PERRY MASON “The Case of the Restless Redhead.” CBS, 21 September 1957 (Season 1, Episode 1). Raymond Burr, Barbara Hale, William Hopper, William Talman, Ray Collins. Guest Cast: Whitney Blake, Ralph Clanton, Gloria Henry, Vaughn Taylor. Teleplay: Russell S. Hughes. Based on the novel by Erle Stanley Gardner. Director: William D. Russell. Currently available on DVD and streaming on Paramount Plus.

   When a waitress comes home from work, she finds a gun in her cigarette case sitting on her coffee table. In her shoes, what would you do? I’m sure you would call Perry Mason’s office, the same as either you or I would, am I right? Even though it’s late at night, she heads out by car to meet him in his office.

   She’s followed by a car driven by a man with a pillow case over his head, with holes cut out for his eyes. When he tries to run her off the road, she uses the gun to fire two shots at him. She misses, but one shot hits the car, which seems to swerve off the road. Telling her story to Mason, he decides to drive out to the spot where all this took place.

   Would you be surprised if I told you the police are there first? You shouldn’t be. They are, and they’re trying to find a way to hoist a car up a steep embankment. The driver of the car, found inside, Mason is told, is dead. He has been fatally shot in the head.

   The Perry Mason novels always begin with extremely catchy openings, and this first episode of the Perry Mason TV show follows the pattern to perfection. Other familiar themes follow. Mason is not sure whether to believe the girl’s story or not, but when Lt. Tragg comes calling, he has no recourse but to take her on as a client. Della Street is there to comfort her and provide everyone with coffee. (It is now three o’clock in the morning.)

   As for the gun, Paul Drake soon discovers that is one of a pair, both bought by the same person at the same time. Mason maneuvers himself into the case personally by obtaining the other of two guns, putting a notch in the barrel with a small file, then shooting it a couple of times at the scene of the crime.

   This little trick comes in handy at the preliminary hearing, which ends up with D. A. Hamilton Burger completely befuddled. Now I posit this, if I may. Can you think of a better story line than this to demonstrate to TV audiences everywhere in the country what the rest of the series is going to be like, based on this very first episode? Nor can I.

   This synopsis so far does not include the following: Perry’s client was recently acquitted of stealing some jewelry from a movie star who just happens to be the fiancée of the man who bought the two guns, who is being blackmailed by the former husband of the movie star who claims the divorce never went through, and the husband and wife who run the motel where the theft of the aforementioned jewelry took place act very strangely when Mason comes asking questions.

   And do you know what? You can actually follow the plot, even with all of these players, and without a scorecard.