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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Perry Mason is a crime drama loosely based on the criminal defense lawyer character from the classic detective novels and the popular 1950s series of the same name. A much darker, grittier, and often gruesome take on the source material, this reboot includes plenty of graphic violence and gore, including the kidnapping and murder of a baby. Profanity, including frequent use of the "F" word, is abundant. Sexual intercourse, full-frontal nudity, and naked corpses also appear regularly. Racial epithets, particularly aimed at Asian and African American characters, are also common. Characters drink hard alcohol and smoke often, and even the "good" guys display questionable behaviors and morals. Police corruption, organized religion, suicide, and war crimes are among the potentially delicate topics the series touches upon.
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- Kids say
TV-MA Drama Perry Mason is Suitable for Kids 3 and Up 1 Time Watch Per Year Because, It is Rated TV-MA
What's the story?
Serving as an origin story for the titular character (played by Matthew Rhys), PERRY MASON unfolds in Depression-era Los Angeles. Mason is portrayed as a dogged, down-on-his-luck private eye, suffering from post-World War I PTSD while investigating a child kidnapping gone horribly wrong.The twisty central murder mystery, 1930s setting, and cast of unsavory characters support a very strong film noir vibe, one that's a far cry from the classic case-of-the-week format that fans of the original might remember.
Is it any good?
HBO has applied many of its prestige TV hallmarks -- spot-on casting, smart writing, immersive world-building, and exquisite costume and set design -- to the detective noir genre with this remake. Rhys' nuanced performance makes a strong case for why a Perry Mason origin story is even necessary, while the engaging central mystery could nudge you to the edge of your seat regardless of who's collecting the clues. Combined, the complex protagonist and compelling case he's committed to cracking make for an absorbing take on the classic genre.
If there's a gripe to be made, it's that the series occasionally leans too heavily on genre clichés, lingering longer than necessary on shots of brooding characters doing noir-ish things, like drowning sorrows in booze or meeting in smoky environments. There's also the issue of this version of the show -- and character -- sharing very little with the original. Those expecting a nostalgic nod to the Raymond Burr-starring Perry Mason of old are in for a shock. And that's before the stomach-churning gore kicks in. Crime drama fans craving an expertly crafted detective serial with a dark side, however, will find that this Perry Mason fits the bill like a broken-in fedora.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the historical time and setting of Perry Mason. Is the portrayal of the era accurate? What was the Great Depression, and how did it impact different social classes?
What challenges does officer Paul Drake face as a Black person working in a police department run by White officials? As a police officer, how is he treated by other Black people? How does he balance the challenges he faces at work with his home life?
How does the series portray religion? Why do you think Mason's spiritual beliefs are so different from those of Sister Alice? What does the show explore about organized religion versus less structured belief systems?
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