8 Non-Objectionable Facts About Matlock

Paramount Television
Paramount Television

It can be difficult for stars of popular television series to repeat their success, but Andy Griffith had no problem scoring a second hit—it just took a couple of decades. Following his much-loved The Andy Griffith Show, Griffith starred in Matlock, a leisurely-paced legal drama that aired on NBC and ABC from 1986 through 1995. Though the show has been a frequent punchline for satirists behind The Simpsons, Griffith’s portrayal of Atlanta criminal defense attorney Ben Matlock and his act-four courtroom grandstanding is the television equivalent of a warm blanket. Check out some facts you might not know about the show, from a guest appearance by ALF to the on-set conflicts stemming from a lack of peanut butter.

1. IT WAS TAILOR-MADE FOR ANDY GRIFFITH.

Following the end of The Andy Griffith Show in 1968, Griffith proceeded to star in a number of made-for-television features, some of which were intended to be the launching pad for new series. In two (Fatal Vision and Street Killing), he played attorneys. None caught on with viewers, save for one: Watching Fatal Vision, NBC entertainment president Brandon Tartikoff thought Griffith’s wry, salty federal prosecutor could be the kind of performance that could sustain a series. Tartikoff enlisted Perry Mason producer Dean Hargrove to write something customized for Griffith. The result was Matlock, a promising pilot guest-starring Dick Van Dyke as a sinister trial judge. As part of a spring 1986 Griffith comeback blitz that included a TV movie, Return to Mayberry, Matlock premiered in March 1986 to an impressive 28 million viewers.

2. GRIFFITH GOT A STANDING OVATION FOR HIS TRIAL SCENES.

In most episodes of Matlock, the attorney is able to finger the real assailant during cross-examination of a witness. These scenes required Griffith to spend considerable time standing—owing to Guillian-Barré Syndrome, he wore knee braces due to temporary paralysis of his lower legs—and delivering lengthy monologues. The actor also carried notes to help him recall dialogue and spent weekends rehearsing. When he finished, the crew would typically applaud the actor for nailing the complex and arduous “gotcha” speeches. According to co-star Nancy Stafford, Griffith almost always got the speech right on the first take.

3. GRIFFITH WANTED MATLOCK TO GET DARK.

Playing morally ambiguous characters was nothing new for Griffith, who had a turn as a power-hungry television personality in 1957’s A Face in the Crowd. But most of America identified him as Andy Taylor, the Mayberry sheriff who doubled as a moral compass for viewers. Doing Matlock, Griffith sometimes butted heads with Hargrove, with the actor arguing for his character to delve into the seedier side of law practice. Matlock, he argued, should have a drinking problem, or maybe land himself in jail. Hargrove fielded character tips, but blanched when Griffith wanted to alter the mystery plots of the series.

4. PEANUT BUTTER WAS A SOURCE OF FRICTION ON THE SHOW.

As the star of a hit show, Griffith was entitled to certain amenities. But he reportedly didn’t have much interest in lavish trailers or special treatment. The only thing he expected the production to cater was peanut butter, which Griffith considered one of his favorite foods. The actor would reportedly get extremely upset when he went to fetch some to use as a dip for his apples and found it missing. “Andy would get distressed sometimes because people who were not part of the crew would come on and eat the peanut butter and the apples,” Hargrove told author Daniel de Vise. “Andy was a hawk-eye on it, too.”

5. ALF MADE A GUEST APPEARANCE.

In 1987, Matlock attempted to entice viewers of other NBC shows to sample Griffith’s by concocting a plot in which Matlock defends a Hollywood producer accused of murdering a network executive. Betty White, Jason Bateman, and Malcolm Jamal-Warner made appearances, and so did the star of one of the network’s biggest hits: the alien-puppet sitcom ALF. The appearance comes at the end of the episode, with ALF remembering the producer’s abrasive demeanor on set. Whether he may have been a puppet or an actual alien in Matlock continuity is left for the audience to decide.

6. IT LAUNCHED A SPINOFF OF A SPINOFF.

A television spinoff series launched by an existing series is nothing new, with Frasier filling the void left by Cheers being one of the most notable examples. But Matlock pulled off a rare double spinoff: Hargrove used a 1986 Matlock episode to introduce Joe Penny and William Conrad as the crime-solving duo Jake and the Fatman. That show ran from 1987 to 1992. In one episode, the “Fatman” received help on a case from Mark Sloan, a physician with an instinct for investigation. Portrayed by Dick Van Dyke, Sloan got his own show, Diagnosis: Murder, in 1993. This byzantine Matlock television universe came full circle in 1997, when Griffith visited Sloan on Diagnosis: Murder to help him with a medical malpractice plot.

7. NBC GAVE IT THE BOOT.

After six seasons, Matlock was in trouble. Incoming NBC entertainment president Warren Littlefield was looking to back away from series that skewed to older audiences. In addition to In the Heat of the Night, he canned Matlock, which still ranked a respectable 40th out of 123 network shows of the era. Griffith and producers managed to move it over to ABC, telling them the show could move filming to North Carolina and save money on production. The show ran three more seasons before going off the air for good in 1995.

8. IT WAS RESURRECTED AS PART OF A PROTEST.

In 2013—long after the series left the airwaves and a year after star Griffith’s death—an NBC affiliate in Cleveland decided to resurrect a two-hour Matlock and air it in place of the network’s standard Thursday night lineup: The Office, struggling sitcom 1600 Penn, and Law & Order: SVU. Surprisingly, it did about as well in the Cleveland market as the sitcoms did nationally, though Law & Order drew a better overall rating. The affiliate, WKYC, decided to air Matlock as a protest to Griffith being excluded from an Oscars “In Memoriam” segment the previous Sunday. Media outlets looking to pick on NBC’s new offerings thought it was amusing that 1600 Penn, a White House comedy, was trumped by a 21-year-old TV movie. The lesson: Never underestimate Matlock.

Virginia’s University of Lynchburg is Adding a Harry Potter Class to Its Fall Curriculum

Warner Bros. Ent. Harry Potter Publishing Rights J.K.R.
Warner Bros. Ent. Harry Potter Publishing Rights J.K.R.

While it’s not exactly an invitation to Hogwarts, students at Virginia’s University of Lynchburg are getting just about the next best thing. This fall, the campus is adding a Harry Potter-themed class to its curriculum as a general education course.

The university is in the process of changing some of its course offerings and streamlining classes in recognition of its modern students. According to WSET ABC 13, Dr. Sharon Foreman, director of general education, said of the new curriculum: "It is very targeted towards 21st century students who are going out into a global society and so we want faculty, staff, and administrators to know what that means, what it looks like, and [to] experience it first hand.”

Faculty have decided providing an education for a global society includes offering courses like the upcoming "Harry Potter and the Good Life," which will ask students to read J.K. Rowling’s books alongside the works of philosophers to create connections between the past and present.

University of Lynchburg coordinator of integrated seminars Amy Merrill Willis told WSLS 10 News that the course's instructor, Devin Brickhouse Bryson, is "going to be introducing philosophical concepts from [Plato], Socrates, and Aristotle, and asking students to think about the Harry Potter series in depth.”

Although there may not be a sorting hat or Butterbeer involved, the class sounds like a creative way to engage students in philosophy and critical issues, all while focused on the beloved Harry Potter series.

[h/t WSET ABC 13]

Wizarding World Orlando’s New Roller Coaster Is Full of Harry Potter Easter Eggs

Universal Orlando
Universal Orlando

While Universal Studios Orlando is already home to some incredible attractions in its Wizarding World of Harry Potter, such as its very own Hogsmeade, the Hogwarts Express, and even a Hogwarts Castle, the newest roller coaster seems to be bringing out the most dedicated of Potterheads. The ride, called Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, saw whopping 10-hour waits in its opening days, and for those lucky enough to have experienced the brand-new attraction already, it looks like many have deemed it worth the line.

GameSpot got to take a ride on the Motorbike Adventure, and writer Meg Downey noted all the great details riders will encounter as they soar through the Forbidden Forest—which included a load of Easter eggs.

In particular, Downey calls out the many Harry Potter nods on the walls of the castle ruins. The graffiti, which resembles cave drawings, includes a joke about a Hippogriff attempting to catch Draco Malfoy (likely in reference to the Prisoner of Azkaban scene where the cocky wizard encounters Buckbeak), a drawing of a Phoenix that looks just like Fawkes, and even some sweet writings from Harry’s parents, James and Lily Potter.

A Blast-Ended Skrewt within Universal Orlando's Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
A Blast-Ended Skrewt within Universal Orlando's Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, a reference to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Universal Orlando

Additionally, the ride includes a reference to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, according to Downey, who reports that Hagrid has a poster of Nifflers in his main workshop.

The new ride seems to be a must-do experience for diehard Harry Potter fans, exploring some of the most mysterious parts of Hogwarts and the fun style of Hagrid and his creatures.

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