Courtroom dramas today are so boring. The reason being that there are so many of them. And among that mass of legalese there is little to no originality among said series. Thankfully those that love the genre but hate the general lack of choices have another option thanks to the people at CBS DVD and Paramount. That option comes in the form of the new Matlock compilation set Matlock: Greatest Cases. The three-disc collection was released in stores this past March. And regardless of viewers’ familiarity with the series this recently released collection proves to be one that any courtroom drama fan will enjoy. This is especially the case for those looking to escape all of the cookie cutter series on television today. The main reason for this is the collection of episodes featured throughout all three discs. There are eleven episodes featured in this set, one of which is a two-part episode. What’s more, each of the series’ nine seasons is represented through the episodes. This will be discussed shortly. It is just one reason that the collection proves so interesting for audiences. The writing behind each of the featured episodes is just as much to note as the episodes themselves. Audiences will note a clear difference between the overall content of these episodes and those of nearly every other courtroom drama that has been on television since it ended its run. Last but hardly least of note in this set is the work of the show’s cast, most notably of lead actor Andy Griffith. The intensity that seems so prevalent among casts of today’s courtroom dramas is nowhere to be seen at any point in these episodes. Yet the cast (including the guest stars) still keeps viewers entertained and engaged from beginning to end in each. It shows that even today dramas don’t have to be so overly dramatic in order to be entertaining. It rounds out the ways in which Matlock: Greatest Cases proves to be such an entertaining new collection of episodes from the classic series. Together with the featured episodes and their writing, the collection in whole shows clearly why dramaphiles and Matlock fans alike will want to pick up this box set.
Matlock is one of the best courtroom dramas of the 20th century. It ran for a total of nine seasons from 1986 to 1995. That run is actually as long as CBS’ classic courtroom drama Perry Mason. THAT series ran for nine seasons from 1957 to 1966. Earlier this year, CBS DVD and Paramount teamed up to release Matlock in its entirety in one complete series box set. It marked the second time since 2013 that the series had been released in one complete box set. Along with that collection CBS DVD and Paramount also released the much smaller compilation Matlock: Greatest Cases ahead of the show’s full-series re-issue on March 10th. This collection is a good representation of what made Matlock such a hit series for so long regardless of viewers’ devotion to the series. The main reason for this is the collection’s featured episodes. Matlock: Greatest Cases features a total of eleven episodes, one of which was a two-part episode. That brings the episode list to a total of twelve spread across three discs. The episodes themselves are just part of what makes them important. A closer look at the set reveals that all nine of the series’ seasons are represented through these episodes. That means that while it may only present eleven (or twelve depending on how one decides to count it) episodes, the collection in whole paints a relatively rich picture of the series and what made it such a fan favorite in its initial run on television. That being the case, the episodes that are featured throughout this collection show clearly why they are an important part of the collection’s overall presentation. They are not the set’s only important element, either. The writing behind the episodes is just as important as the episodes themselves.
The episodes that were culled for Matlock: Greatest Cases are in themselves an important part of the presentation’s whole. That is because they paint a relatively full picture of the series. The picture in question succeeds in showing in its own way what made (and continues to make) Matlock such a fan favorite. Of course without solid writing, the episodes wouldn’t be worth the presentation. It is safe to say in regards to the series writing that it is definitely solid. As a matter of fact, it is far more solid (and enjoyable) than that of so many courtroom dramas that have come along since Matlock ended its initial run. That is exemplified in every one of the collection’s episodes. That is because the show depicted within each featured episode is one that was more soft-boiled than hard. To illustrate that comparison, it is more akin to the like of Perry Mason than Law & Order or other more modern courtroom dramas. That is exemplified primarily through the set’s lead episode “The Judge.” Guest starring legendary entertainer Dick Van Dyke, the episode sees Van Dyke’s character Judge Carter Addison on trial after the murder of his lover Joanne Leigh (Bobbie Eakes–The Bold and the Beautiful, All My Children, One Life To Live). Most of the story takes place in the courtroom. There is no time wasted with investigators running around searching for evidence and interviewing possible suspects here, there, and everywhere. What this does is it allows for more character and story development. In turn, the noted character and story development will keep viewers fully engaged from beginning to end. It’s just one example of the importance of the series’ writing in this collection of episodes. “The Last Laugh” is another example of the importance of the series’ writing.
“The Judge” is in itself a key example of what makes Matlock’s writing so important even in this three-disc episode collection. “The Last Laugh” is another example of its importance. While subtle the episode’s title is one way in which the writing proves to be so important not just here but in every episode. The episode’s title, as with each featured episode’s title, is short and straight to the point. It tells the episode’s story without trying to be kitschy in its delivery or too simplistic either. The story’s execution is just as important as its title. In this episode, Matlock has to defend comedian Harvey Chase (Milton Berle) after Chase is accused of murdering another comic that had insulted him in front of an entire audience. The case looks to be cut and dry until Harvey accidentally reveals an important piece of evidence that could in fact prove his innocence. Not even Harvey had thought about the key piece of evidence. The ultimate reveal at the story’s end makes the whole adventure worth the watch. That is because at no point in the story’s run does Berle (who co-wrote the episode with Stephen Lord) make the answer obvious to audiences. Rather it keeps audiences guessing right up to that moment. In other words, Berle and Lord keep audiences engaged with ease from beginning to end yet again. They show just as much here as in any of the series’ other episodes that it is possible to have an enjoyable mystery without the dark, gritty content that is so prevalent in so many of today’s crime and courtroom dramas. It is not the last example of what makes the featured episodes’ writing so important even as impressive as it is here. “The Debt” is another example of the importance of the writing behind Matlock even in this collection of episodes.
“The Judge” and “The Last Laugh” are both key examples of what makes Matlock’s writing so important in the series’ latest collection of episodes. That is thanks in large part to the stories’ execution. The same can be said of Season Seven’s “The Debt.” This episode sees Matlock’s daughter Leanne having to defend her ex-husband Peter MacIntyre after he is accused of murdering his friend and boss. The accusation stemmed from the discovery of Peter kneeling over said individual’s dead body, which had a large knife sticking in it. While not an overly used plot element, the use of an estranged couple being forced into one another’s lives in a difficult situation is not necessarily new to the entertainment world. Nor was it new at the time of the episode’s airing. That aside it was still handled quite well here. It was nice to see Leanne not just giving in to Peter as he begged her to represent him even as he tried to seduce her. Female viewers will be proud to see her stand up to Peter and remind him that he is with another woman and she will not fall for his attempts. In the same vein, it is interesting to see something of a different side to Matlock in this episode, too. He shows a certain vulnerability when Leanne tells him that she is going to represent Peter. As the story proceeds audiences see a change in Matlock’s view of his one-time son-in-law. That is because Peter’s sense of morality begins to kick in and even he grows. That overall character development ties directly in to the episode’s overall script and helps the story in whole advance with ease. Because it does, it will keep viewers just as engaged as any of the other episodes featured in this box set. It is one more example of the importance of the writing behin Matlock in the series’ new box set. It is not the only other example of said importance either. There is still a handful of other episodes in this collection that could just as easily be cited in illustrating the importance of the series’ writing. Regardless of whether one cites those episodes or the ones noted here, it can be said of each episode within this collection that each one shows in its own way the importance of the series’ writing. All combined, the writing with each of the set’s featured episodes proves why dramaphiles and Matlock fans alike will want to add this box set to their own DVD libraries.
The episodes that make up the body of Matlock: Greatest Cases, and the writing behind each episode clearly show together why this three-disc set is one that any dramaphile and Matlock fan will want to add the collection to his or her own home DVD library. They are just part of the reason why said audiences will want to pick up this recent release, too. The work of the show’s cast is also of note in the set’s featured episodes beginning with lead actor Andy Griffith. While Griffith isn’t playing Andy Taylor in Matlock, each episode here shows that he still carried over some of that down home personality that made him so beloved during his days on The Andy Griffith Show. Yet at the same time, there is a certain serious element to his portrayal of Ben Matlock. Thanks to boasting both character elements, Matlock comes across as the kind of person that anyone would want should they ever end up in court. He is a lawyer with heart. And it’s not the overly pious and emotional heart that is so common among lawyers on today’s courtroom dramas. The guest stars are just as enjoyable to watch in this collection, too. Dick Van Dyke showed that he was just as capable as a villain in “The Judge” as he was a comedic actor in The Dick Van Dyke Show or even a more serious actor in Diagnosis Murder. It goes to prove his versatility as an actor in simpler terms. And Milton Berle is just as entertaining in his guest role in “The Last Laugh.” Given, he was type cast for the role. But even considering this, Berle (It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World, Batman, The Love Boat) still handled his role with the utmost seriousness and expertise. When Harvey is forced to admit that his career is near its end, the emotion in his voice and on his face is so powerful. With his acting experience, it would have been so easy for him to just phone it in and even ham it up. But he didn’t go that route, opting instead to really give his best possible performance. It is just one more portrayal that proves the work of the show’s cast (main and otherwise) to be just as important as th episodes themselves and the writing behind each featured episode. Th combination of all three elements together makes Matlock: Greatest Cases a collection that dramaphiles will enjoy just as much as the series’ original fans.
Matlock: Greatest Cases may not be as big as the recent re-issue of the show’s full-series DVD box set. Regardless it is still a collection that any of the show’s original fans will enjoy just as much as any dramaphiles in general. The main reason for this is the set’s featured episodes. The episodes that were culled for the three-disc set represent each of the series’ nine seasons on television. The writing behind each of the featured episodes sets the show completely apart from all of the overly gritty hard-boiled courtroom dramas. The writing makes it more akin to the likes of Perry Mason than Law & Order. The work of the show’s cast in each of the featured episodes is just as important as the episodes and their writing. All three elements together make this collection whole and wholly entertaining to dramaphiles and the show’s original fans alike. It is available now in stores and online. More information on this and other titles from CBS DVD and Paramount is available online now at:
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