Review: Perry Mason (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)

In the US: Sundays, 9pm, HBO
In the UK: Mondays, 2am, Sky Atlantic

The peak of Perry Mason’s fame has long passed. From his origination in the stories and movies of the 1930s, through the radio series of the 40s/50s and 50s/60s TV series with Raymond Burr to the 80s/90s TV movie revival of said series with Raymond Burr, the public’s familiarity with the dazzling defence lawyer is diminishing, as old age claims those who loved him when they were younger.

So to a certain extent, the makers of this prequel mini-series could do what they wanted – who remembers enough about Mason that they’ll quibble (or at least care about) the lack of faithfulness to the source material?

Even more so, the books at least are very unspecific about Mason and his background. There are a couple of references here and there, but for the most part, Mason is a cipher, an idea – he’s a lawyer on the side of good who’ll defend the innocent, investigate the truth and win all his cases, with the assistance of secretary Della Street and detective Paul Drake.

But given that those are the core ideas of Mason that those who know Mason will remember, you have to wonder why for this prequel Perry Mason mini-series, the show’s producers have opted to portray Mason as a Depression era, down-at-heel, hard-boiled, largely conscienceless private eye who exploits the weak and innocent and only shows up in a court room as a witness or defendant.

Couldn’t they just have adapted something by Dashiell Hammett instead? It’s not like they were stumped for options

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What have you been watching? Including Condor

It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week

Previously on TMINE

The lack of new (and watchable) TV, as well as continuing lockdown, means it’s been a slow week for TMINE.

I did shoot through a mighty list of Disney movies for Covideodrome on Wednesday, but that was it. Sorry! I’ll do better this week.

A Greek Odyssey with Bettany Hughes

What TMINE has been watching

I’ve got one episode further into season 3 of Baron Noir; I also started on season 2 of Das Boot. But that was it for scripted. I will finish them at some point. Although I said that about the third season of Babylon Berlin and look what happened there; Das Boot wasn’t too inspiring, either, and didn’t make me think, “Ooh, I must watch the rest of this immediately.”

I’ve been watching a tad more in the unscripted realm. A Greek Odyssey with Bettany Hughes (which confusingly is also called Greek Island Odyssey) is on Fridays on 5 and is about 50% travelog, as our Bettany goes from island to island and samples local food and customs, 50% historical piece as she visits museums and archaeological sites, tying them into Odysseus’ return home from the Trojan War.

It is, of course, fine and engaging, but the level of artifice is slightly annoying. Bettany’s faux pretence to be surprised at everything, even the basics, grates after a while, particularly when she forgets and says things like “I’m so pleased it’s a kylix.” Similarly, her level of Greek (for someone who regularly spends time in Athens, has been visiting since the 80s, etc) is oddly basic, even on things that she’s been good at in other episodes. Until she forgets and is good again.

The editing is also a little strange. In the latest episode, as she supposedly retraces Odysseus’ journey home from Turkey to Ithaca, she first hits Delos, then heads to Ikaria, then heads for Mykonos – even though the only real way to get to Delos is on a boat from Mykonos. Yep, it’s all been reordered.

Sure. You’d go to Delos, then Ikaria, then Mykonos, wouldn’t you?

That said, it’s great to watch and there’s some good archaeology, if you can overlook the dumbing down for 5. It’s also several hundred miles better than Joanna Lumley’s similar effort.

Matthew Rhys in Perry Mason

Next on TMINE

Movies-wise, we tucked into Bad Boys For Life (2019) over the weekend, so that’ll be this week’s Covideodrome. Airing last night was Perry Mason (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic). But that’s about it for new shows.

Fortunately, returning this week are old regulars Doom Patrol (US: HBO Max; UK: StarzPlay), Dark (Netflix) and The Twilight Zone (US: CBS All Access; UK: Syfy), so at least there’ll be something to watch.

After the jump…

After the jump, the latest episode of Stargirl gets a review. Is that it? No, because Condor (US: Audience; UK: Universal) came back with three whole episodes for me to talk about.

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including Condor”
International TV

What have you been watching? Including What We Do In The Shadows

It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week

Previously on TMINE

TMINE’s ever-increasing workload means that somehow WHYBW has slowly slipped from Wednesday to Thursday to Friday and now to Monday. This is despite the recommended list and the number of new (and interesting) shows appearing on your screens dropping to an all-time low.

I don’t think I’m operating on some sort of weird lunar calendar, but it’s always a possibility. Still, at least Monday makes some kind of weird sense for WHYBW, as a way to round off the weekend and start the work.

And I did at least manage to review all of season 3 of The Crown (Netflix).


What TMINE has been watching

The lack of reviews isn’t down to a lack of viewing. Season 3 of Baron Noir continues at pace and continues to be great. For a bit of light, concentration-free relief, I’ve also been watching some previous greats from the TMINE archives: Hannibal (US: NBC; UK: Netflix) and Travelers (Canada: Showcase; UK: Netflix).

Travelers is proving to be as great as it seemed at the time, whereas Hannibal, beyond that blinder of a pilot episode, is getting quagmired in a greater pretentiousness than I recall season one having, as well as those initial Criminal Minds style episodes that really dragged. However, there’s usually at least a few genius moments in each and it remains as sumptuous to watch and listen to as before.

I haven’t managed to tuck into season two of Das Boot (Germany: Sky; UK: Sky Atlantic), but I’m sure it’ll only be a matter of time.

Covideodrome has also been hard at work. I did give 21 Bridges (2019) a try, seeing as it’s currently free on Amazon Prime, but that was bad enough that first Lovely Wife gave up on it after about 20 minutes and then I did 10 minutes later. Bad, bad dialogue. However…

Next on TMINE

…with a Disney+ subscription and access to almost all the movies that Disney has ever made, we decided to fill some gaps in our collective viewing and work our way through a whole bunch of movies we’ve never watched, including The Jungle Book, Mulan, Moana, Brave, Aladdin and The Lion King. More on them later in the week. Probably.

Covid has now really kicked into the schedules and the only new show that I can see coming up this week is Hulu’s new series, Love, Victor, but I honestly can’t be bothered with teen/YA romances, gay or otherwise, particularly if they’re spin-offs of movies I haven’t seen. Australia et al don’t seem to have anything new either, so I’ll see if I can find something on Netflix or Amazon instead

What We Do In The Shadows

After the jump…

After the jump, I’ll be looking at the final episodes of the first season of Space Force. Otherwise, it’s just the ridiculously small list of regulars: Operation Buffalo, Star Girl and What We Do In The Shadows, which is about to get two-thirds smaller… Eek!

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including What We Do In The Shadows”
Internet TV

Review: The Crown (season three) (Netflix)

In the UK: Available on Netflix

Roger Ebert famously said that cinema is ‘a machine that generates empathy’. The odd corollary of that is Netflix’s The Crown is a machine that generates empathy for the British Royal Family. A project that will supposedly run from Queen Elizabeth’s accession to the throne in the early 1950s up to the present day, this quasi-biopic’s first two seasons took in the 50s before moving on to the early 60s.

But it’s The Crown, not The Queen (which was also created by showrunner Peter Morgan), so it’s not as much a biopic as you might think. This isn’t a languorous year-by-year examination of everything that’s happened to the Queen. Rather, it’s a look at the nature of the monarchy and its evolving constitutional position. While there are character stories that run across the seasons and the series, the episodes are largely episodic, dipping into years almost at random to pull up historical incidents that defined both the country and the monarchy.

For the first two seasons, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip were personified by Claire Foy and Matt Smith respectively. Arguably exceedingly flattering choices, the pair of them made you care for the then-young monarchs with ease, portraying them as well-meaning, would-be modernisers, thrust into jobs neither of them wanted, constrained by the nature of their office, but doing their best to bring the country together.

Olivia Colman in The Crown
The Crown © Sophie Mutevelian

Queen II

We’re now onto season three and as befits a show that starred a former Time Lord, the Queen and Prince Phillip have regenerated. Olivia Colman (The Favourite) is now Her Majesty, while Tobias Menzies (Outlander) is Prince Phillip as we head into the late 60s and make it as far as the late 70s.

Colman and Menzies gives first-rate performances that verge on the supernaturally accurate – perhaps more so than Foy and Smith’s – so strangely, in season three, we’re less on the side of our former protagonists than we were: they’re not as likeable as they once were, because they’re closer to the real thing, who are no longer young modernisers but have become the establishment.

Perhaps even stranger still, we instead feel sympathy and indeed empathy for two people we never thought we would – the two new protagonists of the piece, Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor) and Princess Anne (Erin Doherty). And Camilla Parker-Bowles (née Shand) (Emerald Fennell).

Didn’t see that one coming.

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International TV

What have you been watching? Including Operation Buffalo and Love Life

It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week

Previously on TMINE

TMINE has had a little bit more time to watch things this week – and more importantly, to write about them. Interested in Steve Carrell’s new show, Space Force (Netflix)? Then not only can you read TMINE’s third-episode verdict from earlier in the week, I’ve watched a few more episodes since then – I’ll tell you about them after the jump.

Covideodrome made a reappearance, too, taking in the Very Important Movie Just Mercy (2019).

Das Boot
Das Boot

Next on TMINE

Usual lockdown rules, even though lockdown is easing: I’m going to try to watch all of these but there’s a fair chance I may end up watching none because Life.

As far as I can see, though, there’s not much on. Certainly not much new. Season 2 of Das Boot (Germany: Sky; UK: Sky Atlantic) starts on Monday. Italian drama Curon (Netflix) starts on Wednesday, but that doesn’t look any more appealing than Saudi Arabian drama Whispers (Netflix), which starts the same day.

Unless I start looking at some of the shows sitting in my backlog, next week is going to see more than a couple of visits to Covideodrome on TMINE…

Star Girl

After the jump…

After the jump, as well as the aforementioned Love Life and Space Force, there’s the infinitesimally small list of regulars: Star Girl and What We Do In The Shadows. Joining them will be new Australian Cold War dramedy Operation Buffalo. All of those in a mo.

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including Operation Buffalo and Love Life”