In today’s day and age of Twitter and Twilight, it’s hard to imagine that there’s still a place for dear old Andy Griffith and his adventures as Matlock, the intrepid lawyer with small town manners but big city smarts.
Of course, had Matlock aired today instead of the late '80s and early '90s, things would have been different. For one thing, the lighting wouldn’t have been as bright and Ben would have had to swap his classic light gray suit for something a little sleeker. And his hot dog obsession would have to go, too, as Ben Matlock would need to have picked up a drinking problem.
Luckily the Matlock we know and love can exist in our hearts and DVD players for quite some time with the release of the coveted fourth season. The six-disc set features all 23 episodes from the season airing originally in 1989 and 1990.
The season begins with “The Hunting Party,” an episode that introduces us to Conrad McMasters (Clarence Gilyard). We meet McMasters in his capacity as deputy sheriff, but it isn’t long before he teams up with Matlock and the two become fast friends. Gilyard’s character becomes the replacement for Kene Holliday’s Tyler Hudson, of course.
Matlock’s fourth season features a host of guest stars, as per usual, and many are a TV trivia lover’s dream. Take Tricia O’Neil, for instance. She shows up in “The Best Seller,” but Star Trek fans probably know her as the first female captain of an Enterprise-class starship from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Anita Morris, best known for her role alongside Danny DeVito in Ruthless People, is featured in “The Star,” while the wonderful David Carradine shows up in the two-part episode “The Prisoner.” Peri Gilpin, who would later go on to star on Frasier, is also a fourth season guest star. Sadly, the “Drew Carey” featured in “The Fugitive” is not the one you’re thinking of.
Beyond being a provider of interesting TV trivia, Matlock has been a show about the simple pursuit of justice. Sure, there are complications. And, yeah, there’s even a love interest in Matlock’s “lady friend” Julie March (Julie Sommars). But Ben always keeps things above board, naturally, and he always manages to find time for a little banjo pickin’.
Fans of old school television shows will love this latest instalment from the Matlock series. As with the other DVDs from this show, there are not bonus features to speak of and the presentation is pretty lean and mean. But that doesn’t stop Matlock from being an entertaining look back at a simpler time and it sure as heck doesn’t stop that good old ragtime theme song from kicking major ass.