‘Matlock’: Andy Griffith Described Ben Matlock as ‘So Cheap and Vain’

by Joe Rutland
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Whew, who knew Andy Griffith had a case of heartburn over Ben Matlock? Griffith had a couple of pointed views about him and “Matlock.”

“He was so cheap and vain,” Griffith said in a 1996 interview for Parade Magazine. “Later, I pushed and got it better. I was a troublemaker. I wanted better scripts, better actors.”

Griffith said, too, that he does “work on the scripts, and very hard.”

In case you haven’t been around a TV for a few years, then let me fill you in briefly. Griffith, known around the world for playing Sheriff Andy Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show,” returned to TV years later in “Matlock.”

He played Ben Matlock, a defense attorney who helped people get out of precarious legal situations.

Andy Griffith Worked Hard To Change ‘Matlock’ Character

When it comes to seeing Matlock’s character, Griffith just couldn’t find a lot of redeeming qualities about him.

Pretty soon, Ben Matlock had a sense of humor, played his guitar, and would find himself dealing with everyone from bikers to the rich.

Griffith’s hard work in turning the initial look of the character around did pay off. “Matlock” was on for nine seasons which, actually, is a bit longer than his CBS show was on the air.

Anytime an actor puts two memorable characters on TV and has those shows running in syndication is worthy of accolades. Andy Griffith is one guy who will not be forgotten among fans of “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Matlock.”

Griffith Wanted ‘Matlock’ To Be Opposite Of Andy Taylor

While he’s still remembered for both shows, Griffith clearly wanted Ben Matlock to be different from Andy Taylor.

“Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show” is a book by Daniel de Visé. The book discusses Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, and their famous television show. But de Visé also shares some pieces on other Griffith shows like “Matlock.”

“He envisioned Ben Matlock as a sort of antihero, more complex than Andy Taylor, vain, uncultured, cheap, and vaguely unlikable,” de Visé wrote.

He also writes that Griffith “imagined Matlock struggling with alcohol addiction, getting thrown out of court, tossed into jail.” In other words, everything that Andy Taylor was not.

While a little of that popped up in Matlock’s character, a lot of those qualities he wanted in there didn’t make it. Griffith remembered the gory days of having a say in his own show with CBS.

“When I was doing the Griffith Show, the network was only your host,” Griffith said in the book. “They came down once a year to say hello. When the network gained control and they put all these children in these offices, it all went to hell then. It was all so easy in the early days.”

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