Matlock: The First Season – DVD Review

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AARP members have a reason to rejoice. For years Great Aunt Blanche asked “When are they going to put out good shows on DVD like Matlock?” She no longer has to wait for the prized shiny discs. The hero of the geriatric finally has his day in court. In the role of Ben Matlock, Andy Griffith recaptured his network superstar status nearly two decades after cleaning up Mayberry. Instead of being the sheriff of a small town, he transformed into a high priced lawyer in the Southern city of Atlanta. He wore a light grey suit instead of a lawman’s uniform. Both characters poured on the Southern charm to get their way, but Matlock was more prickly than Sheriff Andy Taylor. What truly separates Matlock from The Andy Griffith Show is the homicide rate. There was no need for Mayberry CSI. However there’s plenty of slaughtered folks in Atlanta. If you didn’t want to be connected to a corpse on Peachtree Street, you better hire Ben Matlock.

Matlock didn’t have a major law firm even with his top dollar fees. Like Perry Mason, Matlock didn’t have a team of partners like the case of L.A. Law. He ran a family-style office. His daughter, Charlene (Linda Purl), was a lawyer on his staff. But he didn’t use her as the top attorney on a majority of his cases. He wouldn’t even let her rep him when he needed a lawyer. Tyler Hudson (Kene Holliday) was his private investigator. He used this gig to raise money to play the markets. If you’re a fan of Holliday, pick up Great World of Sound.

The series kicked of with “Diary of a Perfect Murder,” a movie of the week that aired the season before the series went full time. A major television reporter is accused of murdering his ex-wife. The problem for the reporter is his sole alibi for his whereabouts during her killing is a confidential source. Matlock has to figure out how to clear his client without blowing his journalistic ethics. Things get goofy as Matlocks’ daughter gets romantic with the wrong man. There’s a Miami Vice moment as Matlock alludes a killer in the flashing lights of a disco. You can tell the age of this series as the actors fly Eastern Airlines into Atlanta. While the movie of the week was split in half for syndication purposes, “Diary of a Perfect Murder” is presented in it’s complete form without the Matlock opening credits.

“The Stripper” has Matock represent an erotic dancer accused of snuffing her ex-husband. You never saw Andy Taylor poking around any gentlemen clubs in Mayberry. He doesn’t look uncomfortable as he enters this den of sin. “The Don” is a two-parter that has Matlock represent the head of crime family up on murder charges. Unlike some noble attorneys, Matlock didn’t seem to care who his clients were, long as they paid. This episode is often accused of spinning off Jake and the Fatman. But it really doesn’t. It guest stars William Conrad (Cannon) and Joe Penny, but neither are the same characters. Conrad is the prosecutor tangling with Matlock. But he’s James L. McShane and not the Fatman‘s Jason McCabe. Penny is the mobster’s son. This not a Happy Days spinning off Mork and Mindy situation. “The Don” is a twisted case with Matlock getting confused by false witnesses screwing up his case. It’s bad enough when you lose a case, but imagine what your client will do when he becomes a jailed crimelord?

“Santa Claus” is a grizzly holiday tale. It opens with Santa killing a bad slumlord with more than switches and coal. The main suspect is a drunk (Pat Hingle) that plays Santa during the season. Even though nobody likes the accused killer, his neighbors put together enough cash to hire Matlock. Why? Cause it’s the holiday season. Matlock has to find out who framed Santa. This is a great holiday special since it doesn’t get too warm and fuzzy. “The People Vs. Matlock” isn’t a fair fight. A union boss is arrested on suspicion of shooting his rival. But Matlock isn’t merely stuck defending his client. A juror claims that Matlock slipped him a bribe so now he’s up on charges. His major hope is Taylor tailing the tainted juror.

Matlock is a perfect show for the older set. The murders aren’t too disturbing. The pace of the show doesn’t jar your eyes. This isn’t a Miami Vice pressure cooker. People with weak hearts won’t be startled. It’s a sweet southern show with Andy Griffith being the master of homespun jurisprudence. Thankfully they didn’t split up this season like other releases so that Great Aunt Blanche won’t be calling to ask, “Where’s the rest of the season?” Pour yourself a fresh Iced Tea and prepare to witness Matlock exposing all the real killers lurking in Atlanta.

The Episodes
“Diary of a Perfect Murder,” “The Judge,” “The Stripper,” “The Affair,” “The Seduction,” “The Don” (Two parter), The Sisters,” “The Cop,” “The Angel,” “The Professor,” “Santa Claus,” “The Chef,” “The Author,” “The Rat Pack,” “The Nurse,” “The Convict,” “The Court-Martial,” (Two parter), “The Therapist,” “The People vs. Matlock,” “The Photographer,” “The Reporter” and “The Doctors.”

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. While the show was shot on 35mm, they transferred it to video for editing to save on the budget. The image is not nearly as sharp and detailed as it could be if they had cut on film. The transfers are good for video. The audio is Dolby Digital Stereo Surround. The levels are up to usual TV standards. There are no subtitles, but it is Closed Captioned for older fans who have difficulty hearing.


Matlock: The First Season is a series for the mature viewer. This is the perfect gift for Grandpa’s birthday.


CBS DVD presents Matlock: The First Season. Starring Andy Griffith, Linda Purl and Kene Holliday. Twenty four episodes on seven DVDs. Running time: 19 Hours and 57 minutes. Originally broadcasted from March 3, 1986 to May 12, 1987. Released on DVD: April 8, 2008. Available at

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