Perry Mason

TV review by
Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media
Perry Mason TV Poster Image
Classic courtroom drama wins the case.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

While all sorts of unsavory characters appear in each episode, Mason and his crew are honorable and ethical. Given the show's "vintage" nature, expect some fairly mild gender and racial stereotypes.

Violence

Every episode involves a murder and the investigation of the crime, but it's not very graphic -- particularly by today's primetime standards. Bloody murder weapons are sometimes shown, but generally not bodies. Other violence depends on the episode but can include attempted sexual assault, sexual harrassment, fistfights, and the occasional threat with a gun.

Sex

Some embraces and mild kisses.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some main characters smoke (not unexpectedly, given the '50s setting). Occasional drinking.

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?

TV details

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