Matlock almost had a spinoff starring George Peppard and Tracy Nelson
Can you see Sister Steve and John “Hannibal” Smith as a father-daughter P.I. team?
Though most people associate Andy Griffith with this namesake 1960s sitcom, his later legal drama, Matlock, certainly has its fair share of fans. Take Griffith's knack for humor, mix it with the courtroom drama of Perry Mason, add in a sprinkling of memorable side characters and you have a great show.
One side character proved so popular that he got his own spinoff after the first season! William Conrad, star of Cannon and the Gunsmoke radio series, played District Attorney James L. McShane on Matlock, which inspired his character Jason "Fatman" McCabe on Jake and the Fatman.
Years later, producers had another spinoff in mind.
They cast Tracy Nelson (best known as Sister Stephanie "Steve" Oskowski in Father Dowling Mysteries) as a family friend of Ben Matlock. In the season-eight episode "The P.I.," Nelson's character, Jessie, tells Ben that she is moving to Los Angeles. Ben reveals where she can find her estranged father when she gets to southern California.
From there, the episode veers away from Matlock and essentially becomes a pilot episode for a new show.
Jessie locates her private investigator father, Max (played by The A-Team's George Peppard), and decides to help him with a case. When a woman is killed, Jessie and Max have to prove their client's innocence and identify the real killer.
The new series planned to follow the private-eye duo as they solved mysteries and got to know each other better — while Max tried to make up for the years he was absent from Jessie's life. The father-daughter team-up formula mirrored the way Ben worked with his daughter, Charlene, and later his other daughter, Leanne, on Matlock. It also brought to mind Barnaby Jones, to some extent.
Unfortunately, George Peppard passed away before the new investigative series could come to fruition. "The P.I." originally aired on March 3, 1994, and Peppard died of pneumonia just two months later. Max Morgan on Matlock was his final role.
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Fred Silverman and Dean Hargrove were trying to keep their TV company going as their older shows were aging out of the system (like DIAGNOSIS: MURDER, JAKE AND THE FATMAN, and IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT had wound down at the same time).
The backdoors wouldn't open though - and that was that.