DVD Review: Matlock (The Seventh Season)

Andy Griffith introduced the world to North Carolina on The Andy Griffith Show. People in distant lands thought they had experienced a little piece of Tarheel heaven in Mayberry. The trouble is that it was a lie. Mayberry was just another backlot in Los Angeles. When Matlock switched from NBC to ABC after the sixth season, Griffith was able to move the production from L.A. to Wilmington, North Carolina. This wasn’t the first time Matlock had come here. He made a double episode near his home in Manteo. But that was merely a location visit. Matlock: The Seventh Season finally lets Andy fill every episode with true Southern hospitality and not Hollywood substitutes. There would still be a bit of subterfuge since Wilmington faked being Atlanta.

“The Vacation” lets Andy gets to introduce Wilmington as Wilmington when he goes on a trip to the beach with his daughter, Leanne McIntyre (Byrnn Thayer). But this turns out to not be fun in the sun on a beach that really does face the Atlantic Ocean. First off he has a stalker in the form of Cliff Lewis (Daniel Roebuck). Then there’s trouble involving Leanne’s old college buddies and a murder. Cliff gets mixed into the ugliness and Matlock must clear his stalker of charges. The producers made a major misstep in this episode since they removed all tension involving Cliff meaning to harm to Matlock. How? They put Daniel Roebuck in the new opening credits. How evil could he be if people know he’s going to be part of Matlock’s crew this season? Conrad McMasters (Clarence Gilyard Jr.) does return as Matlock’s private investigator since he must help gather evidence to spring Lewis.

“The Legacy” allows Andy to play his father in a case that covers two generations and two homicides. A guy is upset that his dad refuses to ask for parole on a murder he didn’t commit. In his anger he beats up a screenwriting teacher whose dad might have known the truth of the crime. This isn’t good since soon after, the screenwriter turns up dead. Now the father and son might be sharing a cell in prison. Andy takes the case and flashbacks to his father’s relationship with the original murder victim. The exciting part is when Matlock gets set up on a date with Anita Morris (Hotel New Hampshire). The sizzling redhead should have been a recurring character since she was a fellow Tarheel and looked good with Andy.

“The Ghost” is a supernatural who hired me thriller. A husband gets Matlock to defend his wife on murder charges. Trouble is the guy is dead. How is Matlock supposed to get paid by a ghost? “The Class” reminds us that you can teach people too much. After talking to a law school about the perfect murder, a student disappears. The cops fear someone is trying to get extra credit. A producer gets busted for killing “The Singer.” But he swears it was someone else at the recording sessions. Phil Spector is not a suspect. “The Mark” loses a lottery winner’s prize to a wicked contractor. “The Juror” puts Matlock in the jury box of a homicide case. Can he just be a juror or will he turn into a lawyer with a vote? What D.A. would let Matlock be part of the jury pool?

“The Fortune” brings together owning a zoo and being named in a homicide case. Can’t they pin this all on the gorilla? “The Debt” dips into family business. Leanne’s ex-husband gets busted for murder. Matlock won’t defend the cad, but his ex-wife can’t let the guy fry. “The Revenge” messes with Matlock’s memory. Conrad must make sure his boss isn’t losing it. “The Obsession” pins a therapist’s murder on his TV star client. “The Divorce” pits Matlock against his daughter when they each agree to represent a side in a divorce kit. Who can be the biggest blood sucker? “The Final Affair” discloses a drug smuggling ring. “The Competition” forces a father to prove his talented pianist son didn’t commit suicide. Was there extreme professional jealousy?

Matlock: The Seventh Season is a charmer since Andy Griffith finally gets to show off the joys of North Carolina. Gone are the faux-Southern locations of the early seasons. Even more importantly is authentic Southerners as background extras. No longer must we tolerate Valley girls pretending to say “Ya’ll” and teasing their hair up. This is what people looked like in the Wilmington of 1992. Matlock was finally giving TV views a taste of Southern hospitality with a touch of homicide.

The Episodes
“The Vacation,” “The Legacy,” “The Ghost,” “The Class,” “The Singer,” “The Mark,” “The Juror,” “The Fortune,” “The Debt,” “The Revenge,” “The Obsession,” “The Divorce,” “The Final Affair” and “The Competition.”

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The show was shot on 35mm, but edited and finished in standard definition video. You’re not going to get the complete details of Wilmington’s finest features. The audio is Dolby Digital Stereo Surround. You’ll get to hear the sweet winds blow on a Southern night. The episodes are subtitled.

Episodic Teasers (0:30) preview most of the episodes.

Matlock: The Seventh Season brings Matlock to the true South. These a different flavor when he’s outside the courtroom since it’s no longer a disguised Hollywood. The cases are a bit longer with 4 double length episodes so the mysteries can take a little longer to be cracked. It’s nice to see Andy finally home.

CBS DVD presents Matlock: The Seventh Season. Starring: Andy Griffith, Brynn Thayer, Daniel Roebuck and Clarence Gilyard Jr. Boxset Contents: 14 episodes on 4 DVDs. Released on DVD: February 21, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.

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