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

Wednesday, January 27

The Goldbergs - "Cocoon" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Beverly enlists the help of Erica, who has recently declared pre-law as her major, to sue her cookbook publisher after finding her book in the bargain bin at a bookstore. Meanwhile, Adam and Pops bond while taking a trip on the wild side after Adam convinces Pops to fall back into some youthful adventures.

American Housewife - "Under Pressure" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Greg ropes Katie into a double date with Principal Ablin (Jerry Lambert) and Maria (Julie Meyer) in an attempt to further his political aspirations. Meanwhile, Anna-Kat’s new found popularity at school proves to be overwhelming.

The Conners - "Promotions, Podcasts and Magic Tea" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Darlene earns a promotion at Wellman Plastics, while Ben decides on a new career path. Meanwhile, Jackie tries an herbal tea leading to an emotional revelation.

Call Your Mother - "Quaran-Jean (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
After the secret gets out that Jean came to L.A. to check on Freddie but not Jackie during quarantine, Jean plans a girls’ night for just her and Jackie to bond, but it doesn’t go as smoothly as planned. Meanwhile, Celia grows frustrated with Freddie always counting on his mother to take care of him and confronts him for taking Jean’s advice over hers.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of January 25)

Wednesday, January 27

  • Leslie Odom Jr. (Central Park/Big Day) - Watch Leslie on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Rami Malek (The War at Home) - Rami appears on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:35pm on NBC.
  • Billy Crystal (The Comedians/Soap) - Billy is a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Stanley Tucci (Central Park) - Stanley will be on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Adam DeVine (Workaholics/Modern Family) - Adam appears on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Kyra Sedgwick (Call Your Mother) - Kyra chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Ted Danson (Mr. Mayor/The Good Place/Becker/Cheers) - Ted appears on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Drew Carey (The Drew Carey Show/The Good Life) - Drew plays fan-favorite Clock Game for members of her VFFs for a chance to win cash and prizes on The Drew Barrymore Show, so check your local listings.
  • Nico Santos (Superstore) - Nico talks about the new season of Superstore on Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
  • Yara Shahidi (grown-ish/black-ish) - Yara talks about Freeform's grown-ish on Access Daily, so check your local listings.
  • Gina Yashere (Bob Hearts Abishola) - Gina talks about Bob Hearts Abishola on The Wendy Williams Show, so check your local listings.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (September-January)

Young Sheldon - The Complete Third Season Mom - The Complete Seventh Season The Flintstones - The Complete Series (Blu-ray) Head of the Class - The Complete Second Season The Office - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)

09/01 - It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - Season 14
09/01 - What We Do in the Shadows - The Complete Second Season
09/01 - Young Sheldon - The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)
09/15 - Mom - The Complete Seventh Season
09/15 - South Side - Season 1
09/22 - Brockmire - The Complete Second Season
09/22 - Brockmire - The Complete Third Season
09/22 - Brockmire - The Complete Fourth Season
09/22 - Man with a Plan - Season Three
09/29 - The Bob Newhart Show - The Complete Series (2020 Release)
10/13 - The Jetsons - The Complete Series (Diamond Collection)
10/13 - Our Cartoon President - Season Two
10/23 - Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em - The Complete Collection
10/27 - The Flintstones - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
10/27 - Head of the Class - The Complete Second Season (WBShop.com)
11/10 - Letterkenny - Seasons 5 & 6
11/10 - The Office - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
11/10 - Schitt's Creek - The Complete Collection
11/17 - Carol's Second Act - The Complete Series
11/17 - Robbie - Season 1
11/24 - Corporate - Season 1
11/26 - Man with a Plan - Season Four
12/01 - The Neighborhood - Season Two
12/15 - Avenue 5 - The Complete First Season

More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


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01/07 - New Punky Brewster Series Drops Feb. 25 on Peacock; Solar Opposites Returns for 2nd Season on Hulu March 26
01/06 - NBC Midseason Pilot Review: Mr. Mayor - Premieres Thursday (Jan. 7); One Tree Hill Duo Return for Comedy Series on Hulu
01/05 - MeTV Network Pays Tribute to Dawn Wells; The Waltons Cast Reunite This Thursday
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01/03 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of January 4, 2021)
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01/01 - Happy New Year!; Murphy Brown Star Heads to The Conners
12/31 - In Memoriam: Remembering Dawn Wells and the Other Sitcom Stars We Lost in 2020
12/30 - New Year's Eve 2020 and New Year's Day 2021 TV Marathons
12/29 - getTV January 2021 Schedule Adds 4 New Series; The Netflix Afterparty Premieres Jan. 2
12/28 - HBO Max Adds More Library Titles in January; The Great North Gets Special Preview This Sunday on Fox
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