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The New Matlock Series Has Replaced Andy Griffith

27 years after the original series went off the air, a Matlock reboot has been confirmed to be in the works. While to many fans of the classic courtroom drama, this latest revelation is music to their ears, some Matlock-diehards are up in arms over the direction that the show’s producers have taken in terms of it’s casting.

Gender swaps aren’t anything new in the realm of modern TV and film reboots. From Lost in Space’s Dr Smith to Elementary’s Joan Watson to Doctor Who’s thirteenth regeneration, in recent years, women have frequently been cast in historically male roles in contemporary incarnations of classic television series. Many call this a victory for the feminist movement, while others are quick to label such moves merely as examples of virtue signaling.

Matlock ran on NBC from 1986 to 1992 before hopping over to ABC, where it continued to air until 1995. Overall, the series ran for a total of 193 episodes, plus a feature-length pilot. In the original Matlock series, Andy Griffith starred in the tile role of maverick attorney Ben Matlock, but since Griffith passed away at the age of 86 in 2012, clearly, he won’t be able to reprise his role in the up-coming reboot.

The news first broke of a Matlock reboot in early February 2023 when The Hollywood Reporter ran a story in which Jane the Virgin creator Jennie Synder Urman was quoted as saying she was currently developing a reboot of the iconic series after a pilot was ordered by CBS.

Stay tuned to find out who will play Matlock in this latest remake. We’ll also take a few minutes to reflect on the cast of the original series.

Facts Verse Presents: The New Matlock Series Has Replaced Andy Griffith

Not A Major Departure

While casting a female actress in Matlock’s title role might come across as being a fairly bold move to some, fan’s of the original series can rest assured that much of what they loved about the popular late-80s and early-90s courtroom drama will be left intact.

In that article published by The Hollywood Reporter Jennie Snyder Urman revealed that the show’s tile role would be played by veteran actress Kathy Bates. With Andy Griffith long gone, it was obvious that replacing him would be a very difficult task. So, instead of looking for a look-a-like actor or someone that was simply able to recapture his overall vibe, Urman decided to give audiences a fresh new spin on the role.

The show’s titular character was renamed Madeline Matlock, although the premise is still essentially the same. This new female Matlock is a former DA who’s now in her 70s. After coming out of retirement, she finds work at a prestigious law firm where she conquers a variety of challenging cases using her witty, albeit guileless, smarts to her advantage. 

Bates’ Established Track Record Of Excellence

Throughout her prolific career, Bates has become best known for her film roles. Her breakthrough role was in the 1990 film Misery, in which she gave an Oscar-winning performance as the deviously deranged character Annie Wilkes. Before that, she starred in a number of films, including Arthur 2: On the Rocks and Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean.

After Misery, Bates went on to appear in critically acclaimed films like Fried Green Tomatoes and Titanic. Most recently, she has joined the cast of the upcoming adaptation of the classic Judy Blume novel Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret.

In addition to her 1990 Oscar win, Bates has also earned nominations for her work in About Schmidt, Richard Jewell, and Primary Colors.

There has long been a stigma against film actors making appearances in television shows, but Bates has long straddled both industries. Throughout her time in Hollywood, she’s appeared in episodes of shows like 3rd Rock From The Sun, Six Feet Under, St. Elsewhere, and King of the Hill.

The TV role, however, that many best remember in was that of Jo Bennet, the CEO of Florida-based printer company Sabre, on the hit comedy series The Office. In season 6 of that series, Sabre ended up acquiring paper company Dunder Mifflin leading to massive shakeups at the Scranton, Pennsylvania branch.

After appearing in 8 episodes of The Office, Bate’s was offered numerous other TV show opportunities. In 2011, she took the lead role in the legal series Harry’s Law. After that, she starred in Netflix’s Disjointed. Around that time, she also joined the third season cast of American Horror Story and ended up returning to the series several more times over the following few years, appearing in a total of 58 episodes.

After essentially experiencing her second wind as a television star, it only makes sense that Bate’s would agree to take the lead role in Matlock. And even though there might be a few naysayers who can’t picture anyone other than Andy Griffith in the role, she seems to be a perfect fit. We’re eagerly looking forward to seeing how this new incarnation of Matlock will be received.  Unfortunately, CBS hasn’t announced as of yet when the new series will premiere. So, for now, all we can do is wait patiently and keep an open mind.

Behind The Scenes Of The Original Matlock

During the first season of Matlock, an attractive redhead catches Ben Matlock’s eye while in an elevator. Shortly thereafter, she ends up rushing into a hearing late while the writing subtly hints that she will soon play a significant role in Ben’s world.

This is how us viewers were first introduced to assistant district Attorney Julie March. Played by the lovely Julie Sommars, who rose to fame in the 70s after scoring a Golden Globe for Best TV Actress Musical or Comedy for her role on The Governor & J.J., March ended up becoming Ben’s biggest love interest over the course of the show’s first six seasons.

After season six, however, she suddenly vanished without Ben even blinking an eye, leading to one of the show’s most noticeable unexplained mysteries. So, what happened?

Well, behind the scenes, Andy Griffith was beginning to feel like his commitment to the series was beginning to wane. Especially after the show switched networks from NBC to ABC, the producer’s wanted him to appear in a bunch of two-hour TV movies that would require him to devote even more of his time and energy to Matlock.

Griffith’s agent advised him to flat-out refuse to do any of those films, but to try and lasso him in anyway, ABC decided that they would move the filming of the show closer to Andy.

After Andy declined to do the films, ABC presented him with their offer to move the whole show to Wilmington, North Carolina. They even offered to rent him a house.

That offer was too good for Griffith to decline as moving the show to his home state made everything vastly easier. Unfortunately, for the rest of the show’s cast, this move made their lives exponentially harder. But none of that mattered to ABC, because Griffith was really the only one that they needed to keep the series going.

In the move, Sommars decided that she was tired of constantly bending her life in order to be an actor. She had family in California and didn’t want to leave them behind, so after thinking long and hard about it, she ultimately decided to leave Matlock behind. Fortunately, Griffith later confirmed in an interview that there weren’t any hard feelings when she chose not to continue on the show. That being said, her decision did end up putting an abrupt end to her acting career.

Don Knott’s Didn’t Work Out Either

Andy Griffith and Don Knotts had tremendous on and off-screen while working together on The Andy Griffith Show. Together they formed one of television’s greatest comedy duos, rivaling that of Abbott and Costello or Art Carney and Jackie Gleason. Because of this, Knotts was invited to join the cast of Griffith’s next big television project Matlock. Unfortunately, according to Griffith, Knotts wasn’t really cut out for the courtroom drama.

Knotts joined the cast of Matlock as Ben’s buddy Les Calhoun in 1988. When it was announced that he’d be making an appearance on Griffith’s newest offering, there was quite a bit of buzz among the fans of both Matlock and The Andy Griffith Show.

As Calhoun, Knotts appeared in 17 episodes of Matlock before being told that his services would no longer be needed. When playing Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show, Knotts shined, as he was a naturally gifted comedian with impeccable comic timing. Andy and Don played off each other perfectly. Griffith always played the straight man, while Knotts was his comic foil. With that dynamic, they helped turn The Andy Griffith Show into one of the most iconic comedies of all time, but unfortunately, when it came time for them to share the screen once again on Matlock, everything had changed.

Matlock was never meant to be a comedy, so Knotts appearences came across as somewhat jarring and contrived. They simply didn’t work with the show’s premise, and it was glaringly obvious to everyone involved – especially Andy.

A little bit of comedy helped break some of the tension that the show’s more action-filled and dramatic moments created, but it simply didn’t need the level of laughs that Knotts was used to providing. And it’s not like Don didn’t see this as well, as he did. That’s why when Les Calhoun was written off the show, he didn’t hold any grudges.

Knott’s went on to continue to make regular guest-starring appearances on TV shows like Newhart, Step By Step, That 70s Show, and even Robot Chicken. On the big screen, he enjoyed minor roles in films like Pleasantville, Tom Sawyer, Chicken Little, and Air Buddies.

On February 24, 2006, at the age of 81, Knotts died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in LA from pulmonary and respiratory complications of lung cancer and pneumonia.

No other casting choices have been announced pertaining to the new Matlock reboot, but we’re excited to see how Kathy Bates will handle her latest role.

Who would you like to see join the cast in the new Matlock series, and how do you feel about Kathy Bates’ casting in it’s title role? Let us know in the comments, and as always, thanks for watching.

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