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Illustration for article titled Really, Matlock? Its up to me?

Let me be explicit about how embarrassing my love of television mysteries is: I own season one of Matlock on DVD. I paid money for it and felt no shame. My reasons were twofold:

  1. I love a one hour mystery with a senior detective. Seriously. If someone is retired or close to it and they potter around using their diminishing social value against people in order to garner information and undermine murderers, I will watch that. Take that, society. Also, an aging Perry Mason is dreamy.
  2. Matlock is the best nap inducer ever created.

Regarding number two: I grew up in an era when broadcast television showed reruns all morning, interspersed with game shows. Staying home sick meant I Love Lucy or, in my older years, Matlock. This was even true when I got off work early from being a barista in my late 20s. So, I took a lot of illness/depression/medication induced naps in the soft glow of a television series focused on an aged Atlanta lawyer with a static wardrobe and a disgusting love of eating hot dogs with his mouth open. For many years, I was certain that episodes of this folksy curmudgeon's show had no denouement because who was even awake at the end of an episode to see it? I figured that 40 minutes in they just played a Brahms' version of the theme and let the audience rest our eyes.


I have recently discovered the televised version of Unisom on Youtube and been watching them as much I can watch and concentrate on anything and I came across a gem. Season 2, Episode 18 "The Hucksters" deals with a pyramid scheme and features Beth Broderick (Aunt Zelda from Sabrina) as an aerobics instructor. That's not super noteworthy. But, this voice-over interjection at 30:20 is:

A killer's fate is in your hands. Now, you decide who killed Robert Ullman. Call in now ... Your vote will help decide how this episode will end. Jot down these numbers. The lines are open now. All calls received during the next seven minutes will be counted ... There will be a fifty cent charge for each call. NBC's proceeds will be donated to charity and your call will be answered by recorded announcement.

  • Fifty cents?
  • Seven minutes?
  • What charity? What charity? It matters.

This isn't the first show to have an audience decide the killer, but other, more recent shows (Psych sticks out particularly) shill it as an innovation. But, no. In 1988, Matlock was giving people at home seven minutes of call in heaven.

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