel that Ennis was accompanied by a now-dead prostitute; he theorizes that nursing from a heroin-addicted woman would be deadly to a baby, which Sheets confirms. The next day, Alice's “resurrection” ceremony is a disaster when Charlie's casket is empty, but Birdy travels with her to a predetermined location where she finds a different baby and claims it is Charlie. Increasingly disillusioned, Alice flees the scene in distress.|
|8||"Chapter 8"||Tim Van Patten||Rolin Jones & Ron Fitzgerald & Kevin J. Hynes||August 9, 2020||TBD|
|Burger advises Mason to rest his case and pin his hopes on Hicks' testimony. Street, instead, suggests that Mason put Emily on the stand, to which he agrees. However, during Barnes' cross-examination, he is able to get Emily to claim at least partial responsibility for Charlie's death. Mason delivers a passionate closing statement blaming Barnes for attacking Emily's character instead of pursuing the truth. After five days of deliberation, the jury becomes deadlocked, and the judge declares a mistrial; it is revealed that Strickland paid off one of the jurors, though that juror then reveals two other jurors legitimately voted not guilty. Meanwhile, Drake resigns from the police force, Strickland leaves Mason to work for Burger, Alice disappears, and Holcomb has Ennis killed. Emily adopts the baby that Birdy found, and joins Birdy's new traveling miracle-based church. Mason moves into Jonathan's office, taking on Street as his secretary (and future partner) and Drake as his lead detective. Mason finds Alice working as a waitress, and they bond over their loneliness.|
On August 15, 2016, it was reported that HBO was developing a drama series based on the Perry Mason stories written by Erle Stanley Gardner. The production was expected to be written by Nic Pizzolatto, who was also set to executive produce alongside Robert Downey Jr. and Joe Horacek. Production companies involved with the series were slated to consist of Team Downey. On August 25, 2017, it was announced that Pizzolatto had dropped out of the production in order to focus on the third season of True Detective and that he was being replaced as the project's writer by Rolin Jones and Ron Fitzgerald.
On January 14, 2019, it was announced that HBO had given the production an order as a limited series. It was further announced that Jones, Fitzgerald, Susan Downey, and Amanda Burrell would serve as additional executive producers, that Matthew Rhys would serve as a producer, and that the production was in the process of hiring a director. Jones and Fitzgerald serve as showrunners for the series as well. In March, Tim Van Patten was announced as director and executive producer. On July 22, 2020, it was revealed HBO had decided to turn Perry Mason into a regular series, renewing it for a second season.
Alongside the initial development announcement, it was confirmed that Robert Downey Jr. would star as the titular Perry Mason. On July 25, 2018, it was reported that Downey had dropped out of the role due to his feature film schedule and that a search for his replacement was ongoing. On January 14, 2019, it was announced that Matthew Rhys had been cast to replace Downey. Tatiana Maslany joined in April. John Lithgow was added to the cast in May. In June, Chris Chalk and Shea Whigham were cast in lead roles, with Nate Corddry, Veronica Falcón, Jefferson Mays, Gayle Rankin and Lili Taylor set in recurring roles. Juliet Rylance, Andrew Howard, Eric Lange, Robert Patrick and Stephen Root joined in July. Justin Kirk would be added in October.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, season one holds an approval rating of 77% based on 77 reviews, with an average rating of 7.35/10. The site's critics consensus reads: "Brimming with top notch performances and dripping in style, Perry Mason's compelling mystery more than makes up for its somewhat messy story." On Metacritic, the season has a weighted average score of 67 out of 100, based on 37 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Ben Travers of IndieWire said that season one is "built with confidence, patience, and a voice calibrated for today's audiences" and gave it a "B+", writing: "Perry Mason stands as an astounding visual feat for its specific framings as well as its overall world-building. There are striking images of a pitch-black profile and lavish outdoor shots of real Los Angeles locations. In some shows, intimate conversations between two people can clash with the grander scenes... Mason has the intuition (and the budget) to not just balance visual opulence with smaller, private moments, but to blend them."
|1||"Chapter 1"||June 21, 2020||0.1||0.884||0.1||0.604||0.2||1.488|
|2||"Chapter 2"||June 28, 2020||0.1||0.799||0.1||0.656||0.2||1.455|
|3||"Chapter 3"||July 5, 2020||0.1||0.950||0.1||0.633||0.2||1.583|
|4||"Chapter 4"||July 12, 2020||0.1||0.711||0.1||0.583||0.2||1.294|
|5||"Chapter 5"||July 19, 2020||0.1||0.884||0.1||0.567||0.2||1.451|
|6||"Chapter 6"||July 26, 2020||0.1||0.959||0.1||0.720||0.2||1.679|
|7||"Chapter 7"||August 2, 2020||0.1||1.038||0.1||0.658||0.2||1.696|
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- This amount represents the total qualified expenditures for the California Film & Television Tax Credit and excludes other non-qualifying costs