The third season of Matlock brought more of the same. If you’re a fan, that’s very good news indeed. What is that, you ask? Imagine Sheriff Andy Taylor older and now an attorney, and you pretty much have the setup for Matlock. Forget for a second that both characters were played by Andy Griffith. That’s not all they have in common. Matlock is every bit the “southern gentleman” that Taylor was. He might be a little smarter, but he walks and talks like Andy Taylor.
Matlock began life as a television movie from Dean Hargrove, who brought us Columbo. Hargrove would later work the same magic with Dick Van Dyke in Diagnosis Murder. In fact the two shows could easily have been companion pieces. Both featured sit-com stars from the 1950’s and 60’s that had become somewhat iconic characters. Both would don the role of professionals. Both shows would subscribe to the “formula” mode of storytelling. Diary Of A Perfect Murder would set up the Matlock formula. It’s simple, really. Matlock was a lawyer in Atlanta. Some wronged defendant, usually charged with murder, would show up asking for Matlock’s help. Matlock and his team would investigate the crime with an eye toward, as OJ Simpson is fond of saying, finding the real killer. His team consisted of his daughter Charlene, herself a competent lawyer, and Tyler Hudson (Holliday), his private investigator. In the pilot the Matlock character was less Andy Taylor and a little more slick at first. I’m sure that while it was intended to show Matlock’s prowess as a high priced attorney, somewhere along the line it became obvious that the show’s finest asset was Griffith himself and that southern charm he was already famous for. Whatever the reason, you can see the character soften significantly during the early episodes of the season. And that decision was a smart one, as Matlock would continue for nearly a decade.
There are a few two part episodes in this third season. The Ambassador has Matlock trying to clear a young British ambassador who refuses to hide behind diplomatic immunity even though there’s a lot of dirt that will come out. Matlock heads to Chicago when the mayor is murdered and the suspect is one of his fiercest rivals for the job in The Mayor. Matlock doesn’t like being conned, but that’s exactly what happens on his trip to The Windy City. Matlock slights Tyler by hiring a female investigator to solve the mystery of a murdered coin dealer in The Thief. What does the girl really want from Ben? These two hour versions have also appeared in syndication as Matlock Mystery Movies.
Each episode of Matlock is presented in its original broadcast full frame format. There’s not a lot to love in this transfer. The picture is almost always grainy. There are too many overt instances of compression artifact. In general this was not a carefully prepared transfer. I’m sure Paramount expects the fans to take it as it is. Colors are fair, but there is a subdued overall tone to the entire presentation. Black levels suffer the most and are quite poor.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track delivers exactly what you are looking for and nothing more. The dialog is clear, and that’s all you’re going to get out of this minimalist presentation. The jazz music theme comes out nice and clean.
This is one of those shows that you can start from anywhere at all. Even if you’ve never even heard of Matlock, you can settle right in quickly enough in the third season. It’s no better, no worse than the two that came before. So pull up a chair and enjoy a bit of home-style lawyerin’ with Andy. “Well Allllllllllllllright then”.