Matlock (TV series)

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Genre Legal drama
Created by Dean Hargrove
Starring Andy Griffith
Linda Purl
Kene Holliday
Nancy Stafford
Julie Sommars
Kari Lizer
Clarence Gilyard, Jr.
Brynn Thayer
Daniel Roebuck
Carol Huston
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 (1986–87)
The Fred Silverman Company (1987–95)
Strathmore Productions (1986–88)
Dean Hargrove Productions (1988–95)
The Matlock Company
Viacom Productions
Paramount Network Television (1994–95)
Distributor Viacom Enterprises (1986–95)
Paramount Domestic Television (1995–2006)
CBS Paramount Domestic Television (2006–07)
CBS Television Distribution (2007–present)
Original network NBC (1986–92)
ABC (1992–95)
Original release March 3, 1986 (1986-03-03) – May 7, 1995 (1995-05-07)
Followed by Diagnosis: Murder

Matlock is an American television legal drama, starring Andy Griffith in the title role of criminal-defense attorney Ben Matlock.[1] The show, produced by Intermedia Entertainment Company (first season only), The Fred Silverman Company, Dean Hargrove Productions, Viacom Productions, and Paramount Television (season 9 only), 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 (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]


The show centers on widower Benjamin Leighton "Ben" Matlock, 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, 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, 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). Some Mayberry alumni—Don Knotts, Aneta Corsaut, Betty Lynn, Jack Dodson 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 in 1969, forcing him into wearing cheap suits and living on hot dogs. Despite his thrift, Matlock's standard fee is $100,000, 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 will have them pay over time, or will reduce the fee significantly or waive it entirely, albeit reluctantly in some cases. He will also, reluctantly, take a pro bono case occasionally, and at least on one occasion, he has worked as the prosecuting attorney in a trial.

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 in Los Angeles.


Original cast (from left): Kene Holliday, Andy Griffith, and Linda Purl

Originally, the series premiered with Ben Matlock having a law practice with his daughter Charlene (played originally by Lori Lethin in the pilot movie; Linda Purl took over the role when the series went to air). Matlock also employed Tyler Hudson, a stock market whiz (Kene Holliday), as a private investigator. Tyler would often go undercover for Matlock in various guises trying to gather information. Matlock's most frequent prosecutorial adversary was Nebraska native Julie March (Julie Sommars, who is also a Nebraskan in real life). Although the two had a professional rivalry—with Julie being a prosecutor and Matlock a defense lawyer—their relationship outside of court was very cordial and the two often spent time together outside of court.

Toward the end of season one, Matlock also took on Cassie Phillips (Kari Lizer), a cocky young law student, as an office worker. After the season ended, Linda Purl departed from the series due to disputes about her character and castmates,[citation needed] and Charlene was written out of the series by having moved to Philadelphia to start her own law practice. To begin the season, Matlock went over to England to try a case and met Michelle Thomas, a young American lawyer living in London (Nancy Stafford), while doing so. After the case was over, Michelle followed Matlock back to the United States and took over Charlene's role as partner. Cassie stayed on as a file clerk until the end of the second season, when she disappeared for reasons never made clear. With Lizer's departure, Julie Sommars became a regular cast member.

Cast of season 2, from left: (top) Holliday, Julie Sommars; (bottom) Kari Lizer, Griffith, Nancy Stafford

Both Lizer and Stafford appeared in the series as different characters before their roles as Cassie and Michelle. In season one's "The Seduction", Nancy Stafford played the role of Caryn Nelson/Carole Nathan, a high-class prostitute, who was paid off for perjury against Matlock's client. Also in that season, in "The Angel", Kari Lizer had her first appearance as Matlock's client, Margaret Danello, a popstar called Angel. Also, actor Daniel Roebuck played lawyer Alex Winthrop in season three's "The Priest", before becoming a cast regular playing Cliff Lewis in season seven.

Some actors appeared on the series as a different character each time. For instance Carolyn Seymour played Christina Harrison Ward on season one ("The Affair", episode 4), Dr. Vanessa Sedgwick on season two ("The Genius", episode 20) and Iris Vogel on season three ("The Psychic", episode 13). Nana Visitor and Roddy McDowall made several appearances as well.

After season three, Kene Holliday was fired due to his ongoing battle with drugs and alcohol, after being three months sober, and Tyler was written out as having quit.[3] Matlock hired a former young North Carolina deputy sheriff, Conrad McMasters (Clarence Gilyard, Jr.) to be his new private eye. Like Tyler, Conrad would go undercover to gather information about the cases at hand. However, since the two characters were polar opposites—Tyler, being the day trader he was, carried himself with more of an aristocratic air, while Conrad was more of a blue-collar worker type man— some differences existed in the manner in which Conrad went at his job. Matlock and he became fast friends, as well, as they were alike in many ways. Also during this time, Andy Griffith's old co-star (played by Don Knotts) began making frequent appearances as "Ace" Calhoun, Matlock's annoying next-door neighbor.

Before Brynn Thayer appeared in the 1992 episode "The Vacation" as Ben Matlock's other (and to that point unmentioned) daughter Leanne MacIntyre, who had become a prosecutor in Philadelphia and who had married and divorced, she first 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 Charlene of the first season (sister to Thayer's new character Leanne). 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, an old nemesis from Matlock's past, as Ben had stood his sister up at the altar to pursue his law degree. The move to ABC caused a fair amount of cast turnover as Nancy Stafford left the series to spend more time with her husband, and Julie Sommars followed, although she would play a recurring role in several episodes, while Don Knotts' character was cut from the series. Clarence Gilyard remained on, but with the addition of Roebuck to the cast as the character Cliff Lewis, his role was diminished somewhat. After season seven, Gilyard left to play Texas Ranger Jimmy Trivette on Walker, Texas Ranger.

Matlock had largely become, like Silverman and Hargrove's Perry Mason revival, a "movie-of-the-week" type series by season nine. Part of the reason for this was Griffith's advancing age, as he was wanting to spend more time with his family as he was pushing 70. Before that season, Brynn Thayer departed from the series and Leanne was never heard from again. In season nine Carol Huston joined the series as Jerri Stone, a secondary private investigator helping out Cliff in his duties. Like Conrad McMasters, Jerri and Matlock had shared hobbies including singing.

Coinciding with the move to ABC was also a change in filming venues. After taping in California for its entire run on NBC, requiring Griffith to commute from his home in North Carolina to the West Coast, ABC moved production to DEG Film Studios in Wilmington to ease the travel burden on Griffith. 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 that at the age of 69, he wanted to take a break from acting to spend more time with his family.[citation needed]

The show has been mentioned many times on TV's longest-running animated series The Simpsons, usually by older characters, seemingly all of whom are devoted fans of the series, and under the impression that Matlock himself is a real person.[citation needed]


Matlock aired a total of 195 episodes across nine seasons. Four two-hour and 32 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.

Broadcast history[edit]

  • Tuesday at 8:00–9:00 PM on NBC: September 23, 1986 – April 30, 1991
  • Friday at 8:00–9:00 PM on NBC: October 18, 1991 - May 8, 1992
  • Thursday at 8:00–9:00 PM on ABC: November 5 & 19, 1992; January 14-February 11, 1993; March 18-April 18, 1993; May 6, 1993; February 2-May 7, 1995
  • Thursday at 8:00–10:00 PM on ABC: February 18, 1993; April 29, 1993
  • Thursday at 9:00-10:00 PM on ABC: September 23, 1993 - January 12, 1995

Nielsen ratings[edit]

  • Season 1 (1986–1987) – #15 (tie)
  • Season 2 (1987–1988) – #14
  • Season 3 (1988–1989) – #14
  • Season 4 (1989–1990) – #20
  • Season 5 (1990–1991) – #17 (tie)
  • Season 6 (1991–1992) – #39
  • Season 7 (1992–1993) – #29
  • Season 8 (1993–1994) – #35
  • Season 9 (1994–1995) – #61

Notable guest stars[edit]

During its nine-season run, many established and soon-to-be famous actors made guest appearances on Matlock:

Program format[edit]

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, CBS, ABC; and the 30 Perry Mason made-for-TV movies from 1985 until 1995 on NBC.

Home media[edit]

DVD releases[edit]

CBS Home Entertainment (distributed by Paramount) has released all nine seasons of Matlock on DVD in Region 1.

On April 7, 2015, CBS Home Video released Matlock - The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1.[4]

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


Season one of the series was made available for streaming through Amazon Video.[5]


  1. ^ O'Connor, John J. (September 23, 1986). "2 New Series, 'Matlock' and 'Sledge Hammer'". The New York Times. Retrieved October 22, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Matlock – The First Season". DVD Talk. Retrieved February 4, 2011. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ 52-DVD 'Complete Series' Set from CBS/Paramount is On the Way!
  5. ^ Amazon Video: Matlock Retrieved February 20, 2013

External links[edit]