Monday, April 1, 2013

The Andy Griffith Show: Small Town Goodness

Welcome to day one of the A to Z Bloggers Challenge! My first post will discuss one of my favorite childhood classic television shows: The Andy Griffith Show starring Andy Griffith as Andy Taylor, the Sheriff of Mayberry, North Carolina. A is for Andy!

The Andy Griffith Show was a prime time, rural sitcom with a warm summer day on a front porch eating apple pie atmosphere that made fans feel warm and cozy when they watched the show, an important factor considering it first aired on October 3, 1960 and the last show aired on September 16, 1968--the show ran during the height of the Vietnam conflict and the Cold War. The older generation of Americans needed something warm and cozy to come home to at night. The younger generation in the 1960s was obsessed with supernatural television, monsters, aliens, and U.F.Os!

Andy Griffith in 1961. Screenshot from The Andy Griffith Show.

The Feel-Good Character of Andy Taylor

I think if I could name one aspect of The Andy Griffith Show that made it stand out from all other television shows of its time it would be the character of Sheriff Andy Jackson Taylor. Taylor was professional, competent, efficient, and yet, he had a way of always making people feel good about themselves. He was...comforting, and at the height of rage and turmoil of the 1960s, an officer of the law who made the public feel comfortable was rare, welcome, and reassuring to the viewing audience who only had to flip the channel to feel overwhelmed with the chaos of the day. 

Andy Taylor was a widower who lived at home with his son, Opie, played by the young Ron Howard, now one of the most famous actor/director/producers in Hollywood. Taylor and his son were cared for by his spinster Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier) who cooked, cleaned, and loved Taylor as if he were her own son. She even brought him lunch at the jailhouse in a picnic basket. 

Deputy Barney P. Fife

Andy Taylor's sidekick was Deputy Barney Fife played by Don Knotts who was so hysterically funny he was considered an equal star of this show. Barney was most often seen in the single cell jailhouse making a fool of himself, generally by trying too hard to be a professional peace officer, something that just seemed natural to Andy Taylor. Barney occasionally stopped by the Taylor home to mooch food from Aunt Bee, but she also brought him food in the daily lunch baskets. Barney was always looking for trouble, but he rarely found it, except when he was the cause. Barney was also known for making the world's worst coffee. 

Love is in the air...

Andy and Barney both had love interests who were also best friends. Andy dated Helen Crump (Aneta Corsaut), who he eventually married in the show, and Barney dated Thelma Lou (Betty Lynn). The two couples generally double-dated for a dinner at the local restaurant, but they also spent time at the Taylor home, sitting on the front porch, talking. In fact, there were just as many scenes in this show shot on the front porch of the Taylor home as there were in the jailhouse.

George Lindsey played Goober Pyle, Gomer's cousin, in the Andy Griffith Show. 

The Goofy Mechanic and his Cousin

Jim Nabors played the goofy gas station attendant Gomer Pyle on the show. Although he hasn't made an appearance since 1991, Nabors had a remarkable career that included work with the United Nations. He left the show for his own spinoff, Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C., which was one of the top-rated shows of the 1960s and is believed by many to be the reason the supernatural cult classic Star Trek was taken off the air. When Nabors left the show he was replaced by veteran actor George Lindsey who played his cousin, Goober Pyle. Lindsey was also a popular actor in the sixties and made numerous appearances on shows such as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, in three of the most famous episodes, including "The Return of Verge Liken."

Town Barber and Town Drunk

Mayberry, North Carolina had a town drunk, Otis Campbell (Hal Smith), who would stumble into the jailhouse and lock himself in when he needed to sleep off a binge. The town barber, Floyd Lawson (Howard McNear) was also a popular character with his bumbling, stuttering style of conversation. Floyd didn't seem to work much. He spent most of his time sitting on a bench in front of the barber shop making observations of the people walking past. 

Andy Griffith and Don Knotts revived their roles in 1970 
for a skit on the Jim Nabors television special. 

A Misunderstanding Ends the Show

These characters pretty much made all the excitement Deputy Barney Fife and Sheriff Andy Taylor could handle in this small town, but they were enough to hold the attention of the viewing audience for eight years. The show lost its momentum when Don Knotts left through a sad misunderstanding. Don Knotts made it clear that he loved the show--he won five Prime Time Emmys in seven years! 

Either through rumor or misunderstanding, Knotts was told that Andy Griffith did not want to do the show for more than five years and thought he was pushing his luck when the show continued for eight. Knotts was a popular star before joining Andy Griffith, and when he thought the show was coming to an end he began accepting movie contracts. He was deeply disappointed when he learned that he was wrong, that Andy Griffith intended to continue the show all along. It was a sad ending to a remarkably funny and charming partnership. Knotts did return for a few special appearances after he left the show. 


J.L. Campbell said...

Hi, Darla,
This wasn't one of my favourites, but I used to watch it as a child.

Spacerguy said...

Good ol' Andy Griffith, his Matlock tv series was a good show.

Darla Sue Dollman said...

Hi J.L. and Spacerguy! I'm sorry it took me so long to reply. I'm having problems with comments. (This is a fairly new blog.) J.L., how could you not LOVE Andy Griffith? Just kidding. It was a bit corny at times, I know, but I enjoyed it. Spacerguy, you're right, Matlock was a great show, too. Thanks for reading!