Matlock 101

By Brian Ciampa

Matlock is one of my favorite INSP shows. Having aired during the 80s and 90s, the show offered viewers a very enjoyable experience for nine seasons. Thankfully, INSP allows us to continue that enjoyment.

Let me introduce you to Matlock, the show and Matlock, the lawyer! Have you only watched a few minutes of the show here and there, or never seen it? This post is an introduction to what may be another great addition to your list of favorites. Are you a longtime fan? This post will celebrate why we love this show so much.

Regardless of your level of familiarity with the series, you’ll see that the structure, characters, and storylines provide a gratifying experience for fans of drama and mystery. How do these episodes typically unfold?  Keep reading!

The Context

Abrupt.  Shrewd.  Demanding.  Winning at all costs. The stereotypical defense attorney often leaves people shaking in their boots.  Ben Matlock is none of those things…and more. His days are spent eating lunch at a hotdog cart in downtown Atlanta, plucking his banjo behind his desk, and striking up a friendly conversation with whoever may be able to help with his current case. However, don’t let that fool you. While coming across as fairly simple-minded, Ben Matlock is a very intelligent lawyer who can pull victory from the jaws of defeat in even the bleakest of situations. How does a southern lawyer with some folksy charm accomplish such a feat? By using his intelligence, ingenuity, and talented legal team (usually three people, including him) along with throwing a little drama and humor into the mix, Ben can take us on an exuberating crime solving journey.

The Hook

While the show deviates a bit in some of the later seasons, many of the Matlock episodes follow a whodunit format. The beginning of the show exposes the audience to a heated, public argument between two foes. When one of them turns up dead, all of the evidence seems to point to the other. An open and shut case, right? Hardly. In the midst of the accused murderer’s adamant claims of innocence, one man always seems to be representing an apparent killer in an uphill battle—Ben Matlock. Proving innocence is impossible, given the facts, right?

The Drama

With a small portion of the episode being used to set the stage and hook the audience, Ben Matlock and his small team now have less than an hour to prove to the judge, the jury, and his audience that his client is the wrong guy. This may involve everything from Matlock using his brilliance and southern charm to help some well-meaning witnesses see that they may not have told the police what they ACTUALLY saw, to following the real murderer to an abandoned warehouse where more foul play has arisen. However, Matlock is too smart to tackle all those dramatic situations by himself. Does a murder weapon need to be fished out of a frigid lake? Does a spy need to be planted in a circus, a bakery, or even the army? Does a package need to be intercepted between a mailbox and the post office? Sweet talking his hired hands, Tyler Hudson or Conrad McMasters, so that these less than desirable jobs sound appealing, is what Ben Matlock does best. Just don’t expect him to drink coffee out of a “Boss of the Year” mug anytime soon!

All joking aside, Matlock’s uphill battle often necessitates that he take his team into some pretty tense situations in order to find the real killer. In addition to Conrad and Tyler, daughters Charlene and Leanne along with a junior partner, Michelle, have joined him on these dramatic storylines throughout various parts of the series. No matter which combination of his team is involved, the episode delivers plenty of great drama. It’s often that one rabbit trail will lead to a dead end with no time left. That is, until the final courtroom scene begins, where Matlock does some of his most remarkable work.

The End

The exterior shot of the Atlanta courthouse with only a few minutes left in the episode often serves as a que for the audience to look alive. The moment is coming and it won’t disappoint. Once the prosecuting attorney has seemingly proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that Ben and his client have lost, Ben goes to work. By using his brilliance to lead the witness through a series of questions that appear to be entirely irrelevant, assuring the judge along the way that he is getting to the point, Matlock shows them to be very relevant. Had any other lawyer been involved, it would have been the perfect murder. Matlock shines his light on the imperfection. Something ever so small was left at the murder scene. A seemingly irrelevant question that was answered a few minutes ago exposes some knowledge about the victim that only the killer would know.

Whatever it is, Matlock links the current occupant of the witness stand to the crime and cements that reality into the jury’s mind. The prosecutor is stunned. The real killer is deflated. Once again, justice is served. It’s all in a day’s work in Atlanta! Is anyone up for celebrating? Hot dogs on Ben!

With each airing of this great show, INSP is helping mystery-lovers to relive an amazing courtroom drama. Andy Griffith and his supporting cast deliver a stellar performance that leaves the audience feeling fulfilled, entertained, and anxiously awaiting the next episode.



Meet Brian Ciampa

Brian Ciampa has always loved to write. He also loves classic TV. So, when the opportunity arose to contribute to the INSP blog, he jumped at it! Born and raised in the Nashville area, Brian grew up watching many of the great shows that INSP airs.

After high school, he moved to Florida where he completed his undergraduate and graduate degrees in information systems. Today he lives in Nashville with his wife and three children, and works as a project manager at an information security firm.