‘Matlock’: Dick Van Dyke Guest-Starred in Season 1 as a Murdering Judge

by Jennifer Shea

Generations of TV viewers know Dick Van Dyke as the wholesome, clumsy but well-intentioned husband on “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” But he also appeared on “Matlock” in a much darker role.

In the Season 1 episode “The Judge,” Van Dyke plays Judge Carter Addison, per IMDb. The judge has murdered his cheating mistress and framed her lover for her death. With Ben Matlock defending him, the man goes to court with Judge Addison overseeing his trial.

In fact, after “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” Van Dyke would go on to play other villains, such as in the 1990 movie “Dick Tracy.” And he tackled the lead role in “Diagnosis: Murder,” which was much more serious dramatic fare than he had taken on early in his career.

Dick Van Dyke Endured Some Lean Years

Before “Matlock” and before “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” Van Dyke went through some hard times. A story later circulated that he and his wife were living in their car, but Van Dyke told Esquire in 2007 that that’s not true.

“My wife and I weren’t living in a car,” he explained. “We had a rough go after we were married. I failed to pay the rent and we got evicted while my wife was pregnant. We were in a little motel room, cooking on a hot plate. It was really a low time, but we were never living in a car.”

“Things looked up after that,” he added. “We were awfully close to being homeless — enough to empathize, anyway.”

Somehow, Van Dyke managed to make it from that personal low to career highs like landing his own TV show, which lasted from 1961 to 1966, or getting a standing ovation on Broadway.

The Actor Is a ‘Jeopardy!’ Fan

The actor and comedian shared that he has tended more toward serious subjects as he ages. He has a preference for nonfiction. And there’s very little on TV that feels somber enough for him.

“For some reason, as time gets short in life, wasting time escaping through entertainment bothers me,” Van Dyke told Esquire. “I’ve been off fiction for years. I don’t watch episodic television. I want information or something thought provoking. I’m down to the History Channel and ‘Jeopardy!’”

It’s a safe bet that the passing of Alex Trebek saddened Van Dyke, but, at age 95, he’s still going strong.