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

Thursday, April 19

The Big Bang Theory - "The Comet Polarization" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Sheldon’s comic book store experiences changes when writer Neil Gaiman puts Stuart’s store on the map. Also, Koothrappali takes credit for Penny’s astronomical discovery, and friendships are threatened.

Young Sheldon - "Gluons, Guacamole, and the Color Purple" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT)
When Sheldon is no longer academically challenged at Medford High, he audits a college class taught by Dr. John Sturgis (Wallace Shawn).

Mom - "Spaghetti Sauce and a Dumpster Fire" (CBS, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Christy considers getting a new sponsor, Nora (Yvette Nicole Brown), after witnessing Marjorie have a major meltdown in a grocery store, and Bonnie tries her hand at being a supportive friend.

Life in Pieces - "Portrait Plagiarism Renter Scam" (CBS, 9:30PM ET/PT)
When Jen is offered a custom painting as payment from a hot new artist, she is thrilled until she sees the final product. Also, Sophia convinces Matt and Colleen to use her idea for a children’s book but it isn’t a new concept; Tyler and Clementine advertise their tiny house as a rental property; and John and Joan fall prey to a sleazy IRS scam.

Superstore - "Gender Reveal" (NBC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
The store hosts a gender reveal party for Glenn (Mark McKinney) and his wife Jerusha (Kerri Kenney), just as Dina (Lauren Ash) is freaking out at the realities of having to deliver a baby. Meanwhile, Amy (America Ferrera) receives some unsettling news.

A.P. Bio - "Eight Pigs and a Bat" (NBC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
When one of Jack's (Glenn Howerton) students anonymously reports him for canceling their much-anticipated fetal pig dissection, he sets out to find the snitch. Durbin's (Patton Oswalt) chances at Principal of the Year are in jeopardy when the superintendent visits.

Will & Grace - "The Wedding" (NBC, 9:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Will (Eric McCormack), Grace (Debra Messing), Jack (Sean Hayes), and Karen (Megan Mullally) attend the wedding of Will's ex-boyfriend, Vince (special guest star Bobby Cannavle). While Grace tries to keep Will from making a scene, Jack learns that his wedding hook-up has many strings attached.

Champions - "Grandma Dearest" (NBC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Vince begrudgingly reconnects with his mother, Gayle (Carolyn Hennesy), so Michael can complete a school project.

Nobodies - "Double Fault" (TV Land, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Rachel and Hugh enlist the help of Blaine Kaine to break some unfortunate news to Larry; Mark-Paul, Sam, Rachel and Hugh have a tennis double date; Larry is forced to move in with Pat after Jen kicks him out.

Atlanta - "Woods" (FX, 10:00PM ET/PT)
It is believed wealth has something to do with Paper Boi's attitude.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of April 16)

Thursday, April 19

  • Tina Fey (30 Rock) - Catch Tina on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
  • Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie) - Edie appears on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Busy Philipps (Vice Principals/Cougar Town) - Busy is a guest on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Jason Sudeikis (Son of Zorn/The Last Man on Earth/The Cleveland Show) - Jason stops by Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Malin Akerman (Trophy Wife/Sin City Saints) - Malin visits Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Erica Ash (Survivor's Remorse) - Erica guest co-hosts The Real, so check your local listings.
  • Shiri Appleby (Sunday Dinner/Knight & Daye) - Shiri talks about Lifetime's UnREAL on Steve, so check your local listings.
  • Rory Scovel (Ground Floor) - Rory talks about I Feel Pretty on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
  • Eddie Leavy (A.P. Bio) - Eddie talks about A.P. Bio on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Cedric the Entertainer (The Soul Man/The Steve Harvey Show) - Cedric is a guest on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (February/March/April)

Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Seventh Season Green Acres - The Complete Fifth Season Mayberry R.F.D. - The Complete First Season One Day at a Time - Season Two Perfect Strangers  - The Complete Third Season

02/06 - All in the Family - Seasons 1-5
02/06 - Bosom Buddies - The Complete Series
02/06 - Women of the House - Complete 12 Episode Series
02/13 - Broad City - Season 4
02/13 - Three's Company - The Complete Series - Come and Knock on Our Door Collection
02/27 - Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Seventh Season
02/27 - Green Acres - The Complete Fifth Season
02/27 - Mayberry R.F.D. - The Complete First Season
03/06 - Atlanta - The Complete First Season
03/06 - Curb Your Enthusiasm - The Complete Ninth Season
03/13 - The New Adventures of Old Christine - The Complete First Season
03/27 - One Day at a Time - Season Two
04/03 - Ballers - The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)
04/03 - 90's Sitcom (Just Shoot Me!/The Larry Sanders Show/Wings) Starter Set - Season 1 & 2 Bundle
04/10 - Vice Principals - The Compelte Series
04/17 - Perfect Strangers - The Complete Third Season
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest