Matlock (TV series)

Matlock (TV series)
Matlock Intertitle
Format Legal drama
Created by Dean Hargrove
Starring Andy Griffith
Linda Purl (1986–1987)
Kene Holliday (1986–1989)
Nancy Stafford (1987–1992)
Julie Sommars (1987–1992, 1994)
Clarence Gilyard, Jr. (1989–1993)
Daniel Roebuck (1992–1995)
Brynn Thayer (1992–1994
David Froman (1986–1994, guest starring)
Kari Lizer (1987–1988)
Carol Huston (1994–1995)
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 9
No. of episodes 195 (List of episodes)
Running time 45–48 minutes
Production company(s)
Intermedia Entertainment Company (1986–1987)
The Fred Silverman Company (1987–1995)
Strathmore Productions (1986–1988)
Dean Hargrove Productions (1988–1995)
The Matlock Company
Viacom Productions
Paramount Network Television (1994–1995)
Distributor CBS Television Distribution (2008–)
Original channel NBC (1986–1992)
ABC (1992–1995)
Original run September 23, 1986 (1986-09-23) – May 7, 1995 (1995-05-07)

Matlock is an American television legal drama, starring Andy Griffith in the title role of attorney Ben Matlock.[1] The show originally aired from September 23, 1986 to May 8, 1992 on NBC, where it replaced The A-Team, then from November 5, 1992 until May 7, 1995 on ABC.

The show's format was similar to that of CBS's Perry Mason (with both Matlock and the later Perry Mason TV movies in the 1980s 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.[2]

In the United States, the series can be seen on cable television networks Hallmark Movie Channel and WGN America. It has also been on Hallmark Channel, but went on hiatus in May 2009; however, the network retains its rights to air the show.



The show centers on widower Benjamin Leighton "Ben" Matlock, a renowned, folksy and popular though cantankerous defense attorney; the character was based on attorney "Big" Ben Baker from Young Harris, Georgia. He has solved and subsequently won at trial almost every case he has taken, especially murder cases in which everyone else was sure his client was guilty. Usually, at the end of the case, the person who is on the stand being questioned by Matlock is the actual perpetrator.

Matlock studied law at Harvard, established his law practice in Atlanta, Georgia, and lives 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). Some Mayberry alumni – Don Knotts, Aneta Corsaut, Betty Lynn and Arlene Golonka – made guest appearances on Matlock.

Matlock is noted for his thrift and a fondness for hot dogs. 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 (Dick Van Dyke) for recommending a disastrous investment in 8-track cartridges, in which he lost his savings of $5,000, while he survived by wearing cheap suits and living on hot dogs.

These traits, and the demands he placed upon his investigators, were often points of comic relief in the series. Andy Griffith's prior career as a comic often showed through in things Matlock did or said.

Matlock generally defended his clients in the Fulton County Courthouse, which was actually the Second Church of Christ Scientist located at 948 West Adams Boulevard, Los Angeles CA.

Over the series' long run there were many changes. When the show began, Ben had a law firm called Matlock & Matlock. Ben shared his caseload with his partners – who included a relative, his younger daughter Charlene Matlock (Lori Lethin in the pilot, later Linda Purl), and private investigator Tyler Hudson (Kene Holliday), a black market whiz whom Matlock lured away from his work. The following season, Charlene was depicted as having left Atlanta to start her own practice in Philadelphia (Linda Purl left the show because she was unhappy with her character, and for not getting along with her castmates); the elder Matlock filled the void with Michelle Thomas (Nancy Stafford), a young partner who first had tried her hand at playing baseball after she majored in physical education. She met him on a trip to England and was hired on the spot after a cocky law student graduate, Cassie Phillips (Kari Lizer in season 2 only), had also applied for a job with Matlock. Since Charlene was already working with him and there were no other openings for associates, Cassie was hired as a file clerk. She left the next year. After the series' fourth year, Stafford was one of the regulars whose appearances were limited.

Nancy Stafford had guest-starred in the season 1 episode "Seduction" and Kari Lizer had guest-starred in the season 1 episode "Angel." These were the first times actors played different characters in the series. Daniel Roebuck portrayed three different characters in five guest appearances prior to being a series regular from season 7.

Usually no prosecutor would compete with Ben except feisty district attorney Julie March (Julie Sommars), a good friend of Ben's, who had left Nebraska to work for the D.A.'s office in Georgia. Throughout the series' run, Sommars was the second regular with the fewest appearances.

After Tyler quit (Kene Holliday had been fired for misconduct[3]), Matlock was approached by a young North Carolina sheriff's deputy, Conrad McMasters (Clarence Gilyard Jr.), to become his new private investigator. Matlock and McMasters had a lot in common, from playing music to a fondness for camping. While proven to be a serious detective and one of Matlock's loyal partners, Conrad also falls in love with various girlfriends. He acquired his horseriding skills in past work as a cowboy (notably Gilyard himself is a cowboy), and demonstrated this when attending rodeo shows. Unlike many regulars, after joining Matlock in the fourth season, Gilyard was another cast member who had appeared in almost every episode of the series on the NBC run, before his appearances were reduced during the ABC run[citation needed].

At the end of the sixth season, Matlock's older divorced daughter, Leanne MacIntyre (Brynn Thayer), moved from Philadelphia back to Atlanta, giving her the chance to become an equal partner of her father. However, this caused some confusion to viewers who remembered that Matlock mentioned he had only one daughter in the Linda Purl episodes. Michelle Thomas gave the job to Leanne and left (Nancy Stafford left the series to spend more time with her husband; when she didn't want to leave him, production hence moved to North Carolina). The next and last season, law school graduate Cliff Lewis (Daniel Roebuck) came to Matlock in hopes of working for him, compliments of his father Billy Lewis, an old friend of Ben's whose sister Matlock was supposed to marry but did not. After Conrad's departure (Clarence Gilyard had already left the show to co-star in Walker, Texas Ranger for CBS), Lewis became a partner and a private investigator to Matlock, while he hired a final private investigator, Jerri Stone (Carol Huston), to assist in each of the cases. Like Conrad McMasters, Matlock and Stone had at least something in common, from her driving a blue Ford SUV to singing classic songs – it is also interesting that Huston herself is a very good singer – including lullabies.

Midway through the series, the show on NBC focused mostly on Matlock and Michelle, then Matlock and Conrad on NBC. When the show moved to ABC for its last three seasons, it focused first on Matlock Leanne, and finally on Matlock, Cliff and Jerri.

His age increasing, Griffith appeared less and less on the show when it changed networks. During the NBC era, production was filmed in Los Angeles. When the show began its run on ABC in 1992, it was filmed in Griffith's home state at EUE Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington. The Perry Mason-style whodunit format was also adjusted to a more Columbo-style howcatchem format.

Although never officially confirmed, a widespread rumor suggests that the character of Ben Matlock was based largely on well-known Georgia attorney Bobby Lee Cook. Cook, whose practice also includes representation of plaintiffs for personal injuries, is frequently called the dean of Georgia criminal defense attorneys.

The long-running show finally ended in 1995, when Andy Griffith, who in the lead role was the only actor to appear in all 195 episodes of the series, decided to slow down to spend more time with his family.[citation needed]


Matlock aired a total of 195 episodes across nine seasons. 179 episodes were an hour long, and four were 2-hour episodes. There were 32 two-part episodes of the program.

Main cast members

  • Ben Matlock (Andy Griffith) – A prominent attorney who's fond of hot dogs and wearing gray suits and wins many cases for his clients
  • Charlene Matlock (Linda Purl) – Ben's younger daughter who became a partner to her father before she moved to Philadelphia to set up her own law practice (1986–1987)
  • Tyler Hudson (Kene Holliday) – Ben's first private investigator (1986–1989)
  • Cassie Phillips (Kari Lizer) – Ben's young file clerk who desired to become partner after Charlene's departure (1987–1988)
  • Michelle Thomas (Nancy Stafford) – A former baseball player who becomes an equal partner to Matlock (1987–1992)
  • Julie March (Julie Sommars) – A district attorney who becomes a good friend to Ben Matlock (1987–1992, recurring thereafter in 1994)
  • Conrad McMasters (Clarence Gilyard, Jr.) – Ben's second private investigator who is a former deputy sheriff and a rodeo rider (1989–1993)
  • Leanne MacIntyre (Brynn Thayer) – Ben's older daughter who works for her father after Michelle's departure (1992–1994)
  • Cliff Lewis (Daniel Roebuck) – Ben's last partner and private investigator who graduated from law school, the son of Ben's childhood friend, Billy Lewis (1993–1995)
  • Jerri Stone (Carol Huston) – Ben's last assistant and private investigator with a talent for singing lullabies (1994–1995)

Recurring cast members

  • Judge Irene Sawyer (Lucille Meredith) – A judge at the Fulton County Courthouse, where Ben's cases are usually tried (1986–1989)
  • Judge Richard Cooksey (Richard Newton) – Another judge at the Fulton County Courthouse (1986–1992)
  • District Attorney Lloyd Burgess (Michael Durrell) – Chief district attorney for Fulton County (1986–1992)
  • Lieutenant Bob Brooks (David Froman) – Ben's contact on the Atlanta Police Department (1986–1992, 1994)
  • Les "Ace" Calhoun (Don Knotts) – Ben's next-door neighbor who was once a client in 1988 and becomes something of a nuisance to Ben (periodically, 1988–92)
  • Billy Lewis (Warren Frost) – Ben's childhood friend and Cliff's father (1991–1995)
  • Lieutenant Frank Daniels (James McEachin ) - Ben's contact on the Atlanta Police Department (1986-1987)

Notable guest stars

  • Randy Travis – Country music star Randy Travis, like Griffith a North Carolina native, appeared in the season six episode "The Big Payoff" (1992) as Billy Wheeler. In the season seven episode "The Mark" (1993), Travis reprised the role of Wheeler, an aspiring country singer who wins the lottery and shortly thereafter finds himself framed for the murder of his cheating business partner.
  • Dick Van Dyke – Before his small but memorable role as D.A. Fletcher in the 1990 movie Dick Tracy, TV legend Dick Van Dyke had a villainous role in Matlock's very first regular episode, "The Judge" (1986). He played a judge who murdered his lover and then presided over the murder trial in which Ben was trying to clear someone else's name for the crime. Van Dyke later hired Griffith to reprise his Matlock role in a 1997 episode of his own CBS series Diagnosis: Murder (a spinoff of Jake and the Fatman).
  • David Ogden Stiers played a murderer in the season 2 episode "Blind Justice" (1987) and a crook in the season 3 episode "The Ambassador" (1988).
  • Bryan Cranston appeared in two episodes – "The Gift" (1987) and "The Marriage Counselor" (1991). In "The Marriage Counselor" he plays the titular character who is murdered by not one but three patients with whom he is having affairs.
  • Famous silent film actor Eddie Quillan made his last television appearance on Matlock in the season 1 episode "The Author" (1987).
  • Author Patricia Cornwell appeared in the season 5 episode "The Formula" (1991).
  • Jeri Ryan guest-starred in the season 8 episode "The Fatal Seduction: Part 2" (1993)
  • Jonathan Frakes played a prosecutor in "The Angel" (1986).
  • Nana Visitor appeared as three different characters in three episodes: "The Best Friend (1987)", "The Other Woman" (1989) and "The Divorce (1993)".

Other guest stars

During its nine-season run, many established and pre-fame actors made guest appearances on Matlock. Notable guest stars include:

Program format

There were a few changes 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.

Season 1–6 episode outros showed a few scenes from the show and had no music.[citation needed] In the 1992–93 season, following the move to ABC, most episodes had Griffith's voice saying "Next on Matlock..." and classical-sounding music similar to the theme tune.[citation needed]

The Matlock commercial screen also changed. The early episodes had a scene of Ben Matlock in front of a brown screen; in approximately 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 made-for-TV movies from 1985 until 1995 on NBC. All of these series were produced by Viacom Productions (the final season of Matlock was co-produced by Paramount Network Television) and distributed by CBS Television Distribution (formerly Paramount Domestic Television).

DVD releases

CBS Home Entertainment (distributed by Paramount) has released the first six seasons of Matlock 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 TBA
The Eighth Season 22 TBA
The Final Season 18 TBA


External links

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