'Matlock - The First Season'
(Andy Griffith, et al / 7-Disc DVD / NR / (1986) 2008 / Paramount)
Overview: Matlock is a legal drama series starring Andy Griffith as defense attorney Ben Matlock - a Harvard-educated, fiery southerner who charges $100,000 a case to brilliantly defend his clients by finding the real killer.
DVD Verdict: In pop culture, decades tend to bleed over into one another. The fashions of the 1970s, for example, particularly the mid- to late-'70s, lingered in the air for a big chunk of the '80s, notably in films and on TV. The first season of the tongue-in-cheek crime drama "Matlock" is a great example: even though it aired in 1986-87, the show oozed a 'Seventies sensibility, from the onscreen fashion and acting, to the very feel of the show itself.
Partly this is because the show was clearly an homage to many of the offbeat police dramas that came before it - "Columbo", "McCloud," etc. - along with a whiff of the mildly risque hanky-panky of '70s romance shows such as "Love Boat," etc.
"Matlock" is a delightfully formulaic series, with Andy Griffith playing a doddering but undefeatable Southern "country" lawyer who commands big fees and wins big cases. His sidekicks include his spunky but sometimes naive daughter and a semi-retired, self-deprecating private eye who provides some "Magnum"-style muscle. The bad guys include various staple figures of '80s TV - slightly sleazy swingers, smug yuppie types, corrupt establishment figures, etc.
And in truth, Matlock could not have survived without the help of his private investigator Tyler Hudson and associate daughter Charlene Matlock. Matlock hardly ever lost a case - although in later seasons that would change. What was great about this show was that there was enough suspense in each episode to keep you watching until the very end.
The acting is stiff, the pacing of the show is almost lethargic by today's standards, the plot twists come 'round the bend like an old, slow freight train. And that's part of the charm. The show feels like a pair of old, comfortable shoes. Also fun is watching the show find its legs, as all first-season shows must, and the writers, actors and producers figure out what works and how the show will define itself.
Fans of the series will be delighted to see this finally out on DVD; newcomers will also enjoy it as a trip down memory lane... even if they weren't there the first time around! This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs but does not come with any Special Features.