Ben Matlock is a very expensive criminal defense attorney who charges a $100,000 to take a case. Fortunately, he's worth every penny as he and his associates defend his clients by finding the real killer.
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Dick Van Dyke,
Barry Van Dyke
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"Matlock" features criminal defense attorney Ben Matlock seeking to prove the innocence of his client as he takes on his/her case, of which most involve murders. He does this with the help of a team of people, which changed from season to season but included over the years Conrad McMasters, daughter Charlene Matlock, and Cliff Lewis. Written by
Here it is, almost 1200 minutes of the mystery series "Matlock", 24 episodes (including the pilot) that were broadcast during NBC's 1986-1987 season. So let's forget all we know about the long run of this series and just talk about its premiere season.
Years after his run as Sheriff Andy Taylor, Andy Griffith finally got another regular job. This time he is playing Ben Matlock, an Atlanta lawyer who talks like Sheriff Andy. It's a comfortable role in a tried and true format; a mix of "Perry Mason" and "Columbo". "Columbo" veteran Dean Hargrove dreamed up the series and shared executive producer duties with Fred Silverman.
The focus is on the title character and Griffith is great fun to watch. He charms and sweet talks his way through each case, getting everyone to let down their guard because they underestimate this good old boy as much as they did the seemingly scatterbrained "Columbo". Both series revolved around the main character's ability discern something incriminating in seemingly innocent little things and to pick up on a guilty party's casual slip of the tongue.
In the "Perry Mason" tradition Matlock is not bound by the conventional rules of evidence or procedural requirements once he gets into a courtroom. He can say anything and introduce any sort of evidence simply by reassuring the judge that his line or questioning will eventually become relevant. Be prepared for the obligatory breakdowns and confessions on the witness stand. The prosecutors can only shake their heads and bluster helplessly in the face of Matlock's cunning strategy.
Matlock is assisted by the show's version of Perry Mason's Paul and Della. In season one these are his daughter and partner Charlene Matlock (Lori Lethin in the pilot-Linda Purl in the regular episodes) and his investigator Tyler Hudson (Kene Holliday). His junior partner Michele Thomas (Nancy Stafford) would not join the team as a regular until the nest season and it wasn't until 1988 that Don Knotts reprises his Barney role as Ben's neighbor Les "Ace" Calhoun.
Season One's episodes #6 and #7 (a two part story titled "The Don") featured William Conrad as District Attorney James "Fatman" McShane. The next year the producers took this character, changed his name slightly to Jason Lochinvar 'Fatman' McCabe, and with Conrad created the long-running series "Jake and the Fatman". Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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