Perry Mason and the Case of the Careless Remake

Dennis Broe, noted film critic from New York and now writing from Paris, recently reviewed the new Perry Mason HBO series set in 1930s Los Angeles. As a special presentation with the author, the Marxist Education Project and Institute for the Radical Imagination present an extended discussion on the politics of the Perry Mason phenomenon on Friday, September 4, at 6 pm ET via Zoom. You can sign up for the presentation here.

The Perry Mason brand is the third most popular book series of all time, a show that ran in some form for over 35 years, and now the flagship production for HBO’s summer lineup.

Perry Mason, the indefatigable defender of hopeless cases that the police have seemingly wrapped up, has been reinvented as a no-account Jake Gittes from Chinatown, a two-bit blackmailer and lost generation PTSD war casualty navigating the streets of 1932 Los Angeles at the height of the Depression. Hoovervilles, the Bonus March, and the rich in tuxedos with the poor at their feet form the background of the series and suggest our own era where Trumpvilles flourish and will soon expand when unemployment benefits are exhausted.

Broe takes a critical look at this refashioning of the criminal defense attorney, with a Della Street who wants equal pay in the law office and an African-American investigator, the refurbished Paul Drake, who abandons the very low ceiling of a Black beat cop on the LAPD to work elsewhere. Also addressed will be questions of how HBO, now owned and under the tutelage of AT&T, the conservative telecom company from Dallas, may be changing as it becomes the centerpiece of the AT&T/Time Warner streaming service. As well as how the American “period fetish” and faithfulness to the letter but not the spirit of the original plays out in this remake.

Dennis Broe taught television studies at the Sorbonne. He is the author of Birth of the Binge: Serial TV and the End of Leisure, Maverick or How The West Was Lost and the soon-to-be-published Diary of a Digital Plague Year: Coronavirus, Serial TV and The Rise of the Streaming Services. His TV criticism appears at Bro on the Global Television Beat. His television, film, art and literary criticism also appears in the British newspaper Morning Star and on People’s World and Crime Time. He is an associate editor of Culture Matters. His radio broadcasts on his show Breaking Glass appear on Art District Radio in Paris and on Arts Express in New York on WBAI and across the Pacifica Network.

Most relevantly, he is also the author of the noir-inflected crime novel Left of Eden set in Los Angeles during the Hollywood Blacklist era, featuring a private eye who will center an ongoing series. Eric A. Gordon reviewed it in People’s World.

You can sign up for the presentation here.


Special to People’s World
Special to People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.