Andy Griffith thought Matlock might be too similar to Perry Mason
At first, Griffith had his reservations.
Lawyer shows are like synchronized Nutribullets, they all seem to blend together.
How many stories can you tell in a legal setting? How do you keep things exciting when every episode needs to climax in a verdict of either "Guilty" or "Not Guilty?" It might feel like there's a finite number of dramatic arcs, but with enough creativity, the possibilities are endless.
Andy Griffith needed to learn that lesson when he debuted with Matlock in 1986. While that show would go on to last for nine seasons, at first, Griffith himself was unsure of how different it could be. He spoke on those anxieties in a 1987 interview with Associated Press writer Jerry Buck.
"Before we came on the air I couldn't tell you what made us different or what made Ben Matlock different from Perry Mason," said Griffth. "You just don't know, but once you're on the air a show begins to take on a personality, and that's what's happening now with Matlock."
Griffith may not have had a ton of confidence in the show's chances, Matlock would go on to be another wonderful chapter in his career. The people who wrote the show were able to inject it with enough inventiveness that it ended up being one of the most memorable lawyer shows of all time.
By the end of season one, Griffith was sold on Matlock's prospects.
"It's a wonderfully conceived part," said Griffith of his Ben Matlock character. "You're almost unlimited in what you can do in the part. The courtroom scenes are fun to do because they have a theatrical quality about them."