Series / Matlock
A long-running Courtroom Drama about old Southern defense attorney Ben Matlock, played by Andy Griffith. Both a series that ran for many years and a short series of Made for TV Movies.

Matlock is a folksy Southerner with a moral code from before The '60s and a sense of justice. (One episode has him reveal that he grew up in a North Carolina town that no longer exists.) He currently practices law in Atlanta, Georgia, which in the time this series was running was one of the least Southern places in The Deep South. He defends his clients with help from a private detective friend, Courtroom Antics (done folksily), and finding out who actually did it. (In one movie, Matlock actually kept the case going until he found out who did the murder, even though his client was actually cleared and the prosecutor ready to drop the case.)

Structurally, this series is very much like Perry Mason. Probably not coincidentally, Matlock's creator, Dean Hargrove, and his production partner, Fred Silverman (the same man who, at various times, worked as an executive for all three major television networks ABC, CBS, and NBC) produced a string of Perry Mason made-for-TV movies beginning three months before Matlock premiered. But there is a big difference between Mason and Matlock. Perry Mason (based in Los Angeles in most of the franchise; based in Denver for the TV movies) is always intense and menacing by nature; Matlock is old-fashioned, folksy and grandfatherly.

The series contains examples of:

  • Artistic License Law: Just pretend that you're a lawyer for the prosecution when you watch this. Then call out "Objection!" every time that a real prosecutor would during Matlock's questioning of witnesses. It will make you hoarse.
  • Asshole Victim: Happened more often than not, whether it was a mobster, blackmailer, or just a jerkass, they tended to be the victims. Not that that always happened, it was sometimes a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or a guy that, due more to his position than his personality, simply had enemies.
  • Berserk Button: Arguably, crooked lawyers are this to Matlock. While fairly cantankerous on occasion, Matlock seldom displays anything resembling true rage. A rare exception was in the episode "The Foursome", in which the prosecuting attorney (a protege of Julie's) alters the evidence to get a conviction, and Matlock reveals her duplicity during his appeal. When the attorney, facing disbarment and imprisonment, begs Matlock for a second chance, you can see the Tranquil Fury on his face as he calmly says, "No, I don't think so." Julie for her part was also quietly furious with her protege for disgracing the legal profession.
  • Black Best Friend: Tyler Hudson and younger but just as effective Conrad McMasters. Both investigators who did dangerous, athletic legwork in a show full of white lawyers who were much less athletic but still managed to walk into stupid situations.
  • Busman's Holiday: Matlock as a Rogue Juror.
  • Captain Obvious: In one episode he tries to use The Perry Mason Method to get a witness for the prosecution who really is the killer to confess. The witness turns out to have what at least looks like an airtight alibi. As Matlock leaves the courtroom, a reporter shouts at him, desperately trying to get a soundbite before Matlock's elevator door closes.
    Reporter: How does it feel to make a fool of yourself, Mr. Matlock?
    Matlock: Lousy!
  • Clip Show: Used rather creatively. Matlock has been kidnapped and his sidekicks have to recap old cases he solved to figure out who wants revenge on him the most.
  • Cool Old Guy: Matlock.
  • Court-Martialed: In an episode Ben is appointed as a defense attorney for a soldier undergoing a court-martial and has to be repeatedly reminded that the Judge is called "Sir" not "your honor."
  • Cowboy Episode: "The Nightmare", in which the show's title character gets knocked out and finds himself in a Wild West setting.
  • Crossover: Matlock once defended Dr. Jesse Travis from a murder charge in Diagnosis: Murder.
  • Crusading Lawyer: Matlock
  • The '80s
  • Friendly Enemy: see Worthy Opponent. Partially averted in that they're not actual enemies, just arguing opposite sides of their cases.
  • Good Lawyers, Good Clients: Obligatory for the genre, but subverted in "The Best Friend", where his client was guilty. He got her to confess in court to end an Accuse the Witness situation against someone she cared for.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: Don Knotts, Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show, had a recurring role as Ben's Nosy Neighbor Les Calhoun. Other "Griffith" alumni that appeared on the show included Aneta Corsaut (Helen Crump), Jack Dodson (Howard Sprague), Arlene Golonka (Millie Swanson), and Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou).
  • Ivy League for Everyone
  • Joker Jury: In one episode Matlock was called upon to act as defense counsel for a prison guard being tried for murder by rioting prisoners.
  • Jury and Witness Tampering: Subverted in one episode. Matlock interviews a potential witness and gets her story, then calls her to the witness stand to repeat it in front of the jury—where she tells a completely different story. Ben thinks that she's been tampered with, but according to her this is the real story and she had been tampered with before when she had talked to him previously (and she wasn't under oath then).
  • Limited Wardrobe: Lampshaded by an episode where the store where he buys all his identical light grey suits is shutting down, and he must defend his favorite salesman on a related murder charge.
  • Mood Whiplash: The disturbing Murder trials were often offset by rather cutesy B story lines. One Egregious example had Matlock wrap up a case early in the show's running time so that the last five minutes of the show could feature an upbeat bluegrass band.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: This is often the way Matlock finds the truth.
  • Protagonist Title
  • Put on a Bus: Tyler Hudson after Season 3 due to Kene Holliday becoming increasingly late to work and having to go to rehab due to drug and alcohol problems.
  • The Scrooge: Matlock is a cheapskate. At first, it was out of necessity after some bad investments but, by the time he became wealthy again, he remained thrifty. In a crossover with Diagnosis: Murder, Matlock revealed that on Dr. Sloan's advice, he once invested heavily in companies that manufactured 8-track tapes, which nearly wiped him out.
  • Simple Country Lawyer: Matlock.
  • Shout-Out: This article's description alone revealed a ton of them, all to The Andy Griffith Show.
  • Spiritual Successor:
    • To The Andy Griffith Show. This show is essentially what happened when Sheriff Andy Taylor decided to leave Mayberry and move onto bigger and better things.
    • Arguably, to Perry Mason as well.
  • Storybook Episode: Matlock is hit on the head and dreams he must solve a case Recycled In The Wild West.
  • Worthy Opponent:
    • Professional, soft-spoken Assistant DA Julie March. Just because someone can send your client to death row doesn't mean you can't be good friends!
    • Lampshaded on a show where Matlock invites her to stay at his house while she's temporarily homeless. She has to leave before the end of that week's case because it gets too awkward.
  • Yet Another Christmas Carol: Instead of three spirits, Michelle took a slumlord to several different apartments to show him the different stages of squalor his tenants lived in. The last apartment was dark. When the slumlord fumbled for the light switch and turned it on he found Matlock sitting in the living room chair. Having heard him fumble for the light switch, Matlock knew the landlord had never been in the apartment before and could not be the killer. One of Matlock's more clever moments.