Do you remember watching Matlock? If so, you’ll remember it as one of the great legal thrillers of its time. Today, Matlock is considered a classic TV show and is one of Andy Griffith’s best-known works – often in competition with his earlier TV show, The Andy Griffith Show.
Whether you’re a new fan of the show or a diehard fan who’s seen every episode several times, you’re no doubt impressed with the show’s incredible writing, direction, and acting.
But even the biggest fans of Matlock may have missed out on some of the fascinating details that made the show a success. There are also many interesting details on how the show was perceived and what some of the cast and crew members achieved outside of the show.
Let’s look back at some of the fascinating details you never noticed in Matlock…
BEN MATLOCK OR ANDY TAYLOR?
Andy Griffith had 2 famous roles on television. One was as Sheriff Andy Taylor in The Andy Griffith Show and one was as the attorney Ben Matlock on Matlock. We’ll let you decide which role you prefer!
But did Andy Griffith spend more time acting as Andy Taylor or as Ben Matlock? Overall, there were more episodes of The Andy Griffith Show than of Matlock. However, as Matlock episodes were usually an hour or longer – Andy Griffith spent more time playing Ben Matlock than he did playing Andy Taylor.
One audience will always remember Andy Griffith as the Sheriff of Mayberry. But equally, another audience will remember him as one of the sharpest attorneys in town!
Before we tell you more details you never noticed in Matlock, please give this video a ‘like’ and subscribe to FactsVerse for more pop culture videos and interesting stories. Now, back to the video…
SEE YOU IN COURT…OR IS IT CHURCH?
One of the most common locations in Matlock was, of course, the Fulton County Courthouse. While you may have fooled thinking this an actual courthouse it actually the Second Church of Christ, Scientist. It is located in Los Angeles and now consider one of the city’s most famous historic places.
It’s a beautiful church that’s located in LA’s West Adams neighborhood – near the USC campus. It was added to LA’s register of historic places following the first season of Matlock and remains a popular point of visit for fans of the show!
It’s also notable that though Matlock mostly took place in Georgia – and shot primarily in Los Angeles!
THE THEME TUNE
You can’t have a popular American TV series without a great theme tune! The theme tune for Matlock composed by Dick DeBenedictis.
But do you know of his other great compositions? Dick DeBenedictis composed some of the best theme tunes for some of America’s most popular TV series!
He composed theme songs for Perry Mason, Colombo, Police Story, Father Dowling Mysteries, Hawaii Five-O, Phyllis, and The Rockford Files. One of his final compositions was for the mystery series Diagnosis Murder.
He won 3 ASCAP Awards at the ASCAP Film and Television Awards – in 1992, 1993, and 1997. He won two awards for the “Most Performed Theme” and one award for “Most Performed Underscore.”
THE SUCCESS OF MATLOCK
Today, we look back at Matlock as a classic show. But how it considered during its initial run?
Matlock had the good fortune of being shown on two of the most popular networks. It’s first season in 1986 began on NBC. After this season, the remaining seasons were shown on ABC – which was just as popular.
It’s highest rank on the Nielsen ratings was #14. While it never reached the top 10, it was lauded as one of the most successful shows of its time. It’s still remember as a classic legal thriller that still holds up today.
Dean Hargrove also nominated for an Edgar Allen Poe Award for writing the episode “Diary of a Perfect Murder.” It never won an Emmy or Golden Globe for being a great show – but this didn’t stop it from winning critical acclaim and adored by the audience!
WHO IS BEN MATLOCK?
Ben Matlock is indeed one of the greatest TV heroes of all time and credit must be given to Dean Hargrove for creating the character and to Andy Griffith for his brilliant performance.
But did you know that Ben Matlock was based on a real person?
Well, it’s not 100% confirmed but it’s believed that Ben Matlock was based on the noted Georgia lawyer Bobby Lee Cook. Cook was lauded for his legal skills as well as his Southern charm – which is also what made Ben Matlock such an endearing character.
One of Bobby Lee Cook’s most notable cases was when he defended Bobby Hoppe. Bobby Hoppe was a running back on the Auburn football team and played with the team when they won the championship in 1957. 31 years later, Bobby Hoppe was brought to trial for the murder of a bootlegger! The jury couldn’t come up with a decision on the case…
MATLOCK WAS MADE FOR ANDY GRIFFITH
The fact that Andy Griffith is remembered and lauded for his role as Ben Matlock is no accident!
After The Andy Griffith Show and its reunion shows, Andy Griffith continued to have a steady career. However, there wasn’t a role that could match up to his role as Sheriff Andy Taylor. He played an attorney in 2 TV series – Fatal Vision and Street Killing. These shows were moderate successes but couldn’t match up to the fame of The Andy Griffith Show.
There was still a huge demand to see Andy Griffith on TV – but the right character had yet to appear. NBC’s entertainment president Brandon Tartikoff felt that Andy Griffith could play a great attorney – despite the failure of Fatal Vision and Street Killing.
Brandon Tartikoff hired Dean Hargrove to create this new character. Dean Hargrove had become successful creating the character Perry Mason for the eponymous TV series. Perry Mason was a popular criminal defense attorney which made Dean Hargrove the perfect writer for creating a character for Andy Griffith.
Ben Matlock was born, and this was the role that marked Andy Griffith’s TV comeback. This remains his most famous role following his role as Sheriff Andy Taylor. Without a doubt, this was the perfect comeback!
It should also be mentioned that Andy Griffith absolutely loved playing the role. He spent a lot of time rehearsing his lines and would make notes to remember his complex lines and long speeches. There were several occasions when the cast and crew would give him a standing ovation for his acting. No doubt, there were many fans at home who would do the same when they watched him on TV!
Andy Griffith also had a role in shaping the character and the direction of the show. He wanted the character to have moral ambiguity to challenge the viewers. With The Andy Griffith Show, he played a character that represented the idyllic American life of the 50s and 60s. But with Matlock, he wanted to challenge audiences and get them to think for themselves.
I WANT YOU TO MEET AN OLD FRIEND OF MINE
One of the most popular TV tropes of all time is known as ‘I Want You To Meet An Old Friend of Mine.’ With this trope, you’ll see a familiar cast of actors and actresses whom you’ve seen on another TV series.
In Matlock, we saw many of the cast members from The Andy Griffith Show appear with Andy Griffith once again. On The Andy Griffith Show, the late Don Knotts played Barney Fife – Sheriff Andy Taylor’s right-hand man. On Matlock, Don Knotts played Les Calhoun, Ben Matlock’s rather intrusive neighbor!
There were also cameo appearances by other actors who had originally appeared on The Andy Griffith Show. These included Betty Lynn, Jack Dodson, Arlene Golonka, and Aneta Corsaut.
Few fans know about the two spinoffs that were created as a result of Matlock’s success. In a 1986 episode of the show, we were introduced to the characters Joe Penny and William Conrad. These two characters were given a spinoff crime series called Jake and the Fatman.
In one episode of Jake and the Fatman, the “Fatman” visits a doctor who seems to have a keen interest in solving mysteries. The doctor was Dr. Mark Sloan, played by Dick Van Dyke.
This character was so popular that he was given his own show: Diagnosis Murder – which also helped introduce Dick Van Dyke to a new generation of fans and became his most famous role following his role on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Like Andy Griffith, here was another veteran actor becoming famous once again at a later age.
As mentioned previously, Dick DeBenedictis composed the theme song for Diagnosis Murder. Andy Griffith also appeared as Ben Matlock in a two-part episode of Diagnosis Murder!
IT STILL HOLDS UP
While some fans may still adore the show and others may have grown out of it, the verdict is clear: Matlock still holds up for a large audience!
In 2013, a year after Andy Griffith’s death, a 2-hour Matlock episode was aired in place of some of NBC’s most popular TV shows. This 21-year-old episode garnered more views than the contemporary shows – only falling behind that day’s episode of Law and Order.
While Matlock may have closed his office, his cases are still being followed by a huge legion of fans – both old and new. Now that you know these details you previously never noticed, you’ll appreciate this great show even more!
Now, let’s hear from you:
Are you a fan of Matlock? Do you have a favorite episode of the show?
In fact, here’s what we’d like to know:
Do you think that the show still holds up today?
Or does it seem dated compared to the legal thriller shows of today?
Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.
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We’ll see you in the next video!