Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Girls Everyone Wants?

So one thing that has both amused and bemused me is the fact that in The Twice-Told Twist, so many people are romantically interested to one extent or another in the poor murder victim Robin Spring (which, by the way, is a hilariously bizarre name in and of itself). There’s Bill Sikes, whose girl she officially is. There’s the manager of the club, who wanted her to marry him. There’s Jodie, one of the boys in the gang, who seems to lust after her. And there’s the defendant, who has an innocent crush.

I didn’t think there was any other episode where such an absurd parade played out. I’d forgotten about The Duplicate Case and that wretched Millie. She even manages to top Robin’s count! In addition to Millie’s poor husband Herbie, whom she’s always putting down, she’s carrying on with at least four other people! Two middle-aged men in the company, as well as the younger characters played by Don Dubbins and Steve Ihnat, are all interested in her. The opening sequence has us meet three of her extramarital boyfriends, as well as poor Herbie. We don’t find out about Charlie until the end.

At least Robin is a nice girl. Millie is so treacherous, it’s hard to imagine what so many men see in her. They must just be focusing on her looks. And perhaps the first man who approached her, the one who was planning to embezzle, was just trying to get close to her because he wanted to find a way to get the money after she took it. But as it stands, that’s still five people for Millie and four for Robin.

Are there any other episodes where so many people are nuts about one person? One or even two is logical enough, but by the time the number climbs up to four and five it just seems too ridiculous to take seriously. Perry even sounds like he’s bemused by all the interest in Robin when he’s running down the list of everyone who wants her in The Twice-Told Twist.

The Duplicate Case really is a depressing episode. I always enjoy watching it for Steve Ihnat, as well as for the nice Perry and Hamilton friendship scene as the books are audited in the middle of the night. But seriously, poor Herbie! His wife was always so awful, and he thought he had a genuine friend in Charlie, but Charlie was running around with her behind Herbie’s back. Charlie even thought that if Herbie found out, Herbie would come after him to kill him! I always think how little Charlie really knew about Herbie to think such a thing. And then Charlie goes and kills Millie and lets Herbie take the blame. Ugh.

The epilogue never fails to amuse me, where Della doesn’t even remember Perry calling to tell her to find a federal judge in the middle of the night. And Perry and Paul are amused that she was so tired she didn’t remember that they start teasing her saying maybe Perry called someone else instead and maybe Della wasn’t even home. It’s nice to have a little levity after the depressing unraveling of the mystery in court.

I greatly enjoyed watching The Fatal Fetish again last week. I noted how interesting it is that for a while, it’s not clear who will be the defendant. Larry has plenty of reason to kill Carina, but so does Mignon. I think I really thought Mignon would be the defendant when I first saw the episode.

I regret that Andy only had the one little speaking scene in that episode, and then is seen sitting in the gallery in court without speaking again. A lot of season 8 episodes seemed to only allot him one little scene; strange when that was the first (and only) season he ran completely without Lieutenant Tragg. It’s certainly one more way the character was misused. And, since we really don’t know why Wesley Lau vanished from the show, I wonder if he could have requested to leave because of the greatly decreasing screentime. That, and how the character had so many cringe-worthy moments because of his insistence on believing in the defendants’ guilt and improperly speaking out about it in court!

Oh well, at least it’s different than when he was being written with nothing but Tragg’s dialogue. But I wish he really could have continued to be written as the more friendly one he’s usually remembered as being in seasons 5 and 6. I liked that Andy a lot better than the stressed and improper one season 8 brought us so much.

I wonder if the reason so many people seem to only remember Andy’s behavior in earlier episodes is because a lot of rerun packages don’t show season 8? My local station hasn’t shown any of it for ages. And I’ve heard that some rerun packages only show through season 6. Some even only show through season 4! What a serious shame.

(Another explanation, I suppose, is that some people feel that Andy was acting out-of-character in season 8 and therefore don’t count it? Or maybe they figure he was just having a bad day or two. But with that logic, it seems like in season 8 he was having a lot of bad days. Although he could be stressed or clipped sometimes even in season 6, it wasn’t happening nearly as often.)

And good old Sergeant Brice. When I saw The Careless Kitten and how Andy was absolutely flipping out by the evening’s end and the discovery of Perry having reached the murder weapon first, Sergeant Brice was standing behind him, terribly amused and even laughing to himself. He could have been amused thinking of what Andy would do to Perry and been more on Andy’s “side” in the conflict, but somehow I got the feeling he was just entertained by Andy blowing his stack and didn’t particularly agree with Andy’s reaction.

Sergeant Brice generally does seem easy-going and is very likely to be the one Perry and company get along with best in the police department—at least until Steve comes along. The times when Brice has actually called Perry to give him information, such as in The Ugly Duckling, are very intriguing indeed. And Perry talks with Brice in The Careless Kitten and doesn’t receive the clipped reaction that Andy gives him throughout.

Oh, how I wish we could have seen more scenes where Sergeant Brice talks. So many missed opportunities for interesting interaction!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Birthday Tribute: Barbara Hale

Perry fans may want to check out tomorrow night’s Love Boat movie on MeTV. Raymond Burr is one of the main guest-stars! He delivers an amazing performance ranging from comedic to dramatic as a gruff, alcoholic theatre teacher. We even get to hear him sing! (He’s quite good, too.)

I happened to see it recently and by accident, as it was on the same disc as the wonderful Richard Anderson episode (which I’m hoping to record some Sunday if it hasn’t aired yet). It was definitely a surprise treat to see Raymond and well worth watching, even if you’re not a Love Boat fan. (Me, I kind of like the wonderful 1970s cheese and adorableness of the show, and how it deals with serious issues in a respectful way, even though at other times the mushiness makes me roll my eyes.)

And for once let’s do this early instead of late! Tomorrow is Barbara Hale’s 92nd birthday! Oh my goodness. It’s so wonderful to still have some of the original Perry cast members alive and well with us, especially as we’re losing more and more of the last remaining Golden Hollywood greats (R.I.P., Mickey Rooney).

This is a lovely fansite for Barbara: I had previously thought that Barbara either had some affiliation with it or that she was aware of it and came to look at the Guestbook comments. The website owner has a notice that says it’s an unofficial fanpage. That doesn’t mean Barbara isn’t aware of it and perhaps sometimes sees the Guestbook comments, however, so it might still be a nice thing to leave a birthday wish for her there. In any case, it’s a very nice place to visit, clearly a labor of love by a devoted fan.

Over the past year I have enjoyed seeing Barbara as Della on the main Perry Mason series as well as finally discovering her revival of the character in the television movies. I really love how the character grows through the years and how Della is depicted as so motherly in the movies. Della has always had that motherly, protective streak, as shown on the series whenever children are present or when she encounters someone else that she develops a certain fondness for (such as the defendant in The Sad Sicilian). And she serves as Perry’s conscience during those times when Perry is getting too swamped with work or too eager for a vacation to take a particular case. On the one hand, I feel sorry for Perry never getting to have a proper vacation. But when the people genuinely need help and Perry is likely the best one to give it, it is nice of Della to be thinking of their problems. Della doesn’t get much vacation/downtime, either. Many are the nights that she works far later than most other secretaries. Once she asks Perry if they will ever be able to leave earlier than midnight. (I think that’s the one with the amusing ending where they keep trying to hurry out the door before the clock stops chiming midnight and they keep having to run back because of forgetting to close the balcony doors or turn off the lights.)

Della is absent from only a handful of Perry episodes. While I often still enjoy them for their plots or favorite guest-stars (or for Hamilton being present, if they’re in-town episodes), Della’s presence is definitely missed. She’s an integral part of the cast, certainly made so by Barbara Hale’s amazing performance.

I still have to wonder why anyone thought a remake of Perry Mason would work so soon after the original stopped airing new episodes. Perhaps if they had waited longer people would have been more accepting, but only seven years later, the comparisons between the two series and their casts were inevitable. The show itself was very good, plot-wise, and I will forever praise Dane Clark and Harry Guardino, but some of the other casting choices bewilder me. Sharon Acker is a fine actress, but she just wasn’t a believable Della Street to me. Perhaps if I see more of those episodes I’ll change my mind, but of course I’ll always feel that Barbara Hale is the quintessential image of Della Street.

Happy Birthday, Barbara Hale! I hope it will be a lovely day spent with your family. The fans remember and love you and I also hope for still many more birthdays for you.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

MeTV Preempts Perry Movie

I wasn’t absolutely positive of this until I saw that the schedule had for sure been changed tonight, but MeTV is preempting the Perry movie they already had planned for Friday night in order to marathon the show that won the poll (Star Trek). I’m so sorry to anyone who was looking forward to the movie. I was too. Hopefully they’ll reschedule it soon, but I’m not sure I’m that confident. It seems like a lot of times when stations change their minds, they don’t get around to airing what they preempted for a long time.

What MeTV should have done was to set aside a specific time in advance to marathon whatever show won, instead of waiting for the end of the poll and then getting rid of something that had already been planned and scheduled. I’m debating whether to write and complain to them about the schedule change. Not that it would do any good for this particular time, but possibly if a lot of people wrote it would let them know they need to plan things better in the future.

I was thinking about the number of times a character has traveled outside of the North American continent. It’s something that never happens too often; trips outside the continental United States to Mexico are a little more frequent, but actually leaving the continent behind is such a rare thing that I think it’s only occurred five times, most of those in the later seasons.

Offhand, the first time I can recall it happening and being shown is when Perry goes off to Europe in season 4’s The Nine Dolls. Then I don’t recall it happening for anyone until Paul ventures to South America looking for a doctor in season 7’s The Deadly Verdict.

(The Floating Stones contains some scenes in Hong Kong, but if I remember right, it’s only with the guest-starring cast and none of the main characters are over there.)

Neither of those trips involves staying overseas for the duration of the episode. But with season 8 came something new: episodes that either took place entirely away from North America or else mostly took place overseas.

The first instance was in A Place Called Midnight. Perry was said to be in Europe in the prior episode, Mike Connors’ The Bullied Bowler; A Place Called Midnight features Perry still over there and having another, unplanned adventure before coming home. He’s still there by the episode’s end, going to talk with the Inspector about another puzzling case.

About halfway through the season, Perry and Paul decide to visit Hawaii. The Feather Cloak takes place entirely on the Hawaiian Islands. Too bad Hawaii 5-O hadn’t started by then and the shows could have crossed over! It would have been interesting to see how Steve McGarrett and Perry would react to each other.

In season 9, The Fugitive Fraulein has a few Los Angeles scenes, but the majority of the action is all in Berlin. It’s perhaps the most topical episode the show ever did, with an intense plot revolving around trying to free a couple’s granddaughter from the Communists’ grasp. The courtroom scene, where Perry fights in vain against the Communist court system, is very different from anything else the show did. How he gets around that, frees the defendant, catches the true murderer, and saves the granddaughter make for one of the most intriguing adventures ever.

I’m wondering if The Substitute Face from season 1 would count as an episode that’s partially away from North America, since some of it involves the cruise Perry and Della take. By that logic, there are a couple of other episodes involving ship scenes (The Malicious Mariner and The Wrongful Writ), but as I recall, the main characters aren’t on those ships while the ships are in the middle of the ocean.

Either way, that’s still very few episodes that take place away from North America. If the show had continued, I wonder if there would have been several other overseas adventures? And why was it that overseas adventures became more prominent only later on? Was it that they wanted to try something new, after so many seasons of episodes taking place solely in the continental United States?

They could have also explored other areas of the North American continent. I wonder what an episode entirely set in Mexico would have been like. Or Canada; I don't think they went there at all.

The fact that the majority of the episodes are centered in North America, and generally parts of California, is interesting. I can't help thinking of a common theme for detective shows is that the detective is a globe-trotter. Many series feature adventures in many states and countries.

Then again, what with how workaholic Perry is, it probably makes the most sense for most episodes to take place in North America. He rarely gets to travel. And when he does, most of the time something seems to go wrong and he ends up involved in another case.

On the other hand, though, a lot of out-of-town episodes are out-of-town episodes because Perry has a friend or two in other towns who are calling for his help. If the series had wanted to expand to more overseas adventures, some of those could have involved other friends of Perry's. No matter how busy Perry is in Los Angeles, he always tries to make time for people who need his help, wherever they are.

I also wonder how the books stack up in this regard. Were there any books taking place overseas? It would be interesting to find out.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Various Perry thoughts

Well, alas, Perry lost to The Twilight Zone. I really figured that would happen, but it was still sad to see it happen. The finals are The Twilight Zone versus Star Trek, so I’ve thrown my support to The Twilight Zone. A very strange and eerie show, but a very intelligent show that has a lot of good morals in their episodes. Star Trek is likewise, but since I’m more familiar with the movies and The Next Generation series, I voted for the show I know better.

The past week was a bit oddball, as I missed most of Monday night’s episode and there were two out-of-town episodes. I felt like I was suffering from Hamilton withdrawal! So I watched Saturday’s episode on my local station. They’ve been running seasons 1 and 2 for some time on Saturdays, and I haven’t devoted much time to watching the Saturday night sessions for some time, since I’ve seen those episodes more than some others. But I greatly enjoyed seeing the characters this Saturday, so I may get back into the habit of watching then as well as on weekday nights.

It was interesting watching the out-of-town episodes, however. I always like catching A Place Called Midnight, since it’s so unique. Not only is Perry in Europe for the duration of the case, there are no court scenes. The mystery is resolved out of court. And I always get a kick out of Werner Klemperer playing the police lieutenant and working with Perry to solve the case. I think I saw that episode uncut just once, and I would like to do so again.

The other out-of-town episode, The Reckless Rockhound, I don’t recall ever seeing before. I wasn’t fully sure what to make of the Reba character. She could be so cold and hard, even with some people who were her friends. But then she would occasionally open up and show this other side of her personality and she was quite likable. I also found it interesting to see the actor who played the nutcase Dan Morgan in The Misguided Missile playing a good guy here. I found it sweet how much he cared about Reba and how he knew her secret about the diamonds already being spent, but covered the loans himself. And I was actually fairly surprised by the murderer. I was afraid it was going to be him, but then it was his young assistant instead. I hadn’t suspected him at all.

Something very bizarre I’ve noticed is how stations seem to have more than one print of certain episodes, with each print different and both prints getting airtime. Recently I mentioned MeTV airing a differently cut print of The Ugly Duckling. I’ve also seen my local station air two cuts of The Stand-In Sister. Now I’ve seen MeTV air another print of The Missing Button!

This time the report is positive, as one of the things I was most upset about was their prior cut of that episode, which eliminated almost all of the scene where Perry and Paul find Button on the boat and see that she’s safe. Instead it went right to Perry bidding Button farewell, which really looked preposterous since the last thing shown was that she had apparently been kidnapped. But the print that MeTV just aired restored the rest of that scene. I can’t tell whether they have two separate prints that they air or if people wrote in upset about the cut scene and MeTV got the other print then.

I wonder why stations have two different prints anyway. If they had one, wouldn’t they always air that one? How do they end up airing the other one? Is it an accident or on purpose?

Generally, when I see two different prints of an episode, it’s at two different airing times. The uncut Stand-In Sister aired on Saturday night on my local station, with the cut version airing on a weekday. The print of The Ugly Duckling with William Boyett’s scene aired in the morning on MeTV, as did the print of The Missing Button with most of the boat scene eliminated. The other prints of those episodes aired at night. I don’t know if the different airing times have anything to do with the truth of why the different prints exist, but it’s interesting to note, at least.

Also, of particular note is that I am very happy to learn that what I wondered about in the Perry movie The Heartbroken Bride isn’t true. It wasn’t intended to have any double-meaning remarks about the daughter, according to a recent commenter. From emails to director Christian Nyby II and one of the scriptwriters, Perry was meant to be exactly what the script said, a dear friend of the family and a surrogate uncle, not the girl’s real father. The crew said that they wouldn’t have had Perry do anything scurrilous. Very happy to hear that. Thank you, commenter!

Speaking of Perry movies, another will air this coming Friday. Looking forward to seeing what’s happening in that one. While the movies are not the series, and never could be with only two original cast members, I find them a lot more enjoyable and fun to watch than I ever thought they would be. I think they basically do an excellent job adapting the Perry format to the (relative) present day.