If you watch Matlock, you surely know one part of the show fans can count on is that, at some point, Ben Matlock actor Andy Griffith will indulge in at least one hot dog. The quirky attorney lived for those frankfurters.
Truth is, however, the actor wasn’t nuts about the cured meat but had to keep eating them. Here’s why.
‘Matlock’ was Griffith’s 2nd most successful television series
Debuting on NBC in 1986, Matlock wasn’t, of course, Griffith’s first hit series rodeo. He was most known for the iconic 1960s series bearing his name, The Andy Griffith Show, co-starring Don Knotts as his second banana Deputy Barney Fife, and Ronny Howard as little Opie Taylor.
The main difference between the two series was that Ben Matlock was no Sheriff Andy Taylor.
“Andy harbored enormous ambitions for Matlock,” Daniel de Visé wrote in his 2015 book, Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show. “He envisioned Ben Matlock as a sort of antihero, more complex than Andy Taylor, vain, uncultured, cheap, and vaguely unlikable.”
While the actor, who died in 2012, was eager to plumb the dark side of the attorney, the show’s creator Dean Hargrove didn’t agree with Griffith’s vision for the character. Still, Griffith slowly humanized Ben Matlock.
Griffith brought humor to Ben Matlock
Although Matlock started off as a bit of a stiff, serious series, its star began little by little to draw humor into the show. Not heavy-handed comedy that would produce guffaws, but just enough to make viewers chuckle.
“It was Andy who imbued Matlock with humor,” de Visé wrote. “Over its nine-year run, Matlock became an increasingly whimsical series, with the formality of early episodes giving way to a looser, warmer, more Southern style.”
Griffith knew his new show was a drama and also knew how to lighten things up just so.
“The humor was often subtle: a raised eyebrow or gentle groan when Matlock heard something he didn’t like, or a drawn-out ‘Noooo,’ just like Barney Fife used to do it,” the author added.
The actor grew to hate hot dogs
Part of Griffith’s humor was the use of, as his co-star Nancy Stafford on the courtroom drama put it, “bits,” small wry gestures designed to lighten the hour-long drama.
“He loved to invent bits,” Stafford told de Visé. “The shoe-shining bit was his, and the hot-dog-eating bit was his. And after he’s invented these bits and they’d show up in the script, he’d do this very fake but quite dramatic act of complaining, right as we were shooting a scene: ‘Why did I invent this? Why do I have to eat another hot dog?’
“The very bits that became his character’s most lovable quirks – and that Andy created – he would disparage them when he was on the set.”
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