Wednesday, July 08, 2020

TV: Putting the "BO" in HBO

HBO.  It used to stand for HOME BOX OFFICE. YOUTUBE reminded us of that.  Specifically, when we were in a mix of Diana Ross videos and this one came up.

Is there anything special about HBO these days? How long has it been since there was a concert that they aired -- one that anyone wanted to see? They churn out a lot of product but that last time they had a series that really mattered and people wanted to watch? Season one of BIG LITTLE LIES.

Every week, they seem to strike out a little more. Which brings us to the Perry Mason mini-series.

Matthew Rhys stars in the pre-quel. Why do we need that? Why does anyone need that? We're referring to the pre-quel, not to Matthew Rhys.

If the mini-series has any saving graces, Matthew is one of them. But he's also 45 and, no offense, looks it. He's 45 and Raymond Burr was 40 when he started playing Perry Mason on the TV show PERRY MASON (1957 to 1966) followed by 26 TV movies. Matthew is too old to be playing the character as written.

He's dim witted and rather slow in the mini-series. He's a lot like Jason Patric's character in the film noir classic AFTER DARK MY SWEET but Jason was 24 when he played that role. Matthew's Perry Mason is shell shocked from the war -- WWI, this is set during the Great Depression. It's very hard to watch Perry in this mini-series and think that he's going to end up an attorney, let alone one of the greatest attorneys of all time.

Why did they have to make him Perry Mason?

We ask as two who read all of Erle Stanley Gardner's books as well as the books he wrote under the pseudonym AA Fair. We both grew up with family members who belonged to a book club that, every month, sent out a hardbound book with three mysteries in the volume. We aren't recognizing Perry Mason on screen at all. Not even a tiny bit.

It was beyond stupid to create a new character and try to pass him off as Perry Mason. It's an insult to the books, it's an insult to the original TV show. Most of all, it's an insult to the fans of Perry Mason. Erle Stanley Gardner's books still sell. PERRY MASON still airs in syndication and on AMAZON PRIME, he is a beloved character.

He was never thought to have been a failed investigator at the age of 45. And the notion that this failure is going to turn it around, hit law school and set up a practice is not only dubious, it's also pretty much mathematically impossible. By 40, Perry Mason is supposed to already be a legendary attorney.

Matthew has to share some of the blame. He is a producer of the show. But a lot of blame can go around. Too many TV shows have been turned into bad movies because people were too damn lazy to create new characters. With HBO's PERRY MASON, they have stolen the name of an established character and slapped it on top of new character. That's a cheat.

This story could have been told with Matthew playing a character named anything but Perry Mason and it would have worked. But as it is, the mini-series is a disaster and it should end with no future seasons.

It's not awful the way THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA is. When you put a hack writer (Philip Roth) with a pulp producer (David Simon), you get crap. That's all that garbage is. We weren't amused with the novel in 2004 when it was published. Winona Ryder brings a little life into the proceedings but even she can only do much with a stereotype. These dystopian fools, do you ever notice, think 'dystopian' translates as: No real characters needed.

Why do they wallow in this garbage to begin with? We create the world we want. And the world people like David Simon keep creating is a world no one should want to live in. There are many stories to be told -- including true stories. But here we are, back with a Nazi storyline, back with a White cast, back with scenes that in no way reflect the world we live in.

When HBO goes American, it's nothing but a garbage dump. Maybe they should stick to airing British imports? We've already praised YEAR AFTER YEAR and certainly I MAY DESTROY YOU is also worthy of praise. Isn't it something how the shows made in England offer more diversity than the shows made in the United States?

80% of the population in the United Kingdom are White British (2011). White Anglos made up 64% of the US population in 2012.

Maybe the problem is hiring hacks like David Simon to begin with?

Linda Bloodworth-Thomason's 12 MILES OF BAD ROAD was never aired. All this time later, HBO still hands the bulk of its production money to men -- and White men, at that. The only way African-Americans enter the room as producers with HBO is if they're doing comedy. It all sends a message -- as does the weekly sexism and racism and Muslim hatred that Bill Maher spews. This week, a Boeing executive was forced to resign over a column he wrote in the 80s. Let's hope HBO addresses their problems much more quickly. Otherwise, the cable network will continue to be known as Home Body Oder, the network that stinks up your TV.  In the meantime, please note that while HBO continues to offer all White hosted public affairs shows, NBC NEWS has announced a plan for diversity.

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