Matlock Information

Matlock is an American television legal drama, starring Andy Griffith in the title role of criminal defense attorney Ben Matlock. The show, produced by Viacom Productions (now CBS Television Studios), originally aired from September 23, 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.


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.

Matlock studied law at Harvard, established his law practice in Atlanta, 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, 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, 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 in Los Angeles.


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's 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, 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.

Strangely enough, both Lizer and Stafford appeared in the series as different characters before their role as Cassie and Michelle. First season, in episode 5 The Seduction, Nancy Stafford played a role of Caryn Nelson/Carlole Nathan, a high-class prostitute, who was paid off for perjury against Matlock's client. Same season, episode 10 The Angel, Kari Lizer had her first appearance as Matlock's client Margaret Danello, a popstar called Angel.

The series had also other actors who played 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, and Tyler was written out as having quit. Matlock hired a former young North Carolina deputy sheriff, Conrad McMasters (played by 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— there were some differences in the manner in which Conrad went at his job. He and Matlock 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.

On the last episode of the sixth season, Brynn Thayer made a guest appearance 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 joined the cast full-time the next season playing a similar role to Linda Purl's as her sister Charlene in the first season. Daniel Roebuck joined Thayer as a new regular for the seventh season, playing the role of ne'er-do-well Cliff Lewis, a young private investigator and associate who seemed to bounce around from job to job. 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 in order to pursue his law degree. The move to ABC caused a fair amount of cast turnover as Nancy Stafford left the series 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 to Roebuck to the cast and the character of Cliff Lewis becoming a second private investigator, his role was diminished somewhat. After season seven, Gilyard left to play Texas Ranger Jimmy Trivette on Walker, Texas Ranger and Cliff took over Conrad's role as Matlock's chief PI.

Matlock had largely become, like Silverman and Hargrove's Perry Mason revival, a "movie-of-the-week" type series by its ninth season. 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 seventy. Before that season, Brynn Thayer departed from the series and Leanne was never heard from again. 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.

The show has been mentioned on TV's longest animated series The Simpsons by two of their characters Grandpa Simpson & Jacqueline Bouvier as devoted fans of the series.


Main article: List of Matlock episodes
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. 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

NOTE: The most frequent time slot for the series is in bold text.

  • Saturday at 10:00-11:00 PM on NBC: September 20, 1986
  • Tuesday at 8:00-9:00 PM on NBC: September 30, 1986"?April 30, 1991
  • Thursday at 8:00-9:00 PM on ABC: January 14"?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

  • 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

  • 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, which completed a connection between Matlock and Diagnosis: Murder (Jake and the Fatman, which was a spinoff of Matlock but aired on CBS instead of NBC, was the connecting series as Diagnosis: Murder was spun off from that).
  • 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. 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.

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

Home media

DVD releases

CBS Home Entertainment (distributed by Paramount) has released the first eight 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 February 21, 2012
The Eighth Season 22 February 12, 2013
The Final Season 18 TBA


Season 1 of the series was made available for streaming through Amazon Instant Video.

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Matlock_%28TV_series%29" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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