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

Monday, November 11

The Neighborhood - "Welcome to Thanksgiving" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Dave and Gemma host a memorable Thanksgiving in their new home when Dave’s politically incorrect mother, Paula (Marilu Henner), visits from out of town and meets Calvin, Tina and the rest of the Butler family for the first time.

Bob Hearts Abishola - "Square Hamburgers, Round Buns" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
After Abishola calls off things with Bob, her Auntie Olu sets her up with a Nigerian pharmacist, and Bob tries online dating. Missi Pyle guest stars as Liz, Bob’s online date and Tony Tambi guest stars as Chukwuemeka, Abishola’s set-up.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of November 11)

Monday, November 11

  • Will Smith (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) - Watch Will on a repeat of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Whoopi Goldberg (Whoopi/Bagdad Cafe) - Whoopi stops by Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley) - Thomas visits Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Adam DeVine (Workaholics/Modern Family) - Adam appears on A Little Late with Lilly Singh at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Chris D'Elia (Undateable/Whitney) - Chris is a panelist on Lights Out with David Spade at 11:30pm on Comedy Central.
  • Kevin Nealon (Man with a Plan/Weeds/Hiller and Diller/Champs) - Kevin drops by Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Kristin Davis (Sex and the City/Bad Teacher) - Kristin talks about Holiday in the Wild on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan (check your listings) and on People Now at 12pm.
  • Isabela Merced (100 Things to Do Before High School) - Isabela is a guest on The Kelly Clarkson Show, so check your local listings.
  • Lisa Edelstein (The Kominsky Method/Almost Perfect) - Lisa will be on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET.
  • Kim Fields (The Facts of Life/Living Single) - Kim talks about Lifetime's You Light Up My Christmas on Access Daily, so check your local listings.
  • Jim Gaffigan (The Jim Gaffigan Show/My Boys/Welcome to New York) - Al Roker swaps jobs with Jim on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (September/October/November)

My Three Sons - The Fourth Season - Volume One Modern Family - The Complete Tenth Season Life with Lucy - The Complete Series Step by Step - The Complete Fifth Season The Big Bang Theory - The Twelfth and Final Season

09/03 - Bob's Burgers - The Complete 9th Season
09/03 - Fresh Off the Boat - The Complete Fifth Season
09/03 - The Goldbergs - The Complete Sixth Season
09/03 - Single Parents - The Complete Season One
09/03 - Young Sheldon - The Complete Second Season
09/04 - What We Do in the Shadows - The Complete First Season
09/10 - American Dad! - Volume 14
09/10 - The Jetsons - The Complete Original Series (Blu-ray) (WBShop.com)
09/11 - My Three Sons - The Fourth Season - Volume One
09/11 - My Three Sons - The Fourth Season - Volume Two
09/17 - Friends - The Complete Series (25th Anniversary)
09/17 - Modern Family - The Complete Tenth Season
09/19 - Angel from Hell - The DVD Edition
09/19 - The Guest Book - Season 1
10/08 - Leave it to Beaver - The Complete Series
10/08 - Life with Lucy - The Complete Series
10/15 - Mom - The Complete Sixth Season
10/16 - Our Miss Brooks - Season 1 - Volume 1
10/16 - Our Miss Brooks - Season 1 - Volume 2
11/05 - The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang - The Complete Animated Series
11/05 - Laverne & Shirley in the Army (Animated Series) - The DVD Edition
11/05 - Letterkenny - Seasons 1 & 2
11/05 - Step by Step - The Complete Fifth Season (WBShop.com)
11/12 - The Big Bang Theory - The Twelfth and Final Season (Blu-ray)
11/12 - The Big Bang Theory - The Complete Series (Blu-ray Limited Edition)
11/19 - The King of Queens - The Complete Series (Mill Creek)
11/19 - The Kominsky Method - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Recent SitcomsOnline.com News Blog Posts

11/11 - NBC Midseason 2020 Schedule; The CW Announces Midseason 2020 Lineup
11/10 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of November 11, 2019)
11/09 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Fresh Off the Boat Coming to an End; Weeds Sequel in the Works
11/08 - Fri-Yay: Thoughts on Netflix's Living with Yourself; ABC Orders More Episodes of American Housewife and Bless This Mess
11/07 - COZI TV's Thanksgiving Weekend Unexpected Guests Marathon; MeTV Salutes Veteran's Day with M*A*S*H
11/06 - Live in Front of a Studio Audience: All in the Family & Good Times on Dec. 18; NBC Orders More Superstore Episodes
11/05 - ABC 2019 Holiday Specials and Episodes; E! Sets Date for Reality Sitcom
11/04 - Freeform's 25 Days of Christmas Schedule for 2019; Showtime to Debut New Comedy On-Demand Before Premiere
11/03 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of November 4, 2019)
11/02 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Casting in Place for Punky Brewster Reboot; Happy Days Cartoon Spinoffs to Arrive on DVD

11/01 - Fri-Yay: Thoughts on BoJack Horseman Season 6; Netflix Sets Dec. 5 Date for V Wars
10/31 - Will Arnett to Host Fox Lego Series; Lil Rel HBO Comedy Special Gets Premiere Date
10/30 - HBO Max Announces Lots of News and Series, Including Library Series The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Looney Tunes and More
10/29 - ABC Gets Full Seasons of mixed-ish and More; The Facts of Life Stars Ready to Light Up Lifetime on Christmas
10/28 - Fox Midseason 2020 Schedule; The CW Picks Up Full Seasons of Both Fall Freshman Series

10/27 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of October 28, 2019)
10/26 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Lizzie McGuire Reboot to Include Original Cast; New DVDs for The Mindy Project and Step by Step
10/25 - Fri-Yay: Sunnyside Becomes the Season's First Cancellation; Maureen McCormick to Co-Host HGTV Christmas Special
10/24 - Antenna TV's Sabrina & Samantha Witch-O-Ween Marathon; Remembering TV Producer Al Burton of Diff'rent Strokes, Charles in Charge and More
10/23 - CBS Renews Freshman Fall 2019 Class; Fox Schedules 9-1-1 Spin-off for Midseason 2020
10/22 - Fox Schedules Comedy Christmas Event; CNBC Gets A-Rod to Get Celebs Back in the Game
10/21 - Fox Picks Up 2nd Season of Bless the Harts; Remembering Bill Macy of Maude
10/20 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of October 21, 2019)
10/19 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Sunnyside Becomes First Casualty of 2019-2020 TV Season; Our Miss Brooks Arrives on DVD
10/18 - Fri-Yay: Is It Time to Lower Our Expectations for Sitcom Ratings?; Antenna TV's Dennis the Menace Thanksgiving Weekend Marathon
10/17 - Raven's Home Gets 4th Season on Disney; Nick Orders More All That Episodes
10/16 - Sunnyside Pulled, Will & Grace Back Early; CBS All Access Comedy Returns for Season 3
10/15 - Sarah Silverman Returning to HBO with Late Night Series; Craig Ferguson to Host ABC Game Show
10/14 - ABC Gears Up for Halloween with Specials and Sitcom Episodes; truTV Comedy Returns for Season 5
10/13 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of October 14, 2019)
10/12 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Walker, Texas Ranger Reboot in the Works; South Park Banned in China
10/11 - Fri-Yay: Another Netflix Original to End as BoJack Horseman Announces Final Season; TNT Sets Halloween Supernatural Marathon