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, February 20

Young Sheldon - "Pasadena" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Sheldon visits CalTech for the very first time. Also, Georgie is furious when Mary listens in on a phone call with his girlfriend, and Meemaw tries to cheer up a jealous Missy.

The Unicorn - "The Client" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT)
When Wade lands a job for Denny (Donal Logue), a newly divorced, wealthy client, he realizes Denny is only interested in using Wade to meet women. Also, Meg (Nicole Byer) applies her expertise as an accountant to get Wade’s finances on track, and Forrest and Delia attempt to clear the tension between them by having an argument.

Mom - "Judy Garland and a Sexy Troll Doll" (CBS, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Bonnie helps Christy gain perspective as she considers a life-changing decision. Also, Jill fears she’s running out of time to have a baby and consults a fertility doctor.

Carol's Second Act - "Carol's Crush" (CBS, 9:30PM ET/PT)
After Carol’s patient’s transplant surgery is deemed a success, the interns tease her mercilessly about her obvious crush on the surgeon, Dr. Lewis (Patrick Fabian).

Last Man Standing - "Baked Sale" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Mike's offer to help Jen with her school's bake sale goes up in smoke; Kyle finds unlikely advice from Joe on where he should enroll in college.

Outmatched - "Dating" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT)
When Nicole invites a boy over who isn't ideal boyfriend material, Kay tries to make sure her daughter doesn't end up with a broken heart; Mike attempts to understand Marc's strange crush.

Superstore - "Employee App" (NBC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Cloud 9 employees experience unforeseen problems with the new Zephra app. Dina's texts lead to animosity, Glenn struggles to deal with a teen craze, and Jonah attempts to prank Garrett to teach him a lesson.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine - "The Jimmy Jab Games II" (NBC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Competitive juices are flowing as Jake and the squad compete in the second Jimmy Jab Games.

Will & Grace - "Accidentally on Porpoise" (NBC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Despite her history of transgressions, Grace and her neighbor, James (guest star Matt Letscher), decide to give their relationship one more shot. But when James invites Grace to his job at the aquarium, she endangers his job and a species. In order to help Will deal with his anxiety about becoming a father, Jack takes him to an unexpected place to blow off steam – church. Karen finds herself in a confessional booth, and a visit from Smitty (guest star Charles C. Stevenson, Jr.) makes her reconsider their entire relationship.

Indebted - "Everybody's Talking About the Mental Load" (NBC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
After Rebecca tells Dave she carries the emotional labor, aka the “mental load” of the family, he tries to prove otherwise by having her take care of just Deb and Stew for a few days. They both realize they’ve bit off more than they can chew, especially when Dave enlists his mom to help with Rebecca’s mental load.

grown-ish - "Real Life S**t" (Freeform, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Aaron's student loan troubles come to a head when he looks for a job at the Cal U job fair, prompting him to ask Zoey for help; Sky struggles to come to terms with her recent discovery about Rodney; Jillian tries to bond with Zoey.

Everything's Gonna Be Okay - "Blue Death-Feigning Beetles" (Freeform, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Matilda's whole life forks between success and obscurity on the most important night of her life; Nicholas juggles a house full of people and Penny on screen from her hospital bed in Australia.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of February 17)

Thursday, February 20

  • Will Smith (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) - Catch Will on a repeat of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:35pm on NBC.
  • Terry Crews (Brooklyn Nine-Nine/Are We There Yet?/Everybody Hates Chris) - Terry appears on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Scott Bakula (Murphy Brown/Eisenhower and Lutz/Gung Ho) - Scott stops by The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Ilana Glazer (Broad City) - Ilana is a guest on a repeat of A Little Late with Lilly Singh at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Jenny Slate (Big Mouth/Married/Bob's Burgers) - Jenny appears on a repeat of Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Oliver Hudson (Splitting Up Together/Rules of Engagement) - Oliver and his sister Kate are guests on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Da'Vine Joy Randolph (High Fidelity/People of Earth/Selfie) - Da'Vine visits The Wendy Williams Show, so check your local listings.
  • Nick Kroll (The League/Cavemen) - Nick appears on The Kelly Clarkson Show, so check your local listings.
  • Jane Levy (Suburgatory) - Jane talks about Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist on The Kelly Clarkson Show, so check your local listings.
  • Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie) - Edie talks about Tommy on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
  • Emeril Lagasse (Emeril) - Emeril gives a cooking lesson to a culinary student who fought back after having a stroke on Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
  • Da'Vine Joy Randolph (High Fidelity/People of Earth/Selfie) - Da'Vine talks about High Fidelity on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (December/January/February)

Fuller House - The Complete Fourth Season My Three Sons - The Fifth Season - Volume One Martin - The Complete Series Step by Step - The Complete Sixth Season Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - The Complete Series

12/03 - The Simpsons - The Nineteenth Season
12/03 - The Simpsons - Seasons 1-20: Limited Collector's Set
12/06 - 9JKL - The Complete Series
12/10 - Family Guy - Season Seventeen
12/17 - Atlanta - Season 2 - Robbin' Season
12/17 - Fuller House - The Complete Fourth Season
12/17 - Hogan's Heroes - The Complete Series (2019 Release)
12/17 - The Other Two - Season 1
01/02 - My Three Sons - The Fifth Season - Volume One
01/02 - My Three Sons - The Fifth Season - Volume Two
01/14 - Veep - The Final (Seventh) Season (Blu-ray)
01/14 - Veep - The Complete Series (DVD)
01/21 - Hangin' with Mr. Cooper - The Complete Third Season (WBShop.com)
01/21 - The Mindy Project - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
01/28 - Ballers - The Complete Fifth and Final Season
01/28 - Ballers - The Complete Series
01/28 - The Mindy Project - The Complete Series (DVD)
02/04 - Martin - The Complete Series
02/11 - Step by Step - The Complete Sixth Season (WBShop.com)
02/18 - Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


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