19 June 2008

Tube lawyers

This week's provincial news brought reference to Perry Mason.

For those too young to remember, Perry Mason was a fictional defence attorney, played superbly by Canadian actor Raymond Burr. The weekly series ran from 1957 to 1966 and was reborn as made-for-television movies until 1993. Almost invariably Mason was able to beat his opponent, district attorny Hamilton Burger, by showing that someone other than Mason's client was guilty of murder. Mason didn't just do his thing in court: he solved the crime by bringing the real criminal to justice with help from Della Street and investigator Paul Drake.

If the stories weren't good enough for you, the show had one of the coolest themes of any television show, as this clip from the second season demonstrates.

For another generation, there was Ben Matlock. Southern charm. Southern cool music and the irresistable Andy Griffith. The show was drama leavened with comedy.

Then there's Law and Order. Say television lawyer and more television viewers across North America are likely to think of Jack McCoy than Perry Mason. Played by Sam Waterston, McCoy epitomizes what many people would like to think is the kind of person serving as the local prosecutor. A tough, relentless, principled guy outwitting the crook's hired guns, McCoy's gone too far at times but his heart always seems to be driven by a passion for justice.

Metaphors can be useful to help someone understand a point you are trying to make. Pick the one that resonates with the audience and your job is done. if the audience's frame of reference is already somewhere else, a poorly chosen metaphor can undermine an argument no matter how good it might seem to you.

Still, none of this is real. They're all just damn entertaining shows.