A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this '80s legal drama includes shots of bloody murder victims and rare scenes of the violent act in progress. Crime, prostitution, and extramarital affairs are often central to storylines -- but overall, the subject matter is mild compared to today's standards. Supporting female characters sometimes wear skimpy outfits, and, in at least one bar scene, perform exotic dances in bras and thongs. Seemingly trustworthy characters often turn out to be enemies, and Matlock and his associates occasionally lie or trick people into giving up information.
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What's the story?
MATLOCK stars TV legend Andy Griffith as criminal defense attorney Benjamin Matlock, a cunning Southern lawyer whose unique brand of gumshoeing manages to both exonerate his innocent clients and point the finger at the guilty culprits. Matlock runs a high-priced legal practice out of his charming farmhouse near Atlanta; due to his stellar reputation, his standard fee runs about $100,000 -- a sum most of his clients pay happily for the near guarantee of escaping murder charges -- but he also does plenty of pro bono work for friends of friends who accidentally wind up behind bars. The down-home lawyer takes a hands-on approach to his work, and he and his team of associates and investigators work each case together -- visiting the crime scene, interviewing witnesses, and chasing down other possible perpetrators. But in the end, it's usually the white-haired legal genius who gets the light-bulb moment of realization when the pile of jumbled clues clatters into place and indicates the true villain.
Is it any good?
Matlock's easygoing demeanor, unassuming personality, definitive fashion statement (he wears the same gray suit nearly every second of the day), and general down-home attitude will appeal to adult viewers who prefer legal dramas without the edginess -- or strong violence and language -- of many of today's grittier crime shows. That said, teens may find those same qualities a bit corny for their liking.
Throughout its nine-year run (the show originally aired from 1986-1995), Matlock's cast endured plenty of changes, but none upset the series' balance of plot and character drama. When the series started, Matlock's daughter Charlene (played by Lori Lethin in the pilot and Linda Purl thereafter) worked alongside him; later, associate Michelle Thomas (Nancy Stafford) took Charlene's spot, and, after the sixth season, Matlock's other lawyer daughter, Leanne MacIntyre (Brynn Thayer) came on board. Tyler Hudson (Kene Holliday) and Conrad McMasters (Clarence Gilyard, Jr.) handled investigative duties, with Cliff Lewis (Daniel Roebuck) and Jerri Stone (Carol Huston) sleuthing it out in the final seasons. Matlock also welcomed guest stars like Randy Travis, Dick Van Dyke, and Bryan Cranston over the years. Griffith and Don Knotts also struck up another TV friendship loosely reminiscent of the one they had on The Andy Griffith Show, with Knotts playing Matlock's neighbor Ace Calhoun, a wannabe know-it-all whose attempts at lending a hand often lead to silly mishaps and accidents. Fans of The Andy Griffith Show will enjoy the multiple references to that series.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how primetime TV content has changed over time. Does the violence in this series seem realistic? If not, do you think it did when it first aired? How does it compare with modern crime dramas like Law & Order? Is one more upsetting than the other? Why? How have viewers' standards for "acceptable" levels of violence, sexual content, and language in primetime TV changed over the past 20 years? What does this say about society? Who decides what's "acceptable" to begin with?
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