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They did make frequent TV movies of Perry Mason in the 80s and early 90s (until Raymond Burr died) and they were very successful even thought they were not part of a program "wheel" as were "McCloud", "Columbo", "McMillan and Wife", and such. They were successful because they starred the original Mason, Raymond Burr, and the original secretary Della, Barbara Hale, who had a tremendous screen chemistry between them. They had nothing to do with the Markham attempt at revival. It is hard to imagine what CBS was thinking to try to bring back such a big hit with an all-new cast just seven years after the original ended and while its star was still appearing in a second hit show, "Ironside". I also don't know what they were thinking in trying to have Monte Markham as Mason, either; the casting could hardly have been worse. Markham can play lot of things; Mason was NOT one of them.
This is the first Perry Mason series I've seen (since I wasn't even born when the original Raymond Burr starrer appeared) and saw it in its entirety (at least what the local station showed). Monte Markham may be a great stage actor, but he never found success on TV and this is why. He and the rest of the cast act like robots, mouthing lines with nary a trace of believability. Mason is supposed to be a criminal lawyer not a corporate one (I guess Markham forgot that). The best evidence of a live character there would be Harry Guardino's Ham(ilton) Burger. He's the only actor who looks the least uncomfortable with the role. The mysteries posed are good, almost Murder-She-Wrote-like quality. But the pace is too fast (though not by today's standards), the courtroom scenes (where the highest point of the drama is expected) are much too brief. If only they made them movies-of-the-month like Columbo or McCloud, there may have been a chance for this show to find its audience.
In May 1966, the original "Perry Mason" series ended on CBS after 9
successful seasons. Seven years later, an ill-advised remake was
produced by some of the people associated with the original series.
Veteran TV actor Monte Markham won the role Raymond Burr made famous to the point that no one can ever associate the role of Perry Mason with anyone other than Burr. As far as I'm concerned, Markham did a credible job with the material given to him. I thought Harry Guardino as Hamilton Burger and Dane Clark as Lt. Arthur Tragg were OK in their roles as well. The less said about Sharon Acker as Della Street and Albert Stratton as Paul Drake, the better.
Brett Somers appeared in a few episodes as receptionist Gertie Lade and was a well-needed comic relief to some not-so-exciting mysteries.
This will probably be the only review which will acknowledge liking the theme music and who composed it, Earle Hagen (Andy Griffith Show, The Mod Squad, I Spy, among many others). As with Burr, Fred Steiner's Park Avenue Beat/Perry Mason theme will always be iconic. Hagen's stand-alone underscore serves its purpose and does not overwhelm the story lines.
So, why did the show flop? According to a New York Times article (September 26, 1973) no new shows appeared in the top 20 Nielsen ratings the week The New Perry Mason debuted. In addition, the original Perry Mason was in daily syndication in many television markets and Burr's other series, Ironside, was starting its 6th season. Considering that Burr would return to play Perry Mason in 1985, a decade after the failed remake, maybe the remake was just a case of terrible timing.
At least one YouTube user uploaded several episodes from the remake. Despite my agreement with many Perry Mason fans lambasting the remake, I thought it had potential but was painted in an unfortunate corner and was slated for a quick death.
Who did it? In my opinion, it was network executives who thought a remake was needed despite dedicated fans saying no.
This short-lived series premiered just seven years after the original
"Perry Mason" television series went off the air in the spring of 1966
after nine seasons producing an astounding 206 episodes(all were in
classic black and white by the way,with the exception of one episode
that was telecast in color in February of 1966). However,"Perry Mason"
remains one of the all time television greats,but after seven years
later,why did CBS bring this show back?
For one CBS,was trying to revive its most famous show,but instead of bringing back the original cast,but when the producers and network executives at CBS decided to bring this series back,but this time around with a all new cast. The reason? The original "Perry Mason" was indeed very successful because of its star Raymond Burr,and the original secretary Della Street(Barbara Hale)not to mention detective Paul Drake(William Hopper),and D.A. Hamilton Burger(William Talman)whom within these four actors had great screen chemistry between them right along with the tremendous acting ability along with the passion and flair for some great riveting drama and suspense.
"The New Perry Mason" didn't work on all levels and the reason why CBS tried to bring back its most successful show proved disastrous beyond belief. Of the 15 episodes that this short-lived series produced from Pisanto Productions/CBS Television for 20th Century-Fox Television,the series ran on the network from September 16,1973 until January 20,1974. The series failed on all levels as to why CBS had this show on Sunday nights opposite "The Wonderful World of Disney"(which was on NBC),and the powerhouse crime drama of Quinn Martin's "The FBI",which was at the time,ABC's most successful show. It got clobbered in the ratings. However,this ended as one of the worst shows for the 1973-1974 season.
The reason why "The New Perry Mason" failed,is because this time around it was revived with an-all new cast(Burr was by that time sleuthing around in a wheelchair solving cases on "Ironside",which was on NBC)by casting stage actor Monte Markham in the title role. Markham was also one of the Quinn Martin regular stockplayers whom was the guest star in several QM Produced series,most notably "The Fugitive", "12 O'Clock High",and "The FBI",not to mention other classic TV shows as well. Markham could play in any role and accomplish a lot of things,but played the title character that was once done by Raymond Burr was not one of them and it shows in some of the episodes. The characters themselves acted stiff and pale,mouthing lines with nary a trace of believability. The mysteries posed a good sign while the rest of it was really pathetic,especially in the courtroom scenes(Harry Guardino's portrayal of D.A. Burger was the worst case of acting ever!) "The New Perry Mason" wasn't part of the scenario program "wheel" of mystery shows that emerged from the 1970's like "McCloud","Columbo","McMillan and Wife",or "Quincy",not to mention others like "Kojak","Baretta",and even "Mannix",were much better. And the results were really awful. CBS canceled this show in early 1974 with the quickness with a family-oriented show that replaced it.
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