Sunday, June 30, 2013

Perry's Distrust of Certain Clients

It’s been a very hectic week. I’ve had some vague sprinklings of ideas for posts, but not much time to try to gather them together.

I find it interesting that it’s been almost a year since I had a change of heart about Deputy D.A. Sampson. It was last July when I re-watched his episodes with new eyes and realized that I quite liked him. That led to eventually adding H.M. Wynant to my list of extra-special favorites and actively looking for his other roles. I have happily recorded things on television and purchased quite a few sets of television episodes and a movie or two to get more footage of him.

Now, it’s going to be July again and those episodes are going to be on close to the same time they aired last year, perhaps about a week later. But they’re going to be on a different station this time—Me instead of the local station.

It will also soon be a year since I received access to MeTV. Such an amazing channel! And so perfect for Perry fans. I think Perry is the only series that they show at two drastically different times of day. Any other show that they have two episodes of they air back-to-back. (And the others are always half-hour shows.) I curiously wonder why Perry fans are so privileged, but I don’t question it too much.

I’ve been watching some of Me’s season 1 episodes off and on, although right now I’m more interested in following my local station’s season 6. But the other night I watched The Cautious Coquette on Me. I rarely watch some of these season 1 episodes, and I had largely forgotten some of the details of this one, even the guilty party, so it was an interesting and renewing experience.

I’ve been finding it very interesting to note Perry’s different behavior and attitudes in comparison with other seasons. Even though there are later times here and there where he doesn’t seem to trust or believe the people who become his clients, it’s more likely to happen in season 1.

It’s definitely the case in The Cautious Coquette, where he is singularly unmoved by the titular character’s insistence that she did not witness the hit-and-run and feels that her story about being blackmailed is a very good act.

It also happens in The Restless Redhead and The Fan-Dancer’s Horse and is even a key plot point in the latter, with Perry lamenting at the end that if he can’t have more faith in his clients, he shouldn’t be a lawyer.

He certainly becomes less cynical and suspicious as time goes on. Perhaps this is mainly due to becoming a much better judge of character. He tends to more likely believe those who are deserving of it and disbelieve those who aren’t. And for the later times when he doesn’t always believe or like the clients, such as in The Hasty Honeymooner, he is often quite justified in thinking there’s something screwy there. I had a very difficult time believing the eccentric fellow in that episode wasn’t guilty of at least something, until everything finally came together near the end.

In any event, Perry’s increasingly good ability to pick trustworthy people is definitely a sign of the maturing of the character. On the other hand, however, from the writers’ perspective, it may have mainly been a way of affirming such ideas as that Perry is never wrong.

That is often a dangerous path to tread. It can make the character seem less three-dimensional and real and instead, larger-than-life. Perry somehow manages to feel real anyway, thanks to the writers as well as Raymond Burr’s wonderful portrayal.

For a more flawed Perry, season 1 is definitely the place to go. Not only does he not always trust his clients, but he pulls more of those stunts that drive Hamilton and the police up the wall. But every now and then, even though he matures, he does retain some of those characteristics in later times. The Mystified Miner certainly comes to mind, as does The Woeful Widower.

I’m never crazy about the law-bending stunts he pulls, since they usually try to depict him as being in the right when doing them, but I do like giving him dilemmas such as thoroughly believing in someone’s guilt when they haven’t done what he thinks they have. And his moral/legal dilemmas in The Capering Camera and The Misguided Model make for some other, very unique Perry scenarios. I quite enjoy the testing of a character with such situations, and I enjoy it much more when they make the right decisions in the end.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Summertime Fun!

I was thinking: Since it’s summertime, what are some Perry episodes that largely take place in the great outdoors?

Choosing episodes for this sort of category is a bit difficult, since of course many episodes have outdoor scenes. It’s just a matter of picking ones that have the most. And it shouldn’t just be any kind of outdoor scenes, either; I’m thinking of ones with locations and activities specifically and often thought of for summer fun.

Of course, the majority of those are probably out-of-town episodes, but every now and then, there are a few that take place in Los Angeles County instead of outside of it.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it, but I think the very first out-of-town episode, The Drowning Duck, has a lot of outdoor scenes. And there’s the fair where the eventual defendant demonstrates the “drowning duck”. I think it may be the only Perry episode with a fair-type celebration.

If I’m thinking of activities for summer fun, though, I wonder if that would mean that any episode with a trailer should be included. That would plop The Sun-Bather’s Diary onto the list. And I remember a couple of others that featured trailers, all in the first season, I believe. (The Runaway Corpse, The Terrified Typist. . . .)

There’s season 3’s The Bashful Burro and the similar Drowsy Mosquito from season 7. Both involve small towns and mining.

The Accosted Accountant and The Tandem Target both feature extended and important scenes at lodges, albeit said lodges are not shown throughout the episodes.

Season 5’s The Crippled Cougar has some outdoors scenes and is at least a bit about hunting, although by including it, I wonder if I should also include The Mythical Monkeys, with its remote cabin.

A better choice is probably The Prudent Prosecutor, which revolves around the goings-on at a lodge and gun club. In any case, it’s probably my favorite choice.

Season 9 has The Scarlet Scandal, which takes place in a small town and features Perry and Paul continually trying to go fishing.

As far as fishing goes, The Traveling Treasure also has Perry and Paul in that dilemma. And there are lots of outdoor scenes, with the plot revolving around a boat. It’s not an episode that immediately came to mind when thinking of summer episodes, but since boating is a popular activity, I imagine it would qualify. (And of course, it’s just a great episode in general.)

The Frightened Fisherman is also about fishing, although I don’t think there’s as many actual outdoor scenes in it.

The Barefaced Witness is about a small town and a kooky festival, where anyone without a beard gets arrested (?!). The syndicated, cut version, however, eliminates most of the kookiness. I still need to see the uncut myself.

The Murderous Mermaid largely involves swimming, and a bizarre publicity stunt that goes completely wrong.

I suppose some of the episodes involving horses could qualify, perhaps particularly The Red Riding Boots, since there’s actual scenes of horseback riding.

One of the most interesting and unusual Perry episodes overall is The Feather Cloak, featuring Perry and Paul in the exotic locale of Hawaii! I’ll have to do an episode-centric post on it sometime.

There’s The Violent Village, but it’s up so high in the mountains that there’s snow everywhere! Same for The Fifty-Millionth Frenchman, which has a ski lodge as a central locale. But then again, when the heat waves come sweeping over the land, picturing something nice and cold like snow might be just the thing.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Wesley's other police characters and the absence of Captains

Tuesday, the 18th, was Wesley Lau’s birthday. I had hoped my local station’s episode would have Andy in it that night, but it was The Counterfeit Crank, a very good and fun episode, yet one without Andy.

It’s interesting, watching the writers’ and actor’s attempts to get the Lieutenant Anderson character to evolve through the seasons. Although the writers didn’t make much effort at first, even giving Wesley dialogue written for Lieutenant Tragg, they did try harder later on, granting the character a distinct personality separate from Tragg’s. They didn’t go nearly as far as they could have with the character, only branching out for occasional episodes such as The Hateful Hero, but thanks to them and Wesley, they still managed to create a memorable addition to the Perry cast.

I started thinking about some of the other policemen and law enforcement characters Wesley portrays through the years. There’s a sergeant in an episode of Cannon, an old friend of the titular character who becomes stressed when he feels Cannon is overstepping his bounds on a case. That sounds familiar. But the sergeant is not Andy and Wesley makes him different despite any similarities.

There’s a beat officer in Panic in the City, truly one of the most preposterous and ridiculous movies I’ve ever seen. But it still manages to be fairly entertaining, if one suspends disbelief, and in any case, the climax is definitely heartbreaking. I was disappointed they didn’t use Wesley nearly as much as they could have, but on the other hand, I was very happy his character survives the nuclear scare that’s central to the plot.

He even plays a CIA agent in The Venetian Affair, a dark and intense suspense film starring Robert Vaughn. (Other than the title, and Robert’s presence, there is no connection with his popular cult favorite The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) Edward Asner plays Robert’s former and Wesley’s current boss, and Wesley gets quite a decent amount of screentime off and on throughout the film, appearing right up to the final scene.

Back in the police department, Wesley portrays a Captain in the short-lived Bill Bixby series The Magician. The Captain is used in three different episodes, twice in fairly small parts and once in a larger capacity.

The Captain is a very interesting fellow. He definitely has some of Andy’s reserved, even businesslike nature, but he’s different—older, wiser, and a bit of a visionary. He’s willing to go along with unusual plans to see if they will come to fruition in solving particularly baffling cases. Or rather, he doesn’t just “go along” with them, as Andy does, but he takes an active part in convincing others to give then a chance to work. One can see his open-minded and forward-thinking approach to police work.

It made me think about something where Perry is concerned. I don’t recall ever seeing a police Captain in any of the Perry episodes (unless one appears very briefly and unnamed in a cameo role, such as in The Hateful Hero during Jimmy’s police board hearing). Certainly the highest-ranking officer who takes an active part in most of the episodes is always a Lieutenant. Perhaps if more scenes had been done at the police station, they would have found it necessary to show the Captain. As it was, they seemed to find him unnecessary.

Captains are definitely a staple of police and crime shows in the 1970s on up, such as Kojak and the afore-mentioned The Magician. A Captain is one of the main characters in Monk. In the 1950s and 1960s, there’s one each for the main casts of M Squad, The Mod Squad, and Car 54, Where Are You? (And probably many others, too.) It seems a curious omission for Perry to make. True, it’s more about lawyers than the police, but still. I wonder if Erle Stanley Gardner was ever asked about this (or if Captains featured into at least some of his books as opposed to their absence in the television series).

The main Perry police precinct seems to be the largest one, as depicted by the exterior shots of the real building in Los Angeles. I wonder what the Captain is like who is over Tragg, Andy, and Steve. I also wonder what any of the Lieutenants would be like as Captains. Would their viewpoints expand any by then? Would Andy be a little more like his counterpart on The Magician? Or would he remain as basically the same person?

Interesting questions with no real answers, save in possible fanfiction stories.

In any case, however, I always delight in watching Wesley no matter what role he’s taking on. He’s an amazing and versatile actor who could have done so much more with Andy given the chance. The contrast between Andy and Amory Fallon only showcases a small portion of Wesley’s overall talent; I’ve seen him as everything from a sickly and manipulative gambler to a cold-hearted criminal to a staunchly upright priest, and just about everything in between, including poor average Joes caught up in nightmarish scenarios. But I’ll always have a particular soft spot for his many law enforcement characters, including Andy.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Episodes for Father's Day

Happy Father’s Day! As a parallel with the Mother’s Day post, I have been trying to think of good Perry episodes for the holiday.

And I’m having the same difficulty as I had with Mother’s Day. While there’s quite a few episodes that include fathers, the problem is weeding out the ones that not only feature fathering as an important plot point, but show the fathers in the best light and also don’t end up depressing for them (such as the poor grandfather’s death in The Nine Dolls).

As I recall, season 2’s The Married Moonlighter involves a man who is married with a young son, and he’s holding down two jobs trying to support his family. His wife is upset feeling that he doesn’t have the job that would pay the best, as instead he’s longing to follow his dream of teaching, and Perry tries to convince her to stick with him instead of throwing in the towel.

Season 3’s The Flighty Father is one of the best choices I could come up with. The father, though absent for many years, has come back into his daughter’s life. The question is . . . which one is the real one? It’s an intriguing mystery of identities but ends with all being well and sorted out, and the daughter and her father beginning a new relationship together.

John Hoyt’s father character in the season 4 venture The Resolute Reformer is an honest, upright man and tries to be a good father. Most of the episode centers around the trouble his son inadvertently gets him into following a hit-and-run.

I had also kind of considered The Duplicate Daughter, but I’m not as sure about it. The daughters and the mother are more prominent characters than the father.

The Lawful Lazarus in season 6 involves a once-derelict father as well, come home not to get back into his kids’ lives, but just to make sure they have the best possible lives they can. And while for many reasons I don’t think he made the right choice of guardianship for them, unfortunately it was probably the best choice out of what was available in the episode. In any case, he’s trying to do the right thing, and the writer depicts it as indeed being the right thing.

I can’t remember if I mentioned it on the Mother’s Day post, but a good episode for both holidays is probably season 7’s The Festive Felon. Not only is it revealed that the girl has two mothers, one biological and one who more closely raised her (albeit with the complicated circumstances, they were both around), it’s discovered that her father is still alive and has been in her life without her knowledge of their true relationship.

There’s episodes where both parents are quite important, such as The Red Riding Boots and The Missing Button, and I was thinking there were also a couple of episodes with young single fathers (The Poison Penpal, for one, I just remembered).

Then there’s episodes with grandfathers, and offhand I think The Lucky Loser might be one of the best of those—albeit the focus is more on the grandson whom Perry is hired to help. The problem is the same with The Grumbling Grandfather in season 4.

The Pint-Sized Client, also in season 2, features a boy being raised by his grandfather. They have a special relationship and it’s a sweet episode and, I think, a good choice.

Season 7 brings The Devious Delinquent, which features a grandfather as well, if I remember right. The poor man has been completely duped by his hired help, who wants the family fortune for herself and has been working to that end for years. Once he realizes the immense damage, he is sickened and wants to do everything he can to mend what’s left of his family.

Those are all the ones I can think of that might work the best. There may be others, too.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Notable Guest-Stars: Victor Buono

So, with my local station airing The Absent Artist yesterday, it got me thinking about another of the fun guest-stars over the course of the series: Victor Buono, seasoned stage actor and comic poet, authority on Shakespeare, and gourmet chef. He was noted for playing a great many villains, often leaning towards the humorous. He loved making people laugh.

Every now and then, he took parts that were more serious. He took some disturbing parts in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and The Strangler, for two, but I haven’t seen those films and can’t say if he played those characters dead serious or not. I can say with complete confidence, however, that his performances in those films are brilliant.

He played lighter characters in films such as Who’s Minding the Mint?, recorded some hilarious poetry and recited it perfectly serious (I just found and heard two tracks of it and laughed and laughed), and he was one of the regulars of classic television.

On Perry, he first appears as a starving artist in season 5’s The Absent Artist, one who quite likes money even though he proclaims not to. He’s the least dangerous of Victor’s Perry characters, his worst crime being driving a car with a dead body to another location where the person was known under a different name.

In season 7’s The Simple Simon (which, interestingly enough, is one of the theatre-themed episodes) and season 8’s The Grinning Gorilla, he appears as the murderers. I don’t remember much about The Simple Simon (something I need to rectify), but in The Grinning Gorilla he was apparently acting under the orders of another man who was working with him on their twisted scheme. Murder hadn’t originally been involved or planned, but when the time came, Victor’s character comments that he did that for his fellow conspirator as well as everything else he had done for him.

And of course, he has the distinction of appearing in the only color episode, The Twice-Told Twist, as the modern-day Fagin getting young boys into crime. Benjamin Huggins has a cover of being a philanthropist and is also a great aficionado of certain types of Mexican art. There’s a very interesting scene between him and Perry that gets cut from the syndicated version, where Perry visits him at his residence and they end up discussing art. Benjamin puts Perry into a class with him and bemoans, what are they to do with so much evil around them? Perry responds that the only thing to do is to be able to recognize it when it appears.

(It’s interesting that twice in season 9, a villain puts Perry in the same class with him. Perry’s double Mr. Grimes does this in The Dead Ringer.)

I’m never quite sure whether Donna Reales is telling the truth or lying in court, when she says that Benjamin told her to tell lies to Robin Spring to make her come outside. He certainly looks angry, but whether that’s because she’s telling the truth or lying isn’t fully made clear. I would guess, however, that she is telling what happened and he really did deliver those instructions.

There are some hints of the humorous with all of Victor’s Perry characters, but overall they’re among his more serious portrayals. Probably the most serious character I’ve seen him play, however, is a gangster on The Untouchables. That was certainly interesting. And quite a switch, since the character was absolutely dead serious, no joviality at all.

My favorite of his bad guys is probably Count Manzeppi on The Wild Wild West. I wish they would have used that character in more than two episodes. He also has the curious distinction of being part of both the very first Wild Wild West episode and the very last thing the original cast members did together, the second reunion movie.

I’ve only seen him play two good guys so far, that I can recall—a government agent on Sea Hunt (another very interesting concept) and an old actor coming back to reprise his role in a play that bombed on The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries. He had some of the best lines of the whole script in the latter.

Whomever Victor plays, it’s always a treat to have him onboard. I get excited when I start to watch something and his name comes up as one of the guest-stars (or he comes up, if it’s a show where the guest-stars aren’t listed at the beginning), because I know it’s going to be great. I’m happy that among his many credits are those four Perry episodes.

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 clichés 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”!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Notable Guest-Stars: Vaughn Taylor

I am so sorry for the complete lack of weekend post. I was going to get it up on Monday, but then things were so busy between finishing up that very long crossover story, writing a quick story for someone’s birthday, and work. By the time it was Wednesday, I decided to just focus on the weekday post.

I decided it was time to highlight another of the wonderful guest-stars, and I chose Vaughn Taylor. He’s one of those classic character actors who pops up in just about every television series under the sun. On Perry he appears eight times.

I find it amusing that IMDB’s bio for him mentions that not only does he look like a stereotypical image of a certified public accountant, he really was one.

He has been in some movies as well as television shows, including Psycho and even Jailhouse Rock. But it’s his television resumé that’s the most expansive and legendary.

On Perry, he has the distinction of being the very first murderer, in episode #1 The Restless Redhead. In season 2, he does it again, in its first episode The Corresponding Corpse.

He makes a second appearance in season 2, as the murder victim this time, in The Stuttering Bishop, the first episode to take place in Los Angeles but use a deputy district attorney instead of Hamilton. (William Talman had laryngitis. I’m guessing The Spanish Cross was the first episode filmed with him after that, since he still has a noticeable touch of it in his scenes.)

Absent from season 3, he returns for season 4 as the defendant in The Fickle Fortune. A somewhat absent-minded character, there are shades of him again in next season’s The Travelling Treasure.

He plays the victim once more in The Witless Witness, a nervous little man, but I can’t seem to recall his characters in either The Drifting Dropout or The Blonde Bonanza.

I think my favorite of his characters is the professor in The Travelling Treasure. He’s the absent-minded type who forgets he’s wearing his hat, but is amiable and patient with the weird and frustrating things going on around him, while trying to find solutions at the same time. He has to put up with his business partner’s temper tantrums, moods, and not paying any of his share of the investment money in their seaweed project, not to mention a diver who’s “drunk half the time and hung over the rest.” But when the guy’s drunk at the time they need to leave (due to thinking they wouldn’t be going that week), another diver has to be hired instead. They end up with H.M. Wynant’s character, which is awesome. But he’s the gold smuggler, which isn’t so awesome. Still, he’s not responsible for the murder.

The professor is the fun type of character I would like to bring back for a repeat visit, if presented with a good opening. Perhaps he would come to Perry with a mystery to be solved.

Hamilton and Sampson made one more cameo appearance in the long Wild Wild West time-travel story I just finished, along with Tragg. Hamilton has to learn that the characters have time-traveled from the past. After everything else he’s seen in my stories, he’s absolutely and completely disturbed to have to accept that something else strange is real. Poor Hamilton! Sampson, meanwhile, thinks it’s a joke. Jim West advises them to talk to Perry, who found out in the previous installment. That would certainly be an interesting conversation to write out.