Thursday, March 27, 2014

Will Perry Mason become MeTV's Most Memorable Program?

So for the past week and a half, MeTV has been running a poll for MeTV viewers to pick their favorite shows. The winner will get a marathon on MeTV.

Perry is still in the running on this, the fourth round! I’m very excited and happy to see the turnout of Perry fans voting. But I’m a little nervous now, because Perry has gone up against The Twilight Zone in the Quarter Finals today. I’m guessing it’s going to be pretty hard to beat that show. But let’s keep voting for Perry and just maybe our show will be elected MeTV’s Most Memorable Program!

Ironside was also in the running, up till now. It lost to, of all things, Batman! Sacrilege! I was hoping Ironside and Perry might end up facing off in the final round. That would have been epic.

For any MeTV viewers who haven’t yet voted, the poll is here:

(Please don’t vote if you don’t have MeTV. Since the poll is to pick a show to air a marathon of, it’s only fair that the voters are MeTV viewers.)

Season 7 wrapped up last week. It suddenly occurred to me that while every season has had episodes about teens and young adults, it seems like season 7 has them in greater abundance. Or maybe it just seems that way because four of its seven young adult episodes air one right after another! The Careless Kidnapper, The Drifting Dropout, The Tandem Target, and The Ugly Duckling all heavily involve characters in their late teens or early twenties. (The other season 7 young adult episodes are The Festive Felon, The Devious Delinquent, and The Bountiful Beauty.)

I enjoy The Careless Kidnapper, The Tandem Target, and The Ugly Duckling the most out of those. The Festive Felon is quite good too, especially uncut. I did like The Devious Delinquent and The Bountiful Beauty better on this round than I have in the past. And The Drifting Dropout was quite interesting. This was my first viewing of it. And it sounds like there was a lot cut out of it, so I need to watch the uncut version soon.

I was glad that in The Careless Kidnapper, David’s friend Michael wasn’t the one killed falling off the boat. It was really an awful stunt the two of them pulled, trying to get David’s father upset and worried about him, but I don’t think Michael deserved to die over it. In some episodes he probably would have been the one to die, so that was an intriguing twist that the body ended up being someone else.

I definitely wonder at how David’s father was so forgiving when he learned what had sparked the kidnapping idea that he told David he deserved an explanation about the violent argument he overheard instead of needing to give an explanation about his and Michael’s actions. It would definitely be mortifying to bring your friends over to your house and find your parents in the middle of a row, but that’s not any justification for arranging a mock kidnapping!

I do find kind of annoying, too, when David’s father is so adamant against David’s mother saying anything to Perry about what really happened at the docks. On the one hand, it’s understandable that he wouldn’t want her to possibly end up in jail because of the kid falling and (they think) dying. On the other, good grief, it was an accident! Of course, I suppose that after the actual body is discovered and it’s the guy who was blackmailing David’s father, then he continues to be adamant against his wife saying anything because he’s trying so desperately to keep the story from getting out, particularly the list of all the patients he was trying to help in secret.

I like that there really wasn’t anything romantic going on between him and Mary Manning, one of his patients. Sometimes all the affairs on the series get tiresome. He honestly was just trying to protect the privacy of her and all the others because of their medical problems.

I also like that the epilogue of that episode shows the kids over at David’s house having a nice party with David’s parents as chaperones. And I’m sure Perry/Della fans love that Perry and Della watch through the balcony doors for a moment before Perry suggests to Della that they go nightclubbing instead of joining the kids. It’s definitely a sweet scene.

One thing about The Tandem Target, I’ve never been quite sure what to think of the murder victim’s stepdaughter Irma. The first time I saw the episode, I actually thought for a long time that she was probably the murderer, due to the note thing. And while she definitely has plenty of reason to be upset with her stepfather, somehow she always seems to come off acting like a child. Even if the man hadn’t had an ulterior and terrible motive in keeping her rightful money from her, if I was he I’d probably be pretty hesitant to turn all that money over to her.

One thing that never fails to amuse me is how Philip Ober plays both him and his brother Adrian. It’s all very deliberately tongue-in-cheek; it’s never mentioned by the characters how much they look alike, but it doesn’t take much to see it. I love the first, close-up shots of them both. Each turns to face the camera in the same manner and there’s a certain pause of surprise for the audience to react.

I’ve never been quite sure what to think of Adrian bringing another Napoleon statue to the widow at the end and her laughing about it, although it definitely amuses me when Perry refers to the statue as another party at the table and says he had better depart, since three’s a crowd and he’s not sure what four is. But I guess to me it seemed to be making too much light of the dead. Sumner Hodge certainly wasn’t a very nice man, but he must have done some things right, to have set the company in order when he first came along. And I’m guessing he really cared about his wife and stepdaughter, at least at first.

Also, MeTV aired a different print of The Ugly Duckling. Either that or they further chopped up the one they had, because I’m positive they used to air a copy that kept William Boyett’s police officer scene intact. He and another man come to see about the broken window at the beginning and are offered toys for their children. That scene was completely absent last week.

I find it curious that in both The Tandem Target and The Ugly Duckling, the murderer ends up being someone high up in the company. I’ve ended up mixing up the climaxes of both episodes due to that, sometimes thinking that The Tandem Target is the one where Perry holds that annoyingly noisy toy and insists on keeping it on until the guy confesses. But that’s in The Ugly Duckling. And that part definitely gets on my nerves, not so much because the noise is aggravating as it is because the noise is so loud I have to strain to hear the people talking!

I always kind of wonder what’s going to happen to the artist at the end of the episode. They’re worried he might go to jail, but we don’t know what actually happens. I kind of hope that he got a suspended sentence since it was his first offense, and since he was trying to do right by the girl by covering for her when it looked bad for her. It’s certainly a better motivation than wanting money or trying to cover for oneself.

I was thinking of actually trying to make a list of each season’s young adult episodes, but I was only scrolling through the list of season 1 episodes when I realized the prospect would probably be quite overwhelming. There’s also the question of where I would draw the line, since there’s episodes with characters in that age bracket who aren’t the main focus of the episodes. There’s the question of exactly what ages I’m defining as “young adult”, since by that I mean early twenties, but it could have a broader meaning. (Actually, I think it may be a synonym for teens; there really doesn’t seem to be a good, short term for people in their twenties!) And there’s episodes where, while the characters are young, it doesn’t seem so much that their age has any particular part in the story. I accidentally left The Festive Felon and The Bountiful Beauty off my initial count because I just wasn’t thinking. There might be others that would qualify, too.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Two Lauras?!

Now this is interesting.

In season 6’s The Hateful Hero, with the mysterious robberies playing such an important role in the plot, a policeman from the robbery detail is brought in. This character, Detective Sergeant Steve Toland, interacts with Andy and has quite a good deal of screentime.

He isn’t mentioned or seen in other episodes, and I thought he was just a oneshot character. But all of a sudden, in season 7’s The Woeful Widower, there he is again! Detective Sergeant Steve Toland, being introduced to Perry after Elizabeth’s jewelry gets copped! Apparently they didn’t ever meet on the previous case? (I was thinking they had.)

It’s such a random little thing, much the same as Deputy D.A. Alvin’s sudden and brief reappearance in The Weary Watchdog after two season 4 episodes. It’s a fun nod to continuity and it’s nice to see them remember the character and the actor and bring them back for another few minutes of screentime.

It’s exciting when characters recur. But it’s rather odd when more than one character has the same name! I had thought that I had seen the Laura character fans of the movies talk about when I saw The Heartbroken Bride. Now, after coming from The Lost Love on Friday, it seems Perry had two old flames named Laura!

Good grief, writers. Way to not pay attention. There’s so many names; why did Laura get picked more than once for that type of character?

Now I’m no longer sure which Laura it is that the fanfiction writers usually talk about. With The Heartbroken Bride Laura, there’s those double-meaning statements that could indicate Perry is actually the father of her daughter. Her husband is very friendly towards Perry and the family regards him as an honorary uncle to the daughter. With The Lost Love Laura, she and Perry and Della have known each other for 30 years and there’s still obviously deep feelings between Laura and Perry, whether or not they are, as Perry says, friendship feelings now. Laura’s husband Glenn is still suspicious and jealous of Perry.

I really love how devoted Glenn is to Laura. Even after Perry uncovers the shocking truth that it was Laura who went to see the blackmailer and she was there when he suffered an accidental death, and she kept quiet even after her husband was arrested, Glenn still loves her and is apparently still ready to forgive her. At least she’s remorseful and says that she was sure Glenn wouldn’t be convicted with Perry as his lawyer, but I’m still not quite sure what to make of the character.

It would be different if she had admitted the truth to Glenn and he insisted on taking the blame anyway and believed that Perry would get him off, hopefully without exposing Laura’s presence at the scene. But when she apparently kept it a complete secret from even Glenn, I just don’t know what to think. It’s very human that she longed for her Senatorial appointment so much, and I did love her remorse and how she acknowledged her terrible mistakes in betraying her loved ones right from the witness stand, but what she did was still disappointing, particularly where Glenn was concerned.

It was fun seeing David Ogden Stiers as the prosecutor. I love the little exchanges he and Perry have outside of court. The writers were clearly trying to set them up to have a relationship similar to what Perry has with Hamilton, friendly outside of court despite being rivals during court. The character is good and compassionate and wants justice, as Hamilton does.

For once we finally had a police character play a more important role in one of the movies! And it’s a policewoman! That’s a change. I enjoyed seeing the sergeant, and her interaction with Paul Jr. was amusing. His chagrin after bashing the police department and then discovering that she’s a sergeant instead of a secretary was priceless.

Paul Jr.’s role in things really reminded me of some of Jesse’s antics on Diagnosis Murder, especially repeatedly getting arrested and looking for an old flame, continually thinking he sees her. And he had at least one idiotic moment, when he believed that guy about the murder victim’s files being in the closet. He really walked right into that one. At least he redeemed himself by not believing that guy’s next string of lies later.

You know, it’s really a cliché in detective stories for a suspect to flee from the good guys and then get run down and killed by a car in the road. It’s happened in more than one Perry movie and happens again here, although switched up a bit. We get quite a graphic depiction of the guy flying all over the car before crashing to the pavement. And oddly enough after such a painful hit, this one actually doesn’t die. I don’t think we ever learn his eventual fate; he seems to still be unconscious when things wrap up.

It must drive fans of the Perry/Della pairing nuts when Della is talking to Laura and Laura actually asks her about her relationship with Perry. Della just starts to try to explain when Perry shows up and inadvertently brings a halt to the conversation. I’m still not big on actively pairing them off and I was a little disappointed myself to not hear what Della would have said. But of course, they felt they had to do that to tease and acknowledge the fans while not making a romantic relationship between Perry and Della out-and-out canon.

The very ending scene of the movie is sweet, where Perry comes out of the building after speaking with Laura and he solemnly tells Della, “Let’s go home.” They depart with their arms around each other.

One thing that puzzled me: I thought the movies were not only filmed in Denver, but that Denver was supposed to be Perry and Della’s new home. Yet in this movie, which takes place in Denver, there are repeated references to home being elsewhere for both them and the prosecutor. Are they still living in Los Angeles after all? Most of the movies I’ve seen other than the first one have them traveling, so where “home” is hasn’t been explained that I’ve heard.

Ah well. Regardless, this was quite an enjoyable movie, in spite of the Diagnosis Murder-type antics that don’t quite fit the Perry mold. I especially enjoyed seeing Gene Barry as Glenn. I was worried he might be the victim, so it was a relief when he was the defendant.

And tomorrow is Terrance Clay’s favorite day, St. Patrick’s Day! Curiously enough, I’ve been running into Dan Tobin all over the place lately, especially on Maverick. I have the first two seasons on DVD and also watch episodes on Cozi TV. And I keep somehow choosing episodes with Dan! If he’s not staring in horror as a camel peers through his hotel window, he’s challenging James Garner to a duel and then wounding Roger Moore when they have a duel. And if not that, he’s conning Roger Moore to switch a fake necklace for a real one, when in reality poor Roger is unknowingly switching a real one for a fake!

Ah, good times. I wonder if he’s going to pop up in any more episodes.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The blog lives!

Oh dear. It’s terrible how long I’ve let it stretch without a post. If I’m not feeling ill, I’m lacking a topic or I’ve got so many other things I’m trying to do that the post slips away. But I ended up missing at least a couple of times when I fully intended to post.

I certainly intended to post on the 6th, for instance—the anniversary of William Hopper’s death. And then today is the anniversary of Erle Stanley Gardner’s death. Both men, curiously and sadly enough, died the same year, 1970, days apart from each other.

They are two people so very key to Perry as we know it now. Naturally nothing would exist if Gardner hadn’t got his ideas for the books and started to write. And if anyone else had played Paul, the dynamics of the series would have been so very different indeed.

I usually like to recommend episodes or other work to watch on the memorial posts. It isn’t always easy thinking of good episode recommendations after a couple such posts! But last night I was watching a DVD copy of an episode I’d missed on MeTV last week and was thinking it would make a great recommendation.

I don’t recall really thinking about it before, but The Nervous Neighbor is really good as a Paul episode as well as a Hamilton episode (the latter of which I usually think of it as). It has some of Hamilton’s best scenes and some of Paul’s most extended screentime. The episode opens in Paul’s office, a very unusual thing, and Paul continues to be extremely prominent throughout the story as he takes Charles Fuller around town and investigates the strange case. Even after Mrs. Bradley’s hearing, when she would have likely also interacted with Perry a great deal, it’s Paul she calls in a panic when son Charles runs off to confront criminal Henry Clement. Normally it’s Perry the person calls, and then Perry either runs out himself or calls Paul to go (or they both go).

Usually episodes also feature scenes of Perry investigating, so it’s very interesting and different to see so much focus on Paul. There’s even that adorable sub-plot where we can see Paul seems to be hanging around the Golden Age Club quite a bit as he sleuths and is getting to know the people, especially Frances—whom he promises a dance with and fulfills that at the end.

It’s known that Raymond Burr was tiring of the role as the show went on and the writers deliberately tried to focus some of the later episodes more on other characters. Seasons 8 and 9 are definitely said to have that focus, and it’s apparent in several of them. The Nervous Neighbor is season 7, and I’m wondering if the focus on Paul was deliberate because of Raymond’s feelings too. But either way, it’s a wonderful episode choice to watch in remembrance of William Hopper.

The episode is just about perfect to me in every way. My only confusion is that once again there’s a title that I don’t fully understand. Who is “The Nervous Neighbor”? There’s certainly a lot of people running around in this episode who are nervous. Which one is considered the “neighbor”? And neighbor of whom? But in any case, it’s a minor quibble.

Generally I recommend reading the books in remembrance of Mr. Gardner. And while that is a logical idea, perhaps other things fans would like to do would be to watch a particular favorite adaptation of a book or to view The Final Fade-Out and see Mr. Gardner onscreen as the second judge.

One of these days I’m going to give that episode another viewing; while it never will be a favorite, the in-jokes are amusing and Richard Anderson has some very nice scenes. And it’s nice to know that so many of the bit parts and extras are people on the crew. In that respect, it’s a nice send-off to the series, as is the epilogue scene.

Farewell again to William Hopper and Erle Stanley Gardner, two people still very often thought of and missed.

I have several topics waiting in the wings; tentatively I’d considered combining this post with at least one of them, but I think it would be more proper to give them separate posts. Hopefully I can get back on-track with posting. I know I keep saying that, but it is an intention!

And a bit of Perry news: MeTV will show The Lost Love movie this Friday! Happy watching to the interested!