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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this classic courtroom drama deals with murder in almost every episode. While bodies generally aren't seen, there are images of bloody murder weapons (though in black and white, the blood is hard to discern) and detailed discussions of the less-gory elements of the crime. Some scenes -- such as a woman being chased by a man who's trying to sexually assault her -- can be mildly alarming. The now-classic chalk or tape body outline at the crime scene is a common sight. The show was made in the '50s and '60s, so there's some casual smoking and gentle reinforcement of some old-fashioned gender and racial stereotypes.
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What's the story?
PERRY MASON is a classic courtroom drama that originally aired from 1957 to 1966. Starring Raymond Burr as a top-notch defense attorney, the award-winning series followed pretty much the same plot each episode. Most storylines revolve around an innocent client who Mason successfully defends by discovering the true perpetrator. The crime is usually murder, and the real criminal generally makes a dramatic confession in the courtroom after being trapped by Mason into telling the truth
Is it any good?
The complicated elements of each crime and its cover-up make the show enjoyable for fans of crime and court dramas. The surprising twist at the end, while always expected, is often quite satisfying, since it's when all the elements of the mystery come together at once. Scenes leading up to the murder can range from benign to disturbing. For example, one episode involved an employer who tricked his secretary into coming back to his deserted beach house, where he pressured her to drink martinis and then tried to sexually assault her. Images of the scared woman running from the drunk, deranged man as he chases her in car and on foot through desolate areas are alarming.
Because Perry Mason was created and aired in the '50s and '60s, certain elements related to gender and race feel dated, and sexism and racism -- while not overt -- are evident. Mason's secretary, Della Street (Barbara Hale), is a helpful part of Mason's investigations, but she's primarily in a role of servitude, wearing aprons, serving coffee, and showing people to the door. And incidental characters, such as a Chinese gardener, fit certain old-fashioned stereotypes in appearance and demeanor.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the differences between classic and modern crime dramas. What do the older shows have in common with the new ones? What sets them apart? Are today's series -- which usually show more details of the crime -- scarier or more entertaining than their predecessors? Why or why not?