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The popular legal television series Perry Mason, which starred Raymond Burr, was based upon the mystery novels written by Erle Stanley Gardner. It concerned the adventures and legal cases of a prominent defense attorney in Los Angeles, California. He almost always ended up defending someone innocent who was accused of murder. While exonerating his client, he discovered the true murderer.

While the show never failed to fall back on that and other cliches, it changed other parts of the formula from Gardner's original novels. Instead of Hamilton Burger, the district attorney, always being the stereotypical antagonistic prosecutor, the television series took Gardner's initial template and evolved it. Hamilton Burger became a very three-dimensional character who gradually developed a friendship with Perry throughout the series. Particularly in later seasons, he was often a willing participant in helping Perry solve the mysteries.

Perry himself changed, both in the television series and in Gardner's later books. While he was more of a shyster in the early novels, and willing to bend the law in many ways for his clients, he became a much more upright figure later on.

There was always one main policeman. Lieutenant Tragg, played by veteran actor Ray Collins, was the first. With his often friendly facade and a whimsical smile, he greeted and traded barbs with Perry, Della and the private detective Paul Drake. Ray Collins remained a regular on the series until his health began to decline. Wesley Lau was then brought in to play Lieutenant Anderson, a younger policeman. When Wesley Lau departed the series in its 9th and final season, he was replaced by Richard Anderson as Lieutenant Drumm.

The characters' personal lives were rarely explored. One consternation for some fans even today is that Perry and his secretary Della Street never officially began a romantic relationship. Gardner did not want the series to go in that direction, feeling that the mystery should always be the central focus. Perry and Della were very close in the television series, but despite possible hints at romantic feelings, they were never outright portrayed as being more than friends.

The series' basic formula never changed. Still, to this day, Perry Mason remains one of the most beloved television series ever made. Reruns are still in high circulation, on stations around the world as well as in America. CBS continues to release DVD sets of each season, to great public acclaim.

12 Seasons, 301 Episodes - Canceled
September 21, 1957
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Perry Mason Full Episode Guide

  • Bill McKenzie takes the reins from Perry again in this final entry in the series. In this one, Wild Bill defends his niece who has been framed for murdering a soap opera star.

  • Perry is absent but Wild Bill McKenzie is on the case once again as he defends the daughter of a disgraced politician who is accused of murdering the Governor of the state whom she blamed for her father's suicide.

  • It's Wild Bill McKenzie to the rescue when the slimy host of a lifestyles television program is murdered and a man he had been blackmailing is wrongfully accused.

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