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PERRY MASON CANCELED AFTER TWO SEASONS AT HBO

by Travlis Hallingquest
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Author Erle Gardner and executive producer Gail Patrick collaborated to create the original network television run of PERRY MASON. This iteration of the series ran for nine seasons on CBS; with 30 episodes being featured in each season. The courtroom drama was predominantly set in finite settings: courtrooms, Mason’s office, and the District Attorney’s office. HBO and Team Downey’s take on the titular character required deeper pockets, and the former made the decision to cancel the acclaimed series after two seasons.

Television critics and audiences lauded the 2021-2023 run of PERRY MASON. Both seasons showcased beautiful cinematography, strong cast performances, and extravagant sets. The latter took audiences into 1930s Los Angeles, with the second season having Perry Mason and estranged friend Pete Strickland boarding a large cargo vessel to gather evidence. Certainly Game of Throne’s dragons and Westworld’s futuristic theme parks cost more, however, the viewership kept those series active; albeit Westworld eventually received the axe after four seasons. As for this iteration of the Perry Mason story HBO stated, “We are tremendously grateful for the remarkable work of Matthew Rhys and the unrivaled cast and crew of ‘Perry Mason’ for their reimagining of such a treasured and storied franchise. While we won’t be moving forward with another season of the series, we are excited to continue working with the brilliant creatives at Team Downey on future projects.”

PERRY MASON  remains an awards contender for HBO this year. Its first season earned four Emmy nominations, including Lead Actor in a Drama Series for Rhys. So, there you have it, the character might be left in jail but the actor might walk away with honors.

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Season 2 ended with Mason securing the release of one of his clients, and having the death penalty taken off the table for the other client. Mason’s unorthodox methods garnered the respect of his fiercest rivals.  However, his overzealous nature awarded him a four-month sentence in county jail. This ending set up a myriad of possibilities for our troubled lawyer:

  • Would Mason be in physical danger while in jail?
  • How would Mason’s business partner and friend Della Street acquire more cases in his absence?
  • Would the jail sentence tarnish Mason’s image or attract more clients for his daring pursuit of justice?

The biggest gripe I have about the cancellation of the series is Mason and Della were at the beginning of their careers. The magnitude of the cases the duo could have tackled together was limitless. They could have faced large corrupt corporations and fierce organized crime syndicates. Conversely, they may have defended members of the aforementioned. One plot that I imagined involved the series jumping to the late 1940s and having Mason defend a WWII veteran accused of murder suffering from PTSD, a condition that was not fully understood until decades later.

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The cancellation of PERRY MASON is not indicative of the quality of the series. This block of programming was another solid entry in HBO’s legacy.  The programming executives at HBO have said that they look forward to working with Team Downey in the future. THE WIRE remained on air due to its low cost and acclaim, despite the initial run not having high viewership.  The theatrical release quality that HBO churns out is not cheap, and the viewership numbers were not there to continue a third season.  For now, the fate of one of television’s most legendary lawyers will remain unknown.

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