|Created by||Dean Hargrove|
|Theme music composer||Dick DeBenedictis|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||9|
|No. of episodes||193 + pilot movie|
|Running time||45-48 minutes|
|Distributor||CBS Television Distribution|
|Picture format||480i (SDTV)|
|Original release||March 3, 1986 -|
May 7, 1995
|Followed by||Diagnosis: Murder|
Matlock is an American mystery legal drama television series created by Dean Hargrove, starring Andy Griffith in the title role of criminal defenses attorney Ben Matlock. The show, produced by Intermedia Entertainment Company (first season only), The Fred Silverman Company, Dean Hargrove Productions, and Viacom Productions, originally aired from March 3, 1986 to May 8, 1992 on NBC; and from November 5, 1992 until May 7, 1995 on ABC.
The show's format is similar to that of CBS's Perry Mason (both Matlock and the 1980s Perry Mason television films were created by Dean Hargrove), with Matlock identifying the perpetrators and then confronting them in dramatic courtroom scenes. One difference, however, was that whereas Mason usually exculpated his clients at a pretrial hearing, Matlock usually secured an acquittal at trial, from the jury. Since 1991, reruns of the show have been shown in syndication and on TBS, INSP, Hallmark Channel, CBS Drama, WGN America, FETV and MeTV.
The show centers on widower Ben Matlock (played by Andy Griffith), a renowned, folksy and popular though cantankerous attorney. Usually, at the end of the case, the person who is on the stand being questioned by Matlock is the actual perpetrator, and Matlock will expose him/her, despite making clear that his one goal is to prove reasonable doubt in the case of his client's guilt or to prove his client's innocence.
Matlock studied law at Harvard Law School, and after several years as a public defender, established his law practice in Atlanta, living in a modest farmhouse in a neighboring suburb. He is known to visit crime scenes to discover clues otherwise overlooked and come up with viable, alternative theories of the crime in question (usually murder). Matlock also has conspicuously finicky fashion sense; he generally appears in court wearing a trademark light gray suit and, over the series' entire run, owned three generations of the Ford Crown Victoria--always an all-gray model (Griffith's character had always driven Ford products in his 1960s series, The Andy Griffith Show).
Matlock is noted for his thrift and a fondness for hot dogs. In episode 158 ("The Diner"), hot dogs are revealed to have been his favorite dish since he was a young man. In contrast, after the series ended, his penchant for hot dogs was explained in the 1997 episode "Murder Two" of Joyce Burditt's Diagnosis: Murder. Matlock blames Dr. Mark Sloan (played by Dick Van Dyke) for recommending a disastrous investment in 8-track tapes, in which he lost his savings of $5,000 in 1969 (equivalent to US$34,859 in 2019), forcing him into wearing cheap suits and living on hot dogs.
Despite his thrift, Matlock's standard fee is $100,000 (equivalent to US$233,242 in 2019), usually paid up front, but if he or his staff believe strongly enough in the innocence of a client, or if the client is unable to pay immediately (if at all), he has them pay over time, or reduces the fee significantly or waives it entirely, albeit reluctantly in some cases. He also, reluctantly, takes a pro bono case occasionally. These traits, and the demands he placed upon his investigators, are often points of comic relief in the series.
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The series premiered with Ben Matlock having a law practice with his daughter Charlene (played by Lori Lethin in the pilot movie; Linda Purl took over the role when the series went to air). Matlock also employed Tyler Hudson (played by Kene Holliday), a stock market whiz, as a private investigator. Tyler would often go undercover for Matlock in various guises to gather information. Matlock's most frequent legal adversary was Nebraska native Julie March (played by Julie Sommars). Although their jobs as prosecutor and defense attorney made them professional rivals, their relationship outside of court was very cordial and they often spent time together outside of court with occasional flirtations.
Toward the end of the first season, Matlock took on Cassie Phillips (played by Kari Lizer), a cocky young law student, as an office worker. After the first season ended, Linda Purl departed from the series and her character moved to Philadelphia to start her own law practice. To begin the second season, Matlock went to England to try a case and met Michelle Thomas (played by Nancy Stafford), a young American lawyer living in London. After the case was over, Michelle followed Matlock back to the U.S. and became his new law partner. Cassie stayed on as a file clerk until the end of the season, when she disappeared for reasons never made clear. With Lizer's departure, Julie Sommars became a regular cast member.
Several actors appeared in the series as different characters prior to becoming regular cast members. In season one's "The Seduction", Stafford played Caryn Nelson/Carole Nathan, a high-class prostitute, who was paid off for perjury against Matlock's client. That season in "The Angel", Lizer appeared as Matlock's client, Margaret Danello, a pop star called "Angel". Roebuck played a young physician, Dr. Bobby Shaw, in "The Doctors"; lawyer Alex Winthrop in season three's two-part episode, "The Ambassador"/"The Priest", and a prosecutor in a two-part episode, "The Assassination", before becoming a cast regular in season seven.
Some actors appeared as a different character in each appearance on the show. For example, Carolyn Seymour played Christina Harrison Ward in season one ("The Affair", episode 4), Dr. Vanessa Sedgwick in season two ("The Genius", episode 20), and Iris Vogel in season three ("The Psychic", episode 13). Nana Visitor and Roddy McDowall made several guest appearances as well.
After season three, Kene Holliday was fired. Matlock hired a young, former North Carolina deputy sheriff, Conrad McMasters (played by Clarence Gilyard, Jr.), to be his new detective. Like Tyler, Conrad would also go undercover to gather information about cases. However, the two characters were different in their personalities and approach to the job. Tyler was a stocktrader and carried himself with something of an aristocratic air, whereas Conrad had more of a blue collar, working man attitude. Matlock and McMasters became good friends and were alike in many ways. Don Knotts, Andy Griffith's co-star on The Andy Griffith Show, began making frequent appearances as "Ace" Calhoun, Matlock's next-door neighbor.
Before Brynn Thayer appeared in the 1992 episode "The Vacation" as Ben Matlock's previously unmentioned daughter, Leanne MacIntyre, she appeared in "The Suspect" in 1991, in which she played Roxanne Windemere, a character with whom Ben became smitten. She joined the cast full-time in the season of 1992 playing a similar role to Linda Purl's character. Daniel Roebuck joined Thayer as a new regular for season seven, playing the role of ne'er-do-well Cliff Lewis, a young lawyer and associate. Warren Frost also joined the cast in a recurring role as Cliff's father Billy, a personal nemesis from Matlock's past: Ben had abandoned a romance with Billy's sister to pursue his law degree.
The move in 1992 to ABC for the last three seasons caused some cast turnover. Nancy Stafford left the series to spend more time with her husband. Julie Sommars followed, although she would play a recurring role in several later episodes. Knotts' character was cut from the series. Gilyard's role was diminished with the addition of Roebuck to the cast. After season seven, Gilyard left to play Texas Ranger Division Jimmy Trivette on the new series Walker, Texas Ranger.
Like Silverman and Hargrove's Perry Mason series revival, Matlock had largely become a series of movies-of-the-week by season nine. Part of the reason for this was Griffith's advancing age; he was nearing age 70 and wanted to spend more time with his family. Before that season, Brynn Thayer departed from the series and Leanne was never mentioned again. In season nine, Carol Huston joined the series as Jerri Stone, a private investigator helping Cliff in his duties. Like Conrad McMasters, Jerri and Matlock had shared hobbies including singing.
The move saw a change in filming venue. Shooting in California for its entire previous run on NBC (which required Griffith to commute from his home in North Carolina to the West Coast), ABC moved production to the EUE/Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington, North Carolina to ease the travel burden on Griffith. Many viewers and media critics lauded the new atmosphere of different geographical locations and "out-of-Hollywood" venues breathing some new life into the show. The "whodunit" format was also adjusted to a "inverted detective story" format.
Although never officially confirmed, a widespread rumor suggests[weasel words] that the character of Ben Matlock was based on colorful lawyer Bobby Lee Cook, known as the "dean of Georgia criminal defense attorneys". Cook, whose practice is based not in Atlanta but in a small mountain town, has been an attorney since the 1940s and has gained an international reputation for his success in criminal and civil cases.
Matlock aired a total of 193 episodes across nine seasons and began with a TV-movie. Twelve two-hour and fifteen two-part episodes of the program were aired. Six of the episodes were clip shows with mostly minor plots that paved the way for scenes from previous stories. Although, numerically, Griffith appeared in more episodes portraying Sheriff Andy Taylor in The Andy Griffith Show, he logged more on-screen time as Ben Matlock due to the length of each show.
|First aired||Last aired||Network|
|Pilot||1||March 3, 1986||NBC||N/A||N/A|
|1||23||September 23, 1986||May 12, 1987||15||18.6|
|2||24||September 22, 1987||May 3, 1988||14||17.8|
|3||20||November 29, 1988||May 16, 1989||12||17.7|
|4||24||September 19, 1989||May 8, 1990||20||16.6|
|5||22||September 18, 1990||April 30, 1991||17||15.5|
|6||22||October 18, 1991||May 8, 1992||N/A||N/A|
|7||18||November 5, 1992||May 6, 1993||ABC||28||13.3|
|8||22||September 23, 1993||May 19, 1994||N/A||N/A|
|9||18||October 13, 1994||May 7, 1995||N/A||N/A|
A few changes were made in the format of the introduction of the episodes. The introduction of characters was essentially the same, the only changes being the actors for each season. Andy Griffith, Linda Purl, Kene Holliday, Nancy Stafford, Clarence Gilyard Jr., Brynn Thayer, Julie Sommars, Kari Lizer, Daniel Roebuck, and Carol Huston were all featured in the intros for their seasons.
The Matlock commercial screen also changed. The early episodes had a scene of Ben Matlock in front of a brown screen; around 1987, this was changed to gray. In 1992, this was changed once again to the same gray, but with a blue square around the "M" in "Matlock". Later in the 1993-94 season, the commercial screen was removed.
Jake and the Fatman was a spin-off on CBS, based on a character who originated in "The Don" (1986) a two-part Matlock episode from season one. William Conrad played prosecutor James L. McShane and Joe Penny played Paul Baron, the son of Matlock's client. Executive producers Fred Silverman and Dean Hargrove were responsible for both Matlock and Jake and the Fatman, as well as Diagnosis: Murder, created by Joyce Burditt (which itself was a spin-off of Jake and the Fatman) in 1993, also on CBS; Father Dowling Mysteries in 1988 on NBC and ABC; and the 30 Perry Mason (TV film series) made-for-TV movies from 1985 until 1995 on NBC.
The series is a favorite of Homer Simpson's father Grandpa Simpson on The Simpsons. In Whacking Day Abe Simpson says, "I'm an old man. I hate everything but Matlock." Part of this quote was adopted as a song title by Finns band Liimanarina.
On April 7, 2015, CBS released Matlock: The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1.
|DVD name||Ep #||Release date|
|The First Season||25||April 8, 2008|
|The Second Season||24||January 13, 2009|
|The Third Season||20||July 7, 2009|
|The Fourth Season||24||March 2, 2010|
|The Fifth Season||22||July 20, 2010|
|The Sixth Season||22||January 25, 2011|
|The Seventh Season||18||February 21, 2012|
|The Eighth Season||22||February 12, 2013|
|The Ninth and Final Season||18||July 16, 2013|
|The Complete Series||195||April 7, 2015|