Billed as “Perry Mason meets the Summer of Love,” Season One doesn’t quite deliver on the hippie period detail or the promise of its manically edited, high camp movie premiere, but the show lasted for eight years and nearly 200 episodes.
The Perry Mason comparisons aren’t spurious. Raymond Burr is essentially playing a version of logician Mason, from a wheelchair. The series pilot shows tough-as-nails Mason getting shot and reacting to news of his paralysis with almost parodic sang-froid ; “That all?” he asks the doctor. Once the series starts Mason’s rougher edges are sanded down, as is the racial tension between him and his driver Mark. The formula is pretty straight forward as Burr wheels around town solving unsolvable crimes with the help of his pre-Mod Squad assistants whose function must be demographic (a blonde, a black and a baby-boomer) since they’re rarely any help. In his strangled baritone, he intones pedantically as they roll their eyes at his charmingly, gruff contempt. Still it’s an irresistible format, purely delivered and gorgeously shot in Technicolor, complemented by Quincy Jones’ brassy score.