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Saturday, January 28, 2017

'Matt Houston' S3 DVD: Buddy Ebsen Uncle Roy is Heather Locklear of Show

These thoughts on the third-and-final season of the '80s Aaron Spelling private detective drama "Matt Houston" wraps up this three-part series on the Visual Entertainment complete series DVD set of the series. Season one finds our titular Magnum clone taking time from running his oil company to play amateur detective to help friends and former lovers; season two has him become a full fledged private investigator, and season three brings in partner-in-crime solving Uncle Roy Houston. "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Barnaby Jones" star Buddy Ebsen plays Roy.

Bringing beloved Ebsen into the show is an example of the oft-used tactic of Spelling and other television producers of the era to introduce a new character played by a loved "star" to boost an aging program. Heather Locklear typically is the go-to celeb for this role in both senses of that word.

Season three opens with a resolution of the season two cliffhanger in which a powerful adversary is perpetuating an elaborate evil scheme to discredit Houston. Houston having to go on the run in the S3 season premiere has him calling in WWII and Cold War era spy Uncle Roy. The "Manchurian Candidate" elements of this one make it especially fun.

Business returns to normal in every sense of the word in the Spellingverse with the second episode. A child molester kidnapping the young daughter of Houston ally/police contact Lt. Hoyt prompts Matt (short for Matlock) and his team into action. This one has every wonderful element of an issues-oriented TV Movie of the Week and provides the bonus of Matt struggling to keep Hoyt under control.

"Caged" wonderfully channels the classic "Angels in Chains" episode from the Spelling gem "Charlie's Angels." A car accident early in the episode has Matt attorney/sidekick/its complicated C.J. suffering from amnesia and subsequently being confined in a women's prison. Just as in "Chains," local law enforcement is using inmates as prostitutes at house parties.

The fun continues with several more episodes, which include Team Houston trying to free a young heiress from a cult and a flashback-inducing episode in which Hoyt getting shot triggers (no pun intended) Houston and his gang each remembering a memorable moment with the police detective, up to the Spellingtastic series finale.

The aptly named "Final Vows" has Matt going about his business when the return of a special love from an earlier S3 episode coincides with a psychopath who is emulating a famous serial killer acting on his ill will toward Houston. This causes Matt to struggle to balance his home and work life, and highly predictably transforms the belle du jour into a damsel in distress. All this culminates in a shoot-the-works finale that provides a satisfying end to the series.

This review roughly coinciding with the belated arrival of seasonal weather in the northeast United States provides a good chance to remind folks of the escapsist fun of watching shows like this when it is dark and chilly outside.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Houston" is encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy,