One of Prestige TV's problems is displayed in how HBO's Perry Mason reboot makes the classic character unnecessarily edgy and dark, says Sophie Gilbert. She says the first episode "presents a strikingly grim and frequently grotesque reimagining" of Erle Stanley Gardner’s character. Gilbert adds: "The whole thing, at first, feels needlessly bleak. Gardner famously made his hero so unknowable that nearly the only established fact in his biography is that he’s a Leo. Perry Mason, the first season of which is clearly modeled after a superhero origin story, invents an elaborate backstory out of whole cloth for the character, and grounds it, naturally, in trauma. (Matthew) Rhys’s Mason fought during the Great War in France, where he was involved in a shadowy event that led to disgrace by military tribunal. (The show briefly re-creates chaotic battlefield scenes, all zipping bullets and sludgy trenches, for no apparent reason other than to flex its $75 million budget.) By 1932, living in Los Angeles (which is relying on the entertainment industry to stave off the Great Depression), Mason is an alcoholic, a deadbeat dad, and an occasional dairy farmer trying to keep the bailiffs away from his family’s plot of land. For his day job, he works as a private investigator for an avuncular attorney, E. B. Jonathan (John Lithgow), whose practice is in financial trouble and whose favorite word is boyo. The question is: Why go so dark? The first few episodes wallow so thickly in the mire of human depravity that they’re less classic CBS courtroom procedural, more True Detective (Nic Pizzolatto, who created the latter show, was involved in the early development of Perry Mason with Robert Downey Jr., a producer on the series and its first intended star). If the original TV adaptation of Perry Mason took a decorous approach to noir, limiting murders to one an episode and only briefly displaying dead bodies, this update (as per HBO norms) is much more generous with the gore."