Perry Mason is one of those fictional characters who has left a significant mark on pop culture. Although the most recent iteration of this character can be seen in the popular HBO series “Perry Mason,” Mason’s character first appeared in the 1930s in a series of crime novels by American lawyer and author Erle Stanley Gardner. The most famous and “original” Perry Mason TV series aired from 1957 to 1966 and was considered the best American legal drama of its time. So, when CBS canceled the show, fans were confused as they did not know why.
The original Perry Mason show got canceled because CBS, the broadcast television on which it was aired, decided it was the right time for that as the show started to be ”worn out”. The other reason is that the star actor in the show, Raymond Blurr, who portrayed Perry Mason, also wanted a break from portraying his character.
The popularity of the show and the freshness it provided among television shows in the years of its broadcasting was immense. If it were up to the fans, the show most likely would have never been canceled, but we know that it does not always work like that. The show aired until May 22, 1966, and in the next paragraphs, you can find out how it all went down, from its release to the ultimate cancelation.
”Perry Mason” show was the best legal drama series of its era
The original Perry Mason show was released on September 21, 1957, and was originally broadcasted on CBS television. Just like in many other versions, in this show as well Perry Mason is the main character and is portrayed as a criminal defense attorney and an investigator from Los Angeles. In this show, Mason is portrayed by Raymond Burr, and his portrait of the character remains the most iconic one up to this day. As for the episodes of the series, they were mainly inspired by the stories and plots in Erle Stanley Gardner’s books.
This show was special and still is today because it remains one of the longest-running and most successful legal drama series. When the show was released, there was no better or more thrilling series of the same theme, and Burr received nothing but praise for his acting skills and portrayal of Mason. It was clear that the series would be successful from the beginning, which was later proven true.
After airing its first season, the show won numerous awards, and Raymond Burr as Mason and Barbara Hale as Della Street won major recognitions for their work. Raymond Burr received two Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. In contrast, Barbara Hale received a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.
Like HBO’s version of Perry Mason’s show, this one also contains well-known characters like Della Street, Mason’s loyal assistant, Paul Drake, a private investigator, and a district attorney Hamilton Burger. The fun fact is that Burr initially auditioned for the role of Hamilton Burger. Still, Gail Patrick Jackson, the show’s executive producer, considered him a perfect candidate to portray Mason, but he was slightly overweight. So, Burr lost some weight, became Perry Mason, and for the next ten years, he would be a part of one of the most popular shows of that era.
Why did they cancel the original Perry Mason show?
If the show was so popular, loved by fans, and critically acclaimed by the experts, it made no sense to cancel it. At least, that’s what it seemed at first. As it was later revealed, some tensions and differences of opinion culminated in eventually canceling the show.
The show’s ratings were very high. Maybe too high, in Gail Patrick Jackson’s opinion. They swept the competition in the time slot in which the show aired, regardless of which day it was. However, in 1965, CBS decided it was time for the show to be canceled. Patrick was not pleased with that decision, and when asked what the reason was for this decision, even she could not tell for certain. However, she mentioned that CBS thought the show was ”worn out”.
This might be true because when Gardner’s novels were used as a source for the show’s plot, everything ran smoothly. The problems started when they depleted that source, so they had to produce remakes and hire writers to develop the original scripts. Patrick Jackson admitted that the writers thought they could make the scripts even better than Gardner’s novels, and then it turned out that they could not even duplicate him.
The other reason for the show’s cancellation is that Perry Mason’s star actor, Raymond Burr, wanted out even before the show got canceled. After five years of filming, he decided it was enough for him. Almost every scene revolved around him, meaning he had to be on set almost daily with little to no rest. Perry Mason’s show became his whole life, and he decided it was time to pursue his other goals.
However, he was persuaded to make ten seasons of the show, as they gave him a big talk about loyalty and the show’s success. The last season was also one that was shot in color, so he agreed. And shortly after that, he read that the decision had been made, and the show was canceled.
The last episode was more of a farewell, as even Gail Patrick Jackson had her cameo. Also, Erle Stanley Gardner portrayed the judge who presides over Perry Mason’s last case. Later, Raymond Burr returned as Perry Mason in 1985 in a series of Perry Mason movies. Thirty movies were made, and Burr starred in 26, portraying this iconic character until 1993, when Burr sadly passed away.
The original Perry Mason show was the best one among all the iterations of Perry Mason’s character, and it will forever be remembered in American pop culture and worldwide.