The show centers on widower Benjamin Leighton "Ben" Matlock, a renowned, folksy and popular though cantankerous attorney. Usually, at the end of the case, the person who is on the stand being questioned by Matlock is the actual perpetrator, and Matlock will expose him, despite making clear that his one goal is to prove reasonable doubt in the case of his client's guilt or to prove his client's innocence.
Matlock studied law at Harvard, and after several years as a public defender, established his law practice in Atlanta, living in a modest farmhouse in a neighboring suburb. He is known to visit crime scenes to discover clues otherwise overlooked and come up with viable, alternative theories of the crime in question (usually murder). Matlock also has conspicuously finicky fashion sense; he generally appears in court wearing a trademark light gray suit and, over the series' entire run, owned three generations of the Ford Crown Victoria—always an all-gray model (Griffith's character had always driven Ford products in his 1960s series, The Andy Griffith Show). Some Mayberry alumni—Don Knotts, Aneta Corsaut, Betty Lynn, Jack Dodson and Arlene Golonka—made guest appearances on Matlock.
Matlock is noted for his thrift and a fondness for hot dogs. After the series ended, his penchant for hot dogs was explained in the 1997 episode "Murder Two" of Joyce Burditt's Diagnosis Murder. Matlock blames Dr. Mark Sloan (Dick Van Dyke) for recommending a disastrous investment in 8-track cartridges, in which he lost his savings of $5,000 in 1969, while he survived by wearing cheap suits and living on hot dogs. Despite his thrift, Matlock's standard fee is $100,000, usually paid up front, but if he or his staff believe strongly enough in the innocence of a client, or if the client is unable to pay immediately (if at all), he will have them pay over time, or will reduce the fee significantly or waive it entirely, albeit reluctantly in some cases. He will also, reluctantly, take a pro bono case occasionally, and at least on one occasion, he has worked as the prosecuting attorney in a trial.
These traits, and the demands he placed upon his investigators, were often points of comic relief in the series. Andy Griffith's prior career as a comic often showed through in things Matlock did or said.
Matlock generally defended his clients in the Fulton County Courthouse, which was actually the Second Church of Christ, Scientist located at 948 West Adams Boulevard in Los Angeles.
|Andy Griffith||Ben Matlock||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*|
|Linda Purl||Charlene Matlock||*|
|Nancy Stafford||Michelle Thomas||*||*||*||*||*|
|Kari Lizer||Cassie Phillips||*|
|Julie Sommars||A.D.A. Julie March||o||o||*||*||*||*||o|
|Brynn Thayer||Leanne McIntyre||*||*|
|Daniel Roebuck||Cliff Lewis||*||*||*|
|Carol Huston||Jerri Stone||*|
|Kene Holliday||Tyler Hudson||*||*||*|
|Clarence Gilyard, Jr.||Conrad McMasters||*||*||*||*|
| Orange/Red/o indicates a recurring or guest role during that season.|
Dark Green indicates top billing during that season.
|David Froman||Lt. Bob Brooks||*||*||*||*||*||*||*|
|Richard Newton||Judge Richard Cooksey||*||*||*||*||*||*|
|Michael Durrell||DA Lloyd Burgess||*||*||*||*||*||*|
|Lucille Meredith||Irene Sawyer||*||*||*||*|
|Don Knotts||Les Calhoun||*||*||*||*|
|Warren Frost||Billy Lewis||*||*||*||*|
|Al Wiggins||Judge Clagett||*||*||*|
|Season One||September 23, 1986||May 12, 1987||23 + 1|
|Season Two||September 22, 1987||May 3, 1988||24|
|Season Three||November 29, 1988||May 16, 1989||20|
|Season Four||September 19, 1989||May 8, 1990||24|
|Season Five||September 18, 1990||April 30, 1991||22|
|Season Six||October 18, 1991||May 8, 1992||22|
|Season Seven||November 5, 1992||May 6, 1993||18|
|Season Eight||September 23, 1993||May 19, 1994||22|
|Season Nine||October 13, 1994||May 7, 1995||18|
- At a Glance: Additional information about the series
|Season Sets (Region 1)|
|The First Season||April 8, 2008||purchase||7|
|The Second Season||January 13, 2009||purchase||6|
|The Third Season||July 7, 2009||purchase||5|
|The Fourth Season||March 2, 2010||purchase||6|
|The Fifth Season||July 20, 2010||purchase||6|
|The Sixth Season||January 25, 2011||purchase||6|
|The Seventh Season||February 21, 2012||purchase||3|
|The Eighth Season||February 12, 2013||purchase||6|
|The Ninth and Final Season||July 16, 2013||purchase||5|
|Complete Series (Region 1)|
|The Complete Series||April 7, 2015||—|