Q: Why did they change Perry Mason so much for the new HBO show? Why does everything always have to be so dark?

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Adam Thomlison / TV Media

Fans of the original '50s/'60s show, and the later series of telefilms, were understandably jarred by HBO's new take on "Perry Mason."

The eight-episode miniseries (though we all know that these things have a way of being extended if they're successful) stars Matthew Rhys ("Brothers & Sisters") as a grittier, meaner version of the title character, made famous by Raymond Burr.

Shortly after the show's debut, the news media was desperate to get Rhys' take on why the show went that way with such a beloved character. Rhys had a few different answers, but his main point was that the goal wasn't so much to make Mason less good, but to make him more human.

"We're going to load his bases. You're going to see the weight of the world on his shoulders," Rhys told People magazine ahead of the show's premiere in June. "And there's a number of things he doesn't do right. But ultimately, his heart's in the right place."

That speaks to the other thing the show is trying to do, story-wise: It's a prequel, trying to show us Perry Mason's journey towards becoming a brilliant, compassionate, flawless defender of the weak.

From a more practical point of view, they also wanted to change the character enough to justify a remake -- to give viewers something they can't get from the 300-plus hours of original "Perry Mason" already available.

"They wanted to redesign the wheel to an extent," Rhys told the Boston Herald. "With good reason, they were really wanting to change the perceptions of those who think they have an idea of who Perry Mason is."


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