DVD Review: Matlock (The Eighth Season)

A change in location can alter a show’s outlook. The X-Files seemed to lose its mojo when if left woodsy Vancouver for Los Angeles. Luckily Matlock had the opposite effect when it loaded up the production vans and moved from Los Angeles to Wilmington, North Carolina. Right off the bat Ben Matlock (Andy Griffith) seemed revitalized by the smell of Magnolias and true sweet tea on the sets. While Wilmington was faking Atlanta, truth Southern comfort surrounded him. The lawn in front of victims house looked more real than the manufactured turf on a Hollywood backlot. The crimes and killings seems a bit more polite for the viewers wanting a down home murder mystery. While Matlock: The Eighth Season might be the penultimate season, Matlock isn’t looking to retire from the law and focus on hotdog eating.

“The Play” starts the season with Matlock making a cameo in a local play. The comic twist is that the director thinks Matlock is holding up the performance. His shot at stage stardom is clinched when the lead actress dies and the director (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s Rene Auberjonois) becomes a prime suspect. Along with Matlocks’ usual legal fees is a promise to keep him in the play. “The Fatal Seduction” sends Matlock to North Carolina for real to attend a funeral. But he also lands work when a blackmail scheme goes bad. Jeri Ryan (Star Trek: Voyager) needs some Tarheel justice. “The Diner” flashes us back to Matlock’s first court case. He takes the tough road of defending a black cook charged with killing a white cop.

“The View” turns Matlock into the witness of a homicide. But did he see the right suspect? This is the last episode with Conrad McMasters (Clarence Gilyard Jr.) as Matlock’s muscle. From this point on, Cliff Lewis (Daniel Roebuck) filled this role. You don’t have to feel bad for Gilyard since he’d quickly find work as Chuck Norris’ pal on Walker, Texas Ranger. “The Last Laugh” brings the comedy with a guest gig from Milton Berle. Comedy isn’t pretty when a comic dies and the suspect is the target of his jokes. Beam up another Star Trek favorite for “The Haunting.” John de Lancie (Q on Star Trek: The Next Generation) plays an earthling. A patient is suspected of killing their plastic surgeon after an operation. This is what people did before they could write critical reviews online. “Matlock’s Bad, Bad, Bad Dream” features the nightmare of Jeff Conaway (Taxi). Ben is stuck in a dream about a jazz age killing.

“The Defendant” dares to let Leanne McIntyre (Brynn Thayer) fall in love. Trouble is the guy is a client who might have killed his business party. Matlock doesn’t like this romance. Things get worse for her in “The Kidnapping” when she’s the target to be nabbed. “The Temptation” gets even worse for Leanne. Her diary gets stolen and the thief uses it to pick the lock on her heart. “The Murder Mystery” starts with Matlock attending a murder mystery event except they find a real dead body. “The P.I.” brings The A-Team. George Peppard brings his plan together. A private investigator takes the wrong photos that lead to trouble. This was Peppard’s find acting gig. “The Godfather” turns out to be Matlock. He’s at the wedding of his goddaughter when a murder breaks out. This might be a good thing since the body covers “something blue.” “The Idol” stars John Beck, my idol from Rollerball.

Matlock: The Eighth Season brings the southern goodness with deep fried homicides. His support staff gets streamlined down to Cliff and Leanne. There’s plenty of Star Trek guest stars for a good geek out. The only thing this collection is missing is a tall glass of sweet tea and a rocking chair.

The Episodes
“The Play,” “The Fatal Seduction” (two-parter), “The Diner,” “The View,” “The Last Laugh,” “The Capital Offense,” “The Haunted” (two-parter), “The Conspiracy,” “Matlock’s Bad, Bad, Bad Dream,” “The Defendant,” “The Kidnapping” (two-parter), “The Temptation,” “The Crook,” “The Murder Game,” “Brennen,” “The P.I.,” “The Godfather” and “The Idol.”

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers are reflect how the show was shot on 35mm yet edited on standard definition video. You don’t get to see too many of Andy’s wrinkles. The audio is Dolby Digital stereo. You hear Matlock play his hunches. The episodes are subtitled.

Episodic Teaser (0:30) sets up the murders for all the episodes.

Matlock: The Eighth Season proves that the show was refreshing with its true Southern location. Matlock seems natural in his true environment. This was the greatest murder based Southern TV show until they made The Wire in Baltimore.

CBS DVD presents Matlock: The Eighth Season. Starring: Andy Griffith, Brynn Thayer and Daniel Roebuck. Boxset Contents: 20 episodes on 6 DVDs. Released: February 12, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.

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