Why is Perry Mason canceled at HBO?

Perry Mason season 2. Courtesy of Warner Media Press.
Perry Mason season 2. Courtesy of Warner Media Press. /

It’s sad news for fans of the HBO reboot of Perry Mason. The network has confirmed the series has been canceled after two seasons. Why is HBO axing such a prominent show?

Debuting in 2020, Perry Mason was both a reboot and prequel to the iconic defense attorney created by Erle Stanley Gardner. Mason became famous thanks to a 1950s TV series starring Raymond Burr. Burr would reprise the role in a series of TV movies from 1985 until his death in 1993.

The new series reimagines Mason (played by Matthew Rhys) as a rough-and-tumble PI in the 1930s. He soon moves to become a lawyer, aided by assistant Della Street (Juliet Rylance) and former cop turned investigator Paul Drake (Chris Chalk).

Season 1 was a good success for HBO, with a second season ordered. That was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic before premiering in 2022. Despite good reviews, the season ended on a cliffhanger, and HBO has now canceled it with this statement.

"“We are tremendously grateful for the remarkable work of Matthew Rhys and the unrivaled cast and crew of ‘Perry Mason’ for their reimagining of such a treasured and storied franchise. While we won’t be moving forward with another season of the series, we are excited to continue working with the brilliant creatives at Team Downey on future projects.”"

So why is HBO axing such a prestige drama?

The reasons why Perry Mason was canceled

It appears Perry Mason is yet another victim of the behind-the-scenes drama of HBO as it’s merged with Discovery to form simply Max. This has led to scores of major shows being canceled and expectations that HBO is moving in a new direction from prestige scripted drama.

There’s also the blunt truth that the ratings for Season 2 in linear ratings weren’t what HBO hoped for. No episode cracked more than half a million viewers, even with further watching on DVR/streaming. As a period drama in the 1930s, the budget was quite expensive, and it appears the numbers didn’t justify HBO continuing to pour more money into it.

So between the ratings and the continuing changes at HBO, the chances of Perry Mason getting a third season were low and now non-existent.

It is frustrating for fans not to get any closure to Season 2’s ending. But, as of now, Perry Mason has, for once, lost his appeal for another year.

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Perry Mason Seasons 1 & 2 streams on Max.