Matlock: The Second Season
Directed by Tony Mordente et al
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Running Time: 1147 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo surround English
MSRP: $ 54.99
Release Date: January 13, 2009
Review Date: January 9, 2009
After the phenomenal success of The Andy Griffith Show, Andy Griffith signed a movie deal with Universal that went nowhere (Angel in My Pocket was not admired). So, he came back to television and searched for years for a vehicle that would reestablish him with a massive television audience. (In the intervening years, he did headline two failed sitcoms, guest star on other programs, star in several made-for-TV films, and play supporting roles in movies starring other people.) Matlock brought Griffith back with a bang playing a wily Atlanta attorney whose folksy ways masked a diabolical ability to ferret out the truth from the tiniest of clues. An above average courtroom mystery series, Matlock is easy-going and easy to take. At the end of its second season, it ranked as the fourteenth most popular show on television.
The second season found second-billed Linda Purl leaving the series and being replaced by Nancy Stafford playing Michelle Thomas, Matlock’s junior partner in his law firm. Also part of the staff were Kari Lizer playing law clerk Cassie Phillips and Kene Holliday as Tyler Hudson, Matlock’s investigator. Though Matlock usually required $100,000 for his services, often the fee was waived when a friend of one of his office mates was in trouble. As in Perry Mason, the mysteries were almost always solved on the witness stand and most were constructed along a standard formula: we’re shown a person with a number of enemies, the person is killed, and Matlock and company sniff out the killer. Occasionally, a Columbo-styled episode is attempted: we’re shown the murder first including who did it and how. Then, we watch as Matlock tracks down clues to lead him to the solution we already know. The show never quite reached the heights of surprise or suspense of Perry Mason or Columbo, but the episodes on their own are entertaining, especially with the congenial Andy Griffith playing the title character with charm and sass, picking up his ukulele occasionally to serenade us, and always showing us the missing elements needed to solve the crime before the end of the hour. (Unlike the superior Murder She Wrote, the telltale clues on Matlock aren’t usually in plain sight for a clever audience to pick up on before the final reveal.)
Matlock did entertain some top guest stars during its second season. Among the most recognizable ones are Don Murray, David McCallum, David Ogden Stiers, Greg Mullavey, Ralph Bellamy, Nancy Dussault, Dick Butkas, Cameron Mitchell, David Carradine, Candy Clark, Bryan Cranston, Ken Kercheval, Dick Gautier, Sheldon Leonard, Bruce Weitz, Marg Helgenburger, Tom Hallick, Bill Hayes, Penny Fuller, Richard Kline, Dann Florek, Beth Broderick, Max Gail, John Randolph, John Rubenstein, Shaun Cassidy, Seymour Cassel, Laurence Pressman, Bill Mumy, Michael E. Knight, Peter Frechette, Brian Benben, Mason Adams, Alan Oppenheimer, and, in a recurring role, Julie Sommars as prosecuting attorney (and platonic Matlock sweetheart) Julie Marsh.
Here are the twenty-three episodes presented on six discs in this second season set.
1 - The Billionaire (two hour season premiere set in London)
2 - Blind Justice
3 - The Husband
4 - The Power Brokers (Part 1)
5 - The Power Brokers (Part 2)
6 - The Annihilator
7 - The Network (gimmicky episode with cameos from many of NBC’s series stars)
8 - The Best Friend
9 - The Country Boy
10 - The Gift
11 - The Gambler
12 - The Body
13 - The Reunion (the best mystery without hidden clues which an attentive audience can solve)
14 - The Gigolo
15 - The Umpire
16 - The Investigation (Part 1)
17 - The Investigation (Part 2)
18 - The Hucksters (audience call-in gimmick show; see “Special Features”)
19 - The Lovelorn
20 - The Genius
21 - The Magician
22 - The Fisherman
23 - The Heiress
The show’s 1.33:1 aspect ratio is faithfully delivered in these transfers. Though color is often strong and sharpness is above average (except when the cameraman is favoring his star with some soft focus photography in close-ups), the episodes are crawling with distracting aliasing, moiré patterns, pixilation, and video noise and there are fair amounts of white specks on various episodes. The shows are still entertaining to watch, and black levels are often very impressive, but those video artifacts may be problematic from time to time. Each episode is divided into 6 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo surround track makes impressive use of the music being filtered through the entire surround field. True, that’s the only use the surrounds get as the center channel carries all of the other audio information for the show: dialog and sound effects. And there is occasionally some hiss present on some (but not all) of the episodes.
Originally, the episode “The Hucksters” allowed at-home viewers to call in midway through the program and vote on which of the three leading suspects they were fingering as the murderer. On the basis of the highest number of votes, a certain ending was played. The DVD offers all three possible endings for the episode which can be selected by the viewer at the appropriate time. The viewer is also offered the choice of watching the episode as it originally aired with the winner of the viewers’ choice already selected.
The disc offers previews of Perry Mason - 50th Anniversary Edition, Mannix, Cannon, Jake and the Fatman, and Walker, Texas Ranger.
Though not one of the greatest of television’s mystery series, Matlock has a certain easy charm which makes fans of Andy Griffith or of easy-going mystery/courtroom series very happy to have this second season now become available.