There’s a painting you might have seen by Edward Hopper called Nighthawks which seems to sum up a certain type of America from the past.
It shows the outside of a late-night pre-war diner with the patrons perched at the counter inside. The fluorescent light spills on to a street as lonely as the forlorn customers inside.
The painting kept coming to mind during the first episode of the HBO reboot of Perry Mason.
Remember the dependable lawyer who starred in a thousand episodes of a courtroom TV series for the best part of three decades? Well, he’s back – except now he’s in the gritty 1930s rather than the straight-laced ’50s and ’60s.
The opening sequence of an episode with some rather graphic nudity resolves with a startling moment involving the death of a child. The Bill Burr-led Perry Mason your dad enjoyed? This isn’t it.
Matthew Rhys plays the titular character and he’s as crumpled and sad as his mustard-stained tie. Instead of arguing in front of a jury, this Mason is a hard-bitten downbeat gumshoe.
He moves through an LA Confidential-type world which looks a bit like Hopper’s Nighthawks painting.
While that painting makes you think of late-night loneliness, the new Perry is happy to trade in classic tropes for entertainment.
Perhaps not a masterpiece as much as a competent reproduction.
Perry Mason Sky Atlantic, Monday, 9pm
I Am Not Your Negro, BBC iPlayer
For a more scathing look at America than Perry Mason, why not try I Am Not Your Negro?
And it has the added bonus of being rather topical, too. This is a provocative and searing look at racism in America through black writer James Baldwin’s eyes.
The documentary pieces together words he wrote in the 1970s and is narrated by Samuel L Jackson in probably his best performance.
Baldwin states in the film that you can’t treat minorities poorly without becoming a persecutor yourself. If this sounds like it’s uncomfortable stuff, then you’re probably correct. Much like Baldwin was.
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