'Perry Mason' Snags Series Order at HBO, 'Sopranos' Veteran to Direct

Tim Van Patten Headshot-HBO Publicity- H 2019
Courtesy of HBO

Perry Mason is officially back on the case.

HBO has picked up the limited series starring Matthew Rhys as the title character after adding Emmy winner and HBO veteran Tim Van Patten (Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, The Sopranos) as helmer and executive producer. A series pickup was contingent on finding a director.

The series order caps a long development process for Perry Mason. It was initially conceived as a feature-film vehicle for Robert Downey Jr. — who remains an executive producer of the series — then put into development as a series in 2016 with True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto attached to write.

When Pizzolatto left the project to focus on season three of True Detective, Rolin Jones and Ron Fitzgerald (Weeds, Friday Night Lights) replaced him as writers and showrunners. The Americans star Rhys signed on to play the title role in January.

The series is based on the Erle Stanley Gardner character, but will begin before he's the crusading defense attorney familiar from Gardner's novels and the 1957-66 CBS series that starred Raymond Burr. This version of Mason is a low-rent private investigator haunted by his wartime experience in France and suffering from a broken marriage. 

The logline from HBO reads, "1932, Los Angeles. While the rest of the country recovers from the Great Depression, this city is booming! Oil! Olympic Games! Talking Pictures! Evangelical Fervor! And a child kidnapping gone very, very wrong! Based on characters created by Erle Stanley Gardner, this limited series follows the origins of American fiction's most legendary criminal defense lawyer, Perry Mason. When the case of the decade breaks down his door, Mason's relentless pursuit of the truth reveals a fractured city and just maybe, a pathway to redemption for himself."

Perry Mason is being executive produced by Downey, Susan Downey and Amanda Burrell of Team Downey, along with Jones, Fitzgerald, Joe Horacek and Van Patten. Rhys is also a producer. 

Perry Mason arrives as HBO is under a mandate from new corporate leadership to increase its roster of scripted originals. New series coming to the premium cable network this year include Watchmen, Euphoria, Catherine the Great and The Righteous Gemstones, as well as the returning hits Game of Thrones, Veep — both of which will air their final seasons — Succession, Ballers, Barry, Big Little Lies, Divorce and more.