Once again, a ’50s and early ’60s TV series that currently means absolutely nothing to anyone except aging boomers who watched it on black-and-white Sylvania TVs as kids is being made into a feature film. Variety‘s Jeff Sneider is reporting that Warner Bros. and Robert Downey are trying to assemble a Perry Mason movie with the idea of creating a franchise.
Earth to creators: the heyday of the Perry Mason TV series happened between 50 and 54 years ago. Who under the age of 50 gives a hoot now? And with so many popular cop shows and investigative procedurals on network TV, what’s especially feature-ish about the adventures of a smooth and brilliant attorney a la Raymond Burr? I guess we’ll find out.
Speaking of Burr, I wonder if Downey’s Mason will be straight or gay? The latter would be cool.
The odd part of Sneider’s story reads as follows: “Like the original series of books by Erle Stanley Gardner, Perry Mason will be set in the rough and tumble world of early 1930s Los Angeles.” But the reason that show was popular in the first place was the blending of those Kabuki-like, super-predictable Perry Mason formula plots with the mentality of the convention-seeking, preferring-to-be-unchallenged ’50s TV audience. They belonged to each other. This isn’t a ’30s property — it’s woven into the mindset of the Dwight D. Eisenhower era.
“The producers are currently looking for a writer,” Sneider reports, “whose script will be based on an original story by Robert Downey Jr. and David Gambino. Downey Jr. and Susan Downey will produce with Robert Cort, while Gambino, Eric Hetzel and Joe Horacek will exec produce with Susan Feiles and Chris Darling.
Eight producers isn’t very many by today’s big-studio standards. Couldn’t WB expand the roster to include a few more?
The Wiki page exposes a pattern to Gardner’s novels: (a) Attorney Perry Mason’s case is introduced; (b) Mason and his crew investigate; (c) Mason’s client is accused of a crime; (d) Further investigations ensue; (e) The trial begins; (f) In a courtroom coup, Mason introduces new evidence and often elicits a confession from the lawbreaker.