Commentary

Linear TV Is Alien Concept To Young Lawyers On New 'Matlock'

A conversation between a 75-year-old attorney and two younger colleagues in the new “Matlock” coming to CBS this fall turns the tables on how older and young-adult characters communicate on TV shows.

Usually, the young adults get the better of the seniors because -- ha ha -- the seniors are clueless about technical matters, social trends and the like. 

When the seniors’ befuddlement becomes obvious, the young ones roll their eyes.

But in a welcome reversal, a senior, Madeline “Maddie” Matlock -- played by Kathy Bates (above photo) -- turns the situation around when she discovers that two younger colleagues know nothing about live TV with commercial breaks.

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Why is this important? Because in Episode Two of the new “Matlock,” the timing of the commercial breaks in a certain prime-time TV show (also on CBS) is crucial for understanding the chronology of a crime and its aftermath.

“He just poked a hole in our timeline!” declares 75-year-old Maddie to two younger colleagues in their late 20s or early 30s who just stare at her uncomprehendingly.

“The commercial breaks!” Maddie then says, again expecting the two to understand.

Maddie had just finished interviewing an elderly man in his apartment who described how he measures the heating up of his frozen dinner by the length and frequency of the commercial breaks in his favorite Sunday night TV show.

The man’s testimony about what he witnessed from his window and what time he did so were important to the lawyers’ defense of a murder suspect.

Maddie conducted the interview in full view and hearing range of the two young lawyers, but they still had no idea how this testimony about commercial breaks had any bearing on the case.

Why? Because they live in a world where live (or linear) television interrupted by commercials is an alien concept. This time, they were clueless.

“[The witness] watches his television programs live!” Maddie says, again expecting them to comprehend the significance of this witness’s viewing habits to the laying out of their case.

Instead of staring blankly at Maddie, one of the lawyers responds cautiously with “Yeah, ‘live’ …” in such a way that it is clear he still does not get the “live” concept.

“[The witness] heard the scream 32 minutes before he saw [the suspect] standing over the body and called 911!” Maddie says in triumph over these know-it-all young’uns. 

The new “Matlock” is based loosely on the old “Matlock” series created by Dean Hargrove and starring Andy Griffith.

Griffith played an Atlanta lawyer of a certain age who adopted a folksy, homespun demeanor meant to lull adversaries into thinking they would have no problem defeating him in court. They were wrong, of course.

In the new “Matlock,” now set in New York City, adversaries both inside and outside the law firm Maddie Matlock has just joined greatly underestimate her too.

In this show, her knowledge and life experience are positioned as advantages over the younger characters. Here, they are the ones depicted as being at a disadvantage to her, not the other way around.

The new “Matlock” seems to be part of a new strategy creeping into some corners of network TV that is aimed at acknowledging that network audiences are aging, and then serving them with TV shows that might appeal to them.

ABC may have had a similar goal in mind with “The Golden Bachelor,” with “The Golden Bachelorette” serving as a follow-up this fall.

The median age of the network TV viewer today is said to be 64.6 years-old.

The new “Matlock” even includes links to the old “Matlock,” which ran on NBC from 1986 to 1992, and ABC from 1992 to 1995.

The old “Matlock” theme music is reused in the new one. And conversations about the show arise because of Maddie Matlock’s last name. although she is no relation to the old Andy Griffith character.

Indeed, the old Ben Matlock character is not portrayed as a real person at all, but a fictional one from TV -- ironic because Maddie Matlock happens to be just as fictional.

The point is, older viewers will recognize the theme music and get all the banter about the old show. Younger viewers will not.

Episode Two of the new “Matlock” was provided by CBS last week, for which the TV Blog is grateful. The pilot was made available last November.

The show will join the network’s Thursday night lineup at 9 p.m. Eastern next fall after the network’s Thursday night NFL games run their course.

2 comments about "Linear TV Is Alien Concept To Young Lawyers On New 'Matlock'".
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  1. Ben B from Retired, July 5, 2024 at 9:06 p.m.

    I'll watch Matlock when it debuts this fall was surprised to see it on Thur & not Sun when CBS put out the fall lineup this fall. I'll watch it live if there is nothing else on or OnDemand if I find something else on Thur at 9PM.  

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, July 7, 2024 at 4:33 p.m.

    Looks as if the writers for this show have bought into the  idea that 18-34s never watch linear TV and, evidently never did---even when they were kids and teens---like 15 years ago. Which is silly. Yet the average 18-34 now devotes something like  7-8 hours per week to linear TV---less than before, but not zero.  Also, why do we characterize linear TV as "live"? Most of it's content is on film or tape---and  virtually all linear TV shows---live or taped/filmed---- have commercial breaks.

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