‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Griffith Once Revealed the ‘Best Role He Ever Had on TV’

by Joe Rutland
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If you asked Andy Griffith of “The Andy Griffith Show” fame about his best role on TV, then you’d think it’s Andy Taylor. Not so fast.

Griffith, who played the Mayberry sheriff for eight seasons on CBS, said in 1987 that Ben Matlock is “the best role he ever had on TV.”

“It’s a wonderfully conceived part,” Griffith told The Associated Press in an interview. “You’re almost unlimited in what you can do in the part. The courtroom scenes are fun to do because they have a theatrical quality to them.”

‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Star Said Character ‘Can Go In Directions’

He played defense attorney Ben Matlock on “Matlock” for nine seasons on NBC and ABC, respectively. What Griffith liked about Matlock is that the “character can go in directions than any I’ve done before.”

But Griffith had lots of experience in putting together a TV show thanks to his work on “The Andy Griffith Show.” Before that show, though, he also gained fame playing Lonesome Rhodes in Elia Kazan’s movie “A Face In The Crowd.” Obviously, another role connected with Griffith is his portrayal of Will Stockdale from “No Time For Sergeants.”

“Before we came on the air I couldn’t tell you what made us different or what Ben Matlock different from Perry Mason,” Griffith said in a MeTV article. His reference is to CBS’s long-running legal drama starring Raymond Burr as Mason.

Burr’s character, taken from the books of Erle Stanley Gardner, was all business alongside his secretary Della Street [Barbara Hale] and private investigator Paul Drake [William Hopper]. Matlock was business, too, but he also had a sense of humor about him.

Griffith Would Find His Attorney Character In Different Situations

“Matlock” would find himself in different situations, helping out all types of people in trouble. Just like a defense attorney would do. Yet one of his favorite things to talk about, as well as eat, are hot dogs. He’d always find a stand near the courthouse to get and eat one while having a serious conversation.

Also note that his character pretty much dressed the same when defending someone in court. Blue suit, white dress shirt, light-blue tie, and dress shoes. Quite different from the sheriff’s attire Griffith wore on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

One thread that viewers might draw between both shows is that they had to do with the law. Obviously, Sheriff Taylor was all about keeping Mayberry safe from crime. Ben Matlock was all about keeping his clients out of jail and winning cases in court.

“The Andy Griffith Show” was a sitcom while “Matlock” was a drama. Yet they also shared the indelible mark of Andy Griffith’s creativity and charm.

Griffith had two long-running TV series throughout his stage and screen career. His work remains available for people to see thanks to reruns.

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