To toast Andy Griffith's canny, charming defense attorney, we gathered some fascinating facts you might not know about the show. So slip on a gray suit, grab a hot dog, and study these notes.
1. The Fulton County Courthouse was actually the Second Church of Christ, Scientist in Los Angeles.Matlock's stomping grounds of Atlanta were filmed in Los Angeles, because it's television. This impressive domed structure is located in the West Adams neighborhood of L.A., just blocks north of the USC campus. In 1987, after the first season of Matlock, it was added to the national register of historic places. But not because of Matlock.
2. Ben Matlock is reputed to have been based on Georgia lawyer Bobby Lee Cook. Cook was known for his legal skill and folksy charm. He notably defended Bobby Hoppe in a cold case. Hoppe, a former running back on the championship 1957 Auburn football team, was tried in 1988 for the murder of a bootlegger 31 years prior. The trial ended in a hung jury.
3. Andy Griffith was onscreen as Matlock more than he was as Andy Taylor. Though Griffith filmed more episodes in his role of Mayberry's beloved sheriff, Matlock's hour-long format meant that the actor logged more screen time as Matlock than as Taylor.
4. The show's highest Nielsen Ratings finish was #14.Just below Alf
and L.A. Law
. Can't win 'em all.
5. Matlock appeared on two networks.
After beginning on NBC in 1986, the series moved to ABC in 1992.
6. Jake and the Fatman was its spin-off.
William Conrad appeared on the first season of Matlock as a prosecuting attorney. Producers liked the character so much, they based a CBS series off him. Therefore, the world of Matlock reached to three major television networks. What other shows can boast that? Of course, Conrad portrayed Matt Dillon on the radio version of Gunsmoke. Ironically, he was deemed too fat for the role, and James Arness was cast as the U.S. Marshall.
7. Matlock and Monk exist in the same fictional universe.
Diagnosis: Murder was a spin-off of Jake and the Fatman which was a spin-off of Matlock. Dick Van Dyke's Diagnosis proved so popular that it spawned a series of mystery novels. Characters from the second book, The Death Merchant, later reappeared in author Lee Goldberg's Monk novelizations. Hence, all these fictional sleuths are in the same shared universe!
8. Both Matlock and Andy Taylor always drove a Ford.
Ben Matlock loved to cruise in a gray Crown Victoria (three different models of them over the years). The squad cars on The Andy Griffith
show were Galaxie 500 sedans, as the Ford Motor Company provided vehicles for Mayberry.
9. Theme song composer Dick DeBenedictis penned music for many other classic TV shows.
The brassy, Dixie intro is one of Matlock's most memorable elements. The veteran television composer behind the theme also contributed scores to Columbo, Quincy, M.E., The Carol Burnett Show and Perry Mason (though, it should be noted, not the theme song).