The Perry Mason TV Show Book
William Talman: TV's Hamilton Burger

Losing Ugly

Like Bugs Bunny to Elmer Fudd or the Road Runner to Wile E. Coyote, Perry not only always won, but he always won big, unscathed, making his opposition look foolish in the process. This kind of treatment infuriated Burger. And he let his rage flow--openly and loudly--at any chance he got. His most often repeated line must have been: "I object. Incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial!" He was, of course, talking about Perry's questionable "legal gymnastics."

Burger had a temper. During "The Case of the Screaming Woman" Perry used a fake dictaphone tape in court in an effort to induce the real murderer to confess. The plan worked. But Burger--a sore loser as well as a consistent one--had Tragg return the "evidence" (the dictaphone cylinder) to Perry in an envelope--smashed into a hundred pieces.

Then there was "The Case of the Singing Skirt." Perry pulled a switcheroo with what he thought was the murder weapon and another gun, to protect his client. Burger tried to nail him on it and bring him to the stand to testify against himself. But timing is everything. Perry was saved by the bell; the noontime bell. It was time for the lunch recess, and a last effort to bring in that vital evidence to clear his client, and now himself. Perry won the case and didn't have to answer Burger's questions. The DA was livid.

Burger got particularly vocal during "The Case of the Shapely Shadow." Angered by Perry's courtroom tricks, the DA snapped out in court. We saw him yelling louder than usual at Perry and beseeching the judge to hear him out while he aired his grievances.

But Burger had a human side as well. In "The Case of Paul Drake's Dilemma," the DA was very uncomfortable about prosecuting Drake despite all the trouble he'd ever given him. When Perry got Paul cleared of murder charges, the verdict was no great disappointment to Burger.

We really saw a different side of Burger during "The Case of the Prudent Prosecutor." In this rare episode, Burger found himself rooting for Perry to win. Burger's old hunting buddy, Jeff Pike, was charged with murder. Jeff saved Burger's life ten years before in a boating accident, carrying him miles to safety. Naturally, Burger couldn't forget the man's bravery and wanted to repay the favor. But Burger was over a barrel because the L.A. DA's office had jurisdiction over this one, and Hamilton had to disqualify himself from accepting the case.

Burger asked Perry to defend his old friend. (Perry coyly replied: "I'll take the case even if Jeff did save your life, Hamilton.") We got to watch Burger sitting helplessly in the courtroom rooting for Perry under his breath. He even went so far as to mumble, "Oh, shut up!" when he saw the new prosecutor scoring a few points.

A refreshingly casual side of Burger was shown in this story. In the beginning of the episode he was cavorting and joking with friends in a hunting lodge. In the last scene, he and Perry were downright chummy, sitting outside the lodge on a sunny afternoon celebrating Perry's victory in court and Jeff Pike's freedom. The punchline had Burger saying to Perry: "I think I won that case."

There are times when a case puzzled both Perry and Burger to the point where they were both curious to find out the outcome. In the "Case of the Crippled Cougar," the evidence was so scant that the two rival lawyers joked in court that each would love the other to bring in evidence shedding light on the case.

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The Perry Mason TV Show Book Copyright 1987 by Brian Kelleher and Diana Merrill. All rights reserved. Presented here by permission of the copyright holder. Commercial use prohibited. Web page Copyright 1998 D. M. Brockman. Last edited 04 Nov 2004.