I don’t know why I find this funny. But I’ll admit I find it hilarious. For the last several decades, The Simpsons has occasionally lampooned senior Abe Simpson’s love of a largely forgotten TV show from the 1980s. Perhaps the entirety of the show’s obsession can be summed up in this GIF:
If you’re not in on the joke, the show Matlock aired in the 1980s, principally appealing to older baby boomers and members of the greatest generation. It starred Andy Griffith as homespun lawyer Ben Matlock, who comfortingly inspired courtroom justice. Matlock’s signature look was the light colored suit and pointed finger, which happens to be extremely easy to find on the internet.
Matlock, along with Murder She Wrote, Touched by an Angel, and others, were throwbacks to an earlier style of television: the anthology series grounded by a recurring lead. In this sort of show, there’s some reason that our main character keeps encountering new people every week. There’s a problem of some sort to solve, which is always solved. And then we repeat the process about 25 times a year.
In the days before bingeing, this style of show provided easy, comfortable watching for folks who just wanted to see someone win in the end and didn’t really want to become part of a “cinematic universe.” Which, honestly, sounds pretty good around now too.
Matlock in other pop culture
Perhaps you are more familiar with Matlock as a touchstone used in Better Call Saul. In the middle of the first season, as future Saul Goodman was trying to develop a persona that would help him get senior clients, he seized upon a Matlock impression that helped him get in the door. Here’s Bob Odenkirk rocking the familiar look:
Of course, that all would work better in the early 2000s that Saul is set in than it does today. Today, the show’s largely forgotten and many younger people have never seen it. So…
For many people across the country, Matlock is available on demand through DIRECTV. I can’t promise it’s there for everyone, but search in the app and on your receiver and you’ll probably find it. If it’s not, here’s a present for you.
Because, honestly, YouTube has everything, right?
Matlock just might be the show we want to see right now. Like other legal procedurals of the 1970s and 1980s, everything ends neatly and everyone gets justice. Unlike some of the early examples of the genre, there aren’t as many cool cars or mutton chops. There’s also no action component, because Mr. Griffith was in his 60s when he shot the show.
Wait, that can’t be right.
Here’s something I just realized.
Andy Griffith was precisely 60 when he started making Matlock. In it, he played an elderly, kind gentleman who clearly belonged to an older generation.
Tom Cruise is currently 58 and is shooting what promises to be one of the largest action blockbusters in history, the untitled seventh Mission: Impossible film.
This means, logically, that there’s two years between looking like this:
and looking like this:
Man, I feel for you Tom. Clearly turning 59 is going to be a real bitch.