A Perry Mason Mystery the Case of the Wicked Wives

Everything seems in place for this first in a projected series under the "A Perry Mason Mystery" umbrella: the "Perry Mason" main title theme, Barbara Hale as long-time secretary Della Street, William R. Moses as attorney/investigator Ken Malansky, even wrongheaded Denver police Lt. Ed Brock (James McEachin). And right up front is a somewhat stocky, um, mature lawyer described as "well-known for his courtroom theatrics." There's only one thing wrong: Mason, it's revealed , is "in Washington," and the aforementioned lawyer is his old friend, Anthony Caruso.

With:
Cast: Paul Sorvino, Barbara Hale, William R. Moses, Maud Adams, Eric Braeden, Kim Alexis Duguay, Shelley Hack, Kathy Ireland, Beverly Johnson, Charles Macaulay, Paula Marshall, James McEachin, Leon Rippy, Yorgo Constantine, Dan Erickson, Bobs Watson, Tupper Cullum, Pam Ward, Ron Headlee, John Nance, Paul Borrillo, David Grogan, Bob Holland, David Walker, Susan Rinell, Billie McBride, Michele Moses, J.C. Trujillo, Fred Greenblatt, Scott O'Leary, Jan van Sickle, Roy Yerby, Vern Porter, Scott Patrick, Luan Akin, Chip Frye, Eric Hansen, Lori Pendergast.

Everything seems in place for this first in a projected series under the “A Perry Mason Mystery” umbrella: the “Perry Mason” main title theme, Barbara Hale as long-time secretary Della Street, William R. Moses as attorney/investigator Ken Malansky, even wrongheaded Denver police Lt. Ed Brock (James McEachin). And right up front is a somewhat stocky, um, mature lawyer described as “well-known for his courtroom theatrics.” There’s only one thing wrong: Mason, it’s revealed , is “in Washington,” and the aforementioned lawyer is his old friend, Anthony Caruso.

It looks as if Mason will be “in Washington” for quite a while, but the franchise seems secure as long as Sorvino cares to interrupt the operatic career he had claimed to have ankled “Law & Order” to pursue.

Caruso does get characteristics in Joyce Burditt’s script that slightly distinguish him from Mason: he sings arias around the office, likes to cook, and is first seen here quoting Oscar Wilde’s “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” from memory while tripping up a witness in court.

Summoned to Colorado, where he’s evidently also licensed to practice law, Caruso brings in four far-flung ex-wives of fashion photographer David Morrison (Eric Braeden), to pose for the slimy, washed-up lenser (Caruso is relying on people’s traditional eagerness to please their former spouses’ divorce attorneys).

Before long, Morrison is bumped off, and it’s time for the lawyer to start playing detective. Suspects include Morrison’s current wife (Kathy Ireland), his four ex’s (Maud Adams, Kim Alexis Duguay, Shelley Hack and Beverly Johnson), and his mysterious young assistant, Margo Rentell (Paula Marshall).

Case is neatly wrapped after considerable padding, most of it in the form of Malansky chasing a witness into the wilderness, guided by an avaricious cowboy (Leon Rippy, in one of the episode’s best-written and played roles). Show climaxes with familiar sight of Mason — er, Caruso — wringing confession out of someone other than his client.

Level of acting is about what onewould expect from a gaggle of models, Shelley Hack having the most experience in this regard. Hale has been playing Della Street since 1957 and thus owns the part; and Sorvino is well up to the challenge presented by the “Mason” telepix.

Tech credits are par.

A Perry Mason Mystery the Case of the Wicked Wives

(Fri. (17), 9-11 p.m., NBC)

Production: Filmed in Denver by the Fred Silverman Co. and Dean Hargrove Prods. in association with Viacom. Executive producers, Dean Hargrove, Fred Silverman; co-executive producer, Joel Steiger; producers, Billy Ray Smith, Barry Steinberg; supervising producer, Joyce Burditt; director, Christian I. Nyby II; script, Burditt, based on characters created by Erle Stanley Gardner.

Crew: Camera, Robert Seaman; editor, David Solomon; production designer, Paul Staheli; sound, James Emerson; music, Dick De Benedictis; theme, Fred Steiner.

Cast: Cast: Paul Sorvino, Barbara Hale, William R. Moses, Maud Adams, Eric Braeden, Kim Alexis Duguay, Shelley Hack, Kathy Ireland, Beverly Johnson, Charles Macaulay, Paula Marshall, James McEachin, Leon Rippy, Yorgo Constantine, Dan Erickson, Bobs Watson, Tupper Cullum, Pam Ward, Ron Headlee, John Nance, Paul Borrillo, David Grogan, Bob Holland, David Walker, Susan Rinell, Billie McBride, Michele Moses, J.C. Trujillo, Fred Greenblatt, Scott O'Leary, Jan van Sickle, Roy Yerby, Vern Porter, Scott Patrick, Luan Akin, Chip Frye, Eric Hansen, Lori Pendergast.

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