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September 23, 1986|LEE MARGULIES

"Boy, the years go by," gray-haired Andy Griffith says to silver-haired Dick Van Dyke in tonight's premiere of "Matlock," a new lawyer series on NBC (8 p.m., Channels 4, 36 and 39).

"Too fast," Van Dyke agrees.

"I remember when we both had brown hair!" Griffith adds good-naturedly.

I remember when they both had good shows.

"Matlock" isn't--at least not tonight. Although Griffith is always pleasant to watch, the production itself is an old-fashioned non-mystery where they show you at the outset who is guilty--here it's Van Dyke, as a judge who gruesomely stabs his mistress--and then have attorney Matlock, his lawyer daughter (Linda Purl) and their investigator (Kene Holliday) unravel the case.

The opening episode, written by Robert Hamilton and directed by Chris Hibler, hardly qualifies as a challenge. First they have Van Dyke inexplicably sitting as judge in the trial of the young man accused of committing his murder, then they conveniently have him tip his hand to Matlock by asking the attorney to step aside for a younger, less experienced lawyer.

There is a plot twist along the way, but what finally ensnares the judge in a courtroom confrontation is another development of Matlock's devising that seems completely implausible.

At least "Matlock" is consistent.

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