Featured TV on DVD Review: Matlock: Season Seven
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Police procedurals, private investigators, courtroom dramas, etc. The murder mystery is one of the most enduring genres on TV. Matlock ran for nine seasons starting in 1986, but there were a lot of changes along the way. In fact, the only character to last the entire nine-year run was Ben Matlock. The end of season six marked the end for a couple characters, Michelle Thomas (Nancy Stafford) and A.D.A. Julie March (Julie Sommars) and the addition of two new characters. But did these changes help or hurt the show?
At the end of season six, we were introduced to Leanne McIntyre (Brynn Thayer) the daughter of Ben Matlock. They are going on The Vacation and are planning on being partners in their law firm. However, as they leave his home, they are followed by Cliff Lewis, who then bumps into Ben Matlock at a grocery store. It seems Cliff is also a lawyer, and despite claims of numerous job offers, wants to work with Matlock, which is why he followed him in the first place. It seems like a perfect plan, albeit a little crazy. It might have worked, but due to a strange set of circumstances, he's accused of murder. So instead of working for Ben Matlock, Ben Matlock works for him as his defense attorney. Of course, Conrad McMasters shows up to do the detective work, so there's a little more continuity from the previous season. However, both Cliff Lewis and Conrad McMasters appear in the credits more than they do during the actual show, so the show is really a duet with Ben and Leanne.
Do these changes work? Partially. With so many side characters gone or greatly diminished, there is a definite change in the chemistry of the show. I do like the chemistry between Andy Griffith and Brynn Thayer and having the father and daughter character dynamic adds more depth to their interactions. That said, there are a lot of changes to deal with. Fortunately, Andy Griffith is a pro and Ben Matlock is a great character, so while I don't think the overall cast is as strong as before, it's still a great show.
As for the individual episodes, it's an amazingly consistent show. None of the episodes are duds, although there are a few that are on the strange side. In The Ghost, Ben is hired by a ghost to defend his wife, who is accused of his murder. It's a good mystery, but the supernatural tone doesn't quite fit with the rest of the series. In The Class, Ben Matlock helps a class of law students and the discussion turns to how to commit the perfect murder. Later it seems one of them used his advice to kill one of the other students. Randy Travis returns as Billy Wheeler. This time he gets suckered by a beautiful con-woman, who ends up dead after ripping off Billy and a number of others. Matlock sees the other side of justice in The Juror when he's stuck with jury duty and he thinks the defendant is innocent. Ben might have hit pay-dirt in The Fortune, as he becomes the executor of an estate worth $200 million and he'll get $4 million as soon as the money's handed out. However, what starts out as a simple suicide becomes much, much, much more complicated. In The Revenge, someone is trying to destroy Ben Matlock's reputation, but who? Someone from his past? In The Divorce Ben and Leanne represent opposite sides of a divorce. Another highlight episode is The Final Affair, which is way too complicated to get through in a short description.
The only extras on the DVD are the optional episode previews, which are not really extras. There are play-all buttons, subtitles, and proper chapter placements.
Matlock is off its peak in terms of quality, but Season Seven is still an excellent series and if you've picked up the previous DVDs, there's no reason to stop now.
- Submitted by: C.S.Strowbridge
Date posted: 2012-02-19