The Atlantic

The Dark Truth About Perry Mason

The HBO remake offers a grim depiction of Los Angeles—but it hardly keeps pace with the reality of police abuses in the era.
Source: Merrick Morton / HBO

I don’t blame you if you’re sick of gritty reboots. For years now, Hollywood has relied on a formula so successful that it’s become ubiquitous: Take a well-known character or franchise and reimagine it as darker, bloodier, and bleaker. Studios have done it so many times that when I heard HBO was rebooting Perry Mason, a show I used to sit down and watch with my grandma alongside Matlock and Murder She Wrote, I just rolled my eyes.

The reboot is certainly gritty. The season-long mystery involves the kidnapping and murder of a child. Its Depression-era Los Angeles is a gloomy place, populated by , sensationalist reporters, street preachers ministering to the penniless, and heroin-addicted sex workers. The title character, played by Matthew Rhys, is an alcoholic divorcé who lives on a crumbling dairy farm and takes compromising photos of celebrities to make ends meet, until he is offered a gig as an investigator for a defense attorney. My colleague Sophie Gilbert , “of a piece

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