5 ways the 'Matlock' pilot is different from the series

The first time we met Matlock, there were a few differences.

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It was eighteen years after The Andy Griffith Show had ended. Seventeen years since his appearances on Mayberry R.F.D. In that time, Andy Griffith had had three shows that only lasted a season — Headmaster in 1970, The New Andy Griffith Show in 1971, and Salvage 1 in 1979.

He certainly wasn't hurting for work with a slate of TV movies and a fun variety of guest-starring parts on popular shows, but Andy had a hard time recapturing the long-running magic that was The Andy Griffith Show.

Until "Diary of a Perfect Murder", the two-hour pilot of Matlock premiered in 1986. Matlock would go on to air another 193 episodes and become another one of Andy's famous roles on the level of Sheriff Taylor.

But the show we saw in the pilot wasn't quite the same as the show we became familiar with. Here are five ways the pilot was different from the main series.

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1. Matlock's mother


In "Diary of a Perfect Murder," it is mentioned that Ben Matlock's mother is still alive. In later episodes in the series, it is said that his mother died. Maybe she just died between the time of the pilot and those episodes? Not exactly, because apparently she died while Matlock was young. So this is left behind as a continuity error.

2. The daughter switch


This is one of the more obvious ones. In "Diary of a Perfect Murder," his daughter is played by Lori Lethin, who was known affectionately as a scream queen for her appearances in '80s horror movies, including Return to Horror High with Maureen McCormick. In the series, she would be replaced by Linda Purl from Happy Days.

3. The spacious courtroom


In the pilot, the courtroom Matlock works in is larger and different. In the series itself, the familiar room is smaller. Maybe he got downgraded?

4. The theme song


Well...sort of. It's the same melody, technically, but in "Diary of a Perfect Murder," Dick DeBenedictus's theme was slower and a little more serious. By the time the actual series rolled out, it had been brought up in tempo to the more upbeat, jazzy theme we still know.

5. The opening credits


To go along with the more serious theme song, the opening credits in the pilot were accompanied by still photographs with color blocks. In the series proper, it would switch to footage from the show during the credits.

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Wiseguy70005 1 month ago
Designing Women also set in Atlanta with a character named Charlene also premiered in 1986.
Wiseguy70005 1 month ago
Another difference was Matlock had a Della Street-type secretary in the pilot.
hermanstein2015 24 months ago
I absolutely love Matlock! One of my favorite shows!
CaptainDunsel 33 months ago
"Andy Griffith had had three shows that only lasted a season..."
He also had a fourth show that never *quite* made it to air. "Adams of Eagle Lake" (1975) was a
drama series developed from the 1974 TV movie "Winter Kill". Andy Griffith played the sheriff of a mountain resort community similar to Tahoe. Two episodes were filmed before ABC and/or Griffith pulled the plug over creative differences.
RichLorn 33 months ago
This reminds me of Columbo in the sense that his character in the pilot (Prescription: Murder) is quite different from the series. And unlike most, I actually prefer the character in the pilot. More believable and clever in a sly way.
MaryHelen 33 months ago
there was a third actress who played matlock's daughter, leann mcytire-- by brynnhyer
Wiseguy70005 MaryHelen 1 month ago
Stupid decision to call her Leanne since Matlock never said he had more than one daughter. Just call her Charlene.
F5Twitster 33 months ago
The show had no "theme song," because there were NO LYRICS.

A song MUST HAVE LYRICS, otherwise it's just MUSIC. The two words, song and music, are NOT interchangeable: all songs are music, but not all music is a song.
MaryHelen F5Twitster 33 months ago
oh please! songs do not have to have lyrics, are called instrumentals!!! many tv shows had these theme songs-- no one called them theme music including hawaii five O and missin impossible and bonnza
Wiseguy70005 MaryHelen 1 month ago
Hawaii Five-0 with a zero. Stands for the 50th state.
ncadams27 33 months ago
Pilots are used to sell a series and once sold the focus is now on continuing the series. Many pilots are filmed a year or more before the show is picked up. Some refer to the first episode of a new series as the pilot, but this is not always the case. Some pilots never air, aired as part of another series (often an anthology), or as an episode of an existing series. Sometimes the actual pilot which previously aired on another series aired as the first episode - as in the Rifleman. Sometimes the pilot airs later in the series as in Star Trek.
MarkSpeck ncadams27 33 months ago
The pilot episodes of I Spy, Wild Wild West and Honey West all aired later in their respective first seasons as well.
Wiseguy70005 MarkSpeck 1 month ago
The pilot of The Wild Wild West was broadcast as the first episode.
Maverick66 33 months ago
Matlock suffered from the same lack of continuity as TAGS. Characters came & went, characters' history/background changed, and locations changed without little or no attempt to explain anything.

In both cases, fans just accept these things & enjoy the shows (that's what I do anyway).
Michael 33 months ago
But how many daughters did he have in the pilot? And any sign of Billy Lewis?
Wiseguy70005 Michael 1 month ago
Matlock always had one daughter which Is why it was stupid to name the third actress Leanne. Billy didn't appear until the seventh season after the switch to ABC.
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