- The Washington Times - Monday, July 10, 2006

‘Mason’ on DVD

Defense attorney Perry Mason never lost a case — not one — in his nine years on the small screen.

Now avid fans can relive his triumphs on the vintage series with “Perry Mason: Season 1, Volume 1.”

Out today, the five-disc set (Paramount Home Video, $54.99) contains the classic show’s first 19 hourlong episodes.

“Mason” ran on CBS from 1957 to 1966, scoring two Emmys for its star, Raymond Burr, and one for Barbara Hale, who played good-natured secretary Della Street. The successful show, based on the books by Erle Stanley Gardner, also spawned made-for-television movies that were produced until Mr. Burr’s death in 1993.

“I always believe my clients,” Mason says in the pilot episode, “The Case of the Restless Redhead,” though upholding that belief wasn’t always easy. Mason always took on the kinds of hopeless cases others would have avoided. Nevertheless, the burly lawyer always got a confession through diligent legwork and a little help from friends Della and private eye Paul Drake (William Hopper). Less successful was hapless district attorney Hamilton Burger (played by William Talman), whose evidence was always demolished in the courtroom by Mr. Burr’s clever Mason.

“Perry Mason’s” intuitive investigative style was a forerunner for such current TV mysteries as “Monk” and “House.” Aided by beautiful clients and snappy dialogue — plus its famous, dramatic theme song by Fred Steiner — the show often feels like a film noir… without all the noir.

Pee-wee’s back

The Cartoon Network is putting something unexpected in its most important slot — a live-action show.

“Pee-wee’s Playhouse” began airing this week during Adult Swim, Cartoon Network’s late-night programming, Cox News Service reports. The show replaces “Futurama” Mondays through Thursdays in the channel’s crucial 11 p.m. block. Meanwhile, “Futurama” moves to 10:30 p.m., while “Family Guy” stays put at 11:30 p.m.

Adult Swim averages about 350,000 viewers per night in its target 18-to-34-year-old demographic, but that number often reaches 1 million during the 11 p.m. hour. Filled with quirky original programming — including “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” and “Robot Chicken” — it’s usually the most-watched network during late night within that age group (a demographic much desired by advertisers). Still, CN’s ratings have dropped about 10 percent in the past year.

“Pee-wee’s Playhouse” originally was a children’s show seen Saturday mornings on CBS from 1986 to 1991. Its mixture of live action, animation, graphics and puppetry also found a cult following among adults. However, CBS stopped airing reruns shortly after the show’s demise — and following the arrest of its star, Paul Reubens, for indecent exposure in an adult theater in Sarasota, Fla.

MacNicol adds ‘24’

Emmy-winning actor Peter MacNicol is joining the cast of Fox’s “24,” playing a high-ranking government official, the network announced.

The sixth season of the real-time drama — which just garnered 12 Emmy nominations, the most of any series — begins in January.

Mr. MacNicol is best known for his role as offbeat lawyer John Cage on Fox’s “Ally McBeal.” He also has a recurring role as Dr. Larry Fleinhardt on CBS’ “Numb3rs,” which he will film simultaneously with “24,” and appears on the Cartoon Network’s “Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.”

Sports improv on NBC

Sports fans who don’t know what to do with themselves when the football season ends are in luck. Beginning this fall, NBC will air an improv comedy series centering on sports after its Sunday night telecast of National Football League games, Reuters news agency reports.

The actors and comedians of “Sports Action Team” will play a group of sports reporters who interact with real athletes, managers, fans and celebrities. The show’s stars include Kevin Fleming, Steven Fleming, Niki Lindgren, Antoine McKay, Katie Nahnsen and Al Samuels.

“Team” also will have an online component, with exclusive short-form programming — including outtakes, bonus materials, blogs and video blogs — available at https://www.sportsactionteam.com and on NBC station Web sites.

Compiled by Kelly Jane Torrance from staff and wire reports.

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