Saturday, June 28, 2008

TV Rebels: The Andy Griffith Show

It's time for another edition of TV Rebels. We originally had special permission to publish the first 6 essays on TV shows and actors that will be featured in the upcoming book TV Rebels: 100 People and Programs That Shaped the Medium by authors Lou Orfanella and Oscar De Los Santos...and as we mentioned in April, we have now gotten rights to 6 additional essays, so we will be bringing you one each month until at least November! Upcoming TV Rebel columns coming soon are about Rod Serling, Bill Cosby, and Desi Arnaz. The book is in the works and will be released in 2009.

So without further adieu, we bring you the seventh essay of TV Rebels:

The Andy Griffith Show: Mayberry's Sheriff without a Gun
by Oscar De Los Santos

In many respects, The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968) was born out of the network womb of The Danny Thomas Show (1953-1964). A seventh season episode of Danny Thomas featured its star being stopped for speeding by Sheriff Andy Taylor (Griffith). Soon, the sheriff, his deputy cousin, Barney Fife (Don Knotts), and the town of Mayberry, North Carolina made their network TV series debut on October 3, 1960. Other regular characters included Andy's Aunt Bea (Frances Bavier), who lived with the widowed sheriff and his small son, Opie (Ron Howard); Ellie Walker (Eleanor Donahue), Andy's first girlfriend in the series; Helen Crump (Aneta Corsaut), the sheriff's later girlfriend; Thelma Lou (Betty Lynn), Barney’s girlfriend; Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors), who would eventually get his own spin-off show; Goober Pyle (George Lyndsey), who took his cousin's mechanic and gas-pumping job at Wally's Filling Station when Gomer enlisted in the Marines; Otis Campbell (Wallace Smith), the town drunk, Floyd Lawson (Howard McNear) the town barber, Clara Edwards (Hope Summers), Aunt Bea's closest friend and friendly rival, and a host of other charming Mayberry citizens.
The show was a sitcom that seemed to defy much of the sharper edged network offerings of its period. It showcased no murders and featured few sarcastic jabs, but rather good-natured humor and thoughtful moral lessons, many of them delivered by Sheriff Taylor via his folksy ruminations. For instance, one episode revolved around Andy teaching Opie to care for orphan birds after the boy kills their mother with a slingshot. Another focused on Andy teaching Opie to defend himself against a bully without stepping in and fighting his son's battles. Other shows featured the highs and lows of Barney buying his first car and Aunt Bea's competition with Clara to make the best pickles for the county fair.
In spite of the show's name and the fact that "Sheldon Leonard and Danny Thomas designed The Andy Griffith Show to fit the image of its star" (The Andy Griffith Show, The Museum of Broadcast Communications), this was much more than a comedy about a small-town sheriff. Each of the ensemble characters had his and her major episodes and/or significant roles in other stories. Indeed, it's arguable that the program was as much about Barney Fife as about Andy Taylor, since so many of the show's plots were either directly or indirectly focused on Andy's bombastic and braggart deputy.
Another way to view the success of The Andy Griffith Show is to consider the town of Mayberry as the main star of the show. Audiences were willing to tune in for eight years and 249 episodes of the series because they loved the region the characters populated as much as the characters themselves. Mayberry was quintessential small-town America: a gorgeous, clean, peaceful town where a citizen could count on two lawmen to keep the peace and diffuse any problems that arose -- and these were usually no more threatening than finding a way to tell Barney that he was singing out of key and ruining the church choir's performances or making sure that Otis got his breakfast and had sobered up enough to release him from jail and send him home the next morning. Do such ideal locales really exist? Maybe not on the level of TV's Mayberry, but according to Ken Beck and Jim Clark, "The fictional town of Mayberry was partially influenced by the town of Mt. Airy, North Carolina, Andy Griffith's hometown. Much of the show's realism drws from Andy Griffith's use of Mt. Airy as a model for Mayberry. The names of many of Mayberry’s townspeople, businesses, and streets, and landmarks can be found in and around Mt. Airy" (xv).
The Andy Griffith Show can be compared to Gunsmoke (1955-1975), another immensely popular program with its own streak of TV rebellion (see Gunsmoke in this volume). Like The Andy Griffith Show, Gunsmoke was as much about its ensemble cast and setting as about its main star. Early episodes often centered on Marshall Matt Dillon but as the Western's tenure on the air stretched on, its stories focused on Chester, Miss Kitty, Doc, Festus, and other characters. Moreover, just as Andy Griffith Show audiences fixated on Sheriff Andy Taylor's Mayberry, they focused on Marshall Matt Dillon's Dodge City; but while many viewers would have loved to trade their own hometowns for Mayberry, few dreamed of jumping into the squared electronic box and actually taking up residence in Dodge. After all, crime in Mayberry was so low that the town sheriff didn't wear a gun and his deputy carried his six-shooter's only bullet in his shirt pocket, but Dodge City was all about crime -- a rough Old West location where life was tough, the bullets flew frequently, and shot bodies dropped to the gritty earth each week. Two shows spinning their own historical mythos? Perhaps, but The Andy Griffith Show provided a more gentle wishful thinking for an increasingly jaded American populace.

Works Cited
Andy Griffith Show, The. Museum of Broadcast Communications.
http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/A/htmlA/andygriffith/andygriffith.htm. January 15, 2008.
Beck, Ken and Jim Clark. The Andy Griffith Show Book. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995. (Revised 35th Anniversary Edition.)

Works Consulted
The Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club. http://www.mayberry.com/. January 15, 2008.


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Tuesday, July 16

Modern Family - "Blasts From the Past" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Phil and Claire decide to take a cycling tour through Italy before they become grandparents, and Dylan (guest star Reid Ewing) introduces them to his mom who has an interesting past. Meanwhile, Cameron and Mitchell discover some interesting reading material in Lily’s room and decide to confront her about it, while Gloria and Jay discover their respective great uncles may have fought on opposing sides of a war.

The Goldbergs - "This Is This Is Spinal Tap" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
The Dropouts are thrilled when they book a gig at a Flyers charity carnival and Adam uses the opportunity to make his very first rockumentary. Since Barry doesn’t want to miss out on the fun, he forces his way onto the band, despite his sister’s objections. Meanwhile, Beverly’s concerns about Murray’s health push him to the limit.

Modern Family - "A Moving Day" (ABC, 10:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Claire and Phil aren’t convinced that Haley and Dylan can make it on their own as they move them into their new apartment before the baby arrives. Meanwhile, Pameron gets out of prison early and has a bone to pick with Mitchell.

black-ish - "Good in the 'Hood" (ABC, 10:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Dre’s sister Rhonda takes Jack and Diane to her part of town in a black neighborhood and claims the twins are scared of their own community. Dre and Rhonda take them to a local diner to show them why it’s so special. Meanwhile, Bow becomes the “office mom” at work, and Junior tries to help her break the label.

The Detour - "The Year" (TBS, 10:30PM ET/PT)
Delilah and Jared reunite and catch up on the past year.

Sydney to the Max - "Nightmare on Syd Street" (Disney Channel, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Sydney holes up in her bedroom after an embarrassing event at school; after finding old VHS tapes of Max as a kid, Sydney falls asleep and dreams she is in the 1990s.

Sydney to the Max - "Mo' Grandmas, Mo' Problems" (Disney Channel, 8:30PM ET/PT)
When Grandma Maya comes to visit, Sydney loves spending time with her so much that Grandma Judy feels a little left out.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of July 15)

Tuesday, July 16

  • Fred Savage (What Just Happened??! with Fred Savage/Friends from College/The Grinder/Working/The Wonder Years) - Catch Fred on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Dax Shepard (Bless This Mess) - Dax visits Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • James Marsden (Dead to Me/30 Rock) - James appears on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Steve Lemme and Kevin Heffernan (Tacoma FD) - Steve and Kevin are guests on a repeat of Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Kirby Howell-Baptiste (Barry/The Good Place/Downward Dog) - Kirby appears on a repeat of Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Sam Richardson (Champaign ILL/Detroiters/Veep) - Sam is a guest on a repeat of Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Joel McHale (Community/The Great Indoors) - Joel chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Jenna Elfman (Dharma & Greg/Courting Alex/Accidentally on Purpose/1600 Penn/Growing Up Fisher/Imaginary Mary) - Jenna visits The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Deon Cole (grown-ish/Angie Tribeca/black-ish) - Deon stops by The Wendy Williams Show, so check your local listings.
  • Kathy Griffin (Suddenly Susan) - Kathy talks about Kathy Griffin: Hell of a Story on People Now at 12pm.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (May/June/July)

My Three Sons - The Third Season - Volume One Perfect Strangers - The Complete Seventh and Eighth Seasons The Brady Bunch - 50th Anniversary The Brady-est TV & Movie Collection Will & Grace (The Revival) - Season Two The Good Place - The Complete Third Season

05/07 - Baskets - The Complete Season Three
05/13 - I'm Dying Up Here - Season 2
05/13 - My Three Sons - The Third Season - Volume One
05/13 - My Three Sons - The Third Season - Volume Two
05/14 - The Donna Reed Show - Seasons 1-5
05/14 - Petticoat Junction - Seasons 1-3
05/28 - Perfect Strangers - The Complete Seventh and Eighth Seasons (WBShop.com)
05/28 - South Park - The Complete Twenty-Second Season (Blu-ray)
06/04 - The Brady Bunch - 50th Anniversary The Brady-est Brady Bunch TV & Movie Collection
06/18 - Will & Grace (The Revival) - Season Two (Blu-ray)
07/09 - Broad City - Season 5
07/09 - Broad City - The Complete Series
07/17 - The Practice (1976) - The Complete Series
07/30 - The Good Place - The Complete Third Season
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Recent SitcomsOnline.com News Blog Posts

07/16 - Welcome Back (to School), Kotter Marathon on Antenna TV; Lea Michele Gets ABC Holiday Movie
07/15 - Bounce Sitcom In The Cut Premieres Season 5; Conan Returns to Comic-Con for 5th Year
07/14 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of July 15, 2019)
07/13 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Reboot of The Flintstones in the Works (Again); Amazon Orders New Comedy Series
07/12 - Fri-Yay: The End of Friends on Netflix; Remembering Rip Torn of The Larry Sanders Show and Disney Channel Star Cameron Boyce
07/11 - Valerie Bertinelli to Host Food Network Series; Netflix Gets Katherine Heigl for Firefly Lane 07/10 - WarnerMedia Announces HBO Max for 2020 with Friends, Fresh Prince & More; IMDb Gets First Scripted Series
07/09 - COZI TV Schedules Two The Office Stunts; Adult Swim Picks Up New Seasons of Animated Comedies
07/08 - Comedy Central Closes Q2 Strong; Hallmark Channel June Weddings Stunt Scores in Ratings
07/07 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of July 8, 2019)
07/06 - SitcomsOnline Digest: WarnerMedia Considering Reboots of TGIF Classics for New Streaming Service
07/05 - Fri-Yay: Netflix's One Day at a Time Revived By Pop TV; WarnerMedia OTT Gets Gremlins Series
07/04 - 2019 4th of July Marathons on TV
07/03 - ABC Fall 2019 Premiere Dates; Celebrate Seinfeld's 30th in NYC
07/02 - Mindy Kaling Produced Comedy on Hulu; HBO's The Righteous Gemstones Premieres Aug. 18
07/01 - Lil Rel Gets HBO Comedy Special; Loudermilk Season 3 Details
06/30 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of July 1, 2019)
06/29 - SitcomsOnline Digest: MyNetwork TV Releases Fall Lineup; 70s Danny Thomas Sitcom Coming to DVD
06/28 - One Day at a Time Revived by Pop TV and CBS; WGN America Acquires JAG Starting July 4
06/27 - Remembering Max Wright of ALF; The Office Reruns Move to NBCU Streaming in 2021
06/26 - Comedy Central Gets Friday Talk Show; The Goldbergs Actress Releases Music Video
06/25 - Fox Fall 2019 Premiere Dates; FX Sets Dates for Fall 2019 Schedule
06/24 - Barney Miller Summer Fridays on Antenna TV; Tyler Perry Studios Takes Over BET with New Series
06/23 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of June 24, 2019)
06/22 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Mark-Paul Gosselaar Cast in black-ish Spinoff; Urkel Makes a Return in Scooby Doo
06/21 - Fri-Yay: The Amazing Superstore Season 4 Finale; Netflix Has Healing Powers
06/20 - Extreme Makeover: Home Edition Returns with "Modern" Twist; Showtime Is Back to Life For New Comedy
06/19 - truTV Gets 2nd Season of Tacoma FD; I'm Sorry Gets Season 3 on truTV
06/18 - NBC Fall 2019 Premiere Dates; The CW Fall 2019 Premiere Dates
06/17 - Netflix Gets Funny with Pranks with Stranger Things Star; Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba Series Gets 2nd Season
06/16 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of June 17, 2019)