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

Saturday, July 11

Tyler Perry's Young Dylan - "Mother May I" (Nickelodeon, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Dylan writes a serious rap about his mom, prompting Martin to read his diary to find out if he's doing OK; Dylan catches him in the act, triggering an escalating run of each family member invading the others' privacy.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of July 6)

Friday, July 10

  • Tiffany Haddish (The Last O.G./The Carmichael Show) - Watch Tiffany on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Kevin Nealon (Man with a Plan/Weeds/Hiller and Diller/Champs) - Kevin appears on a repeat of A Little Late with Lilly Singh at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Jerry O'Connell (We Are Men/Carpoolers/My Secret Identity) - Jerry and his wife Rebecca Romijn are guests on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Mark Consuelos (Alpha House/Hope & Faith) - Mark appears on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Kevin Hart (The Big House/Undeclared) - Kevin is a guest on a repeat of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Christina Milian (Grandfathered) - Christina appears on a repeat of The Real, so check your local listings.
  • Jane Lynch (Angel from Hell) - Jane is a guest on repeat of The Kelly Clarkson Show, so check your local listings.
  • Deon Cole (grown-ish/black-ish/Angie Tribeca) - Deon appears on a repeat of The Kelly Clarkson Show, so check your local listings.
  • Andy Samberg (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) - Andy will be on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am.


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

Step by Step - The Complete Seventh and Final Season The Good Place - The Final (Fourth) Season Head of the Class - The Complete First Season Modern Family - The Eleventh and Final Season Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Seven

04/07 - Cheers - The Complete Series (2020 Release)
04/14 - Police Squad! - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
04/14 - The Righteous Gemstones - The Complete First Season
04/21 - Step by Step - The Complete Seventh and Final Season (WBShop.com)
05/05 - Kidding - Season 2
05/19 - The Good Place - The Final (Fourth) Season
05/19 - The Good Place - The Complete Series - Collector's Edition (Blu-ray)
05/26 - Silicon Valley - The Complete Sixth and Final Season
05/26 - Silicon Valley - The Complete Series
06/02 - Work in Progress - Season 1
06/09 - Head of the Class - The Complete First Season (WBShop.com)
06/09 - How to Be a Gentleman - The Complete Series
06/09 - Letterkenny - Seasons 3 & 4
06/09 - Modern Family - The Eleventh and Final Season
06/09 - No Activity - Season 1
06/09 - Superior Donuts - Season Two
06/23 - Bob's Burgers - The Complete 10th Season
06/23 - Fresh Off the Boat - The Complete Sixth and Final Season
06/23 - Last Man Standing - The Complete Seventh Season
06/23 - South Park - The Complete Twenty-Third Season (Blu-ray)
06/30 - Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Seven
07/07 - Will & Grace - The Revival - Season Three - The Farewell Season
07/21 - Curb Your Enthusiasm - The Complete Tenth Season
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Recent SitcomsOnline.com News Blog Posts

07/11 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Fox Renews The Moodys for Second Season; NBC Preparing to Put Peacock Into Flight
07/10 - Fri-Yay: Never Have I Ever, Netflix's Best Sitcom; Ramy Gets Season 3 on Hulu
07/09 - NBC Reviving Weakest Link; truTV's I'm Sorry Gets Charitable
07/08 - HBO Max Orders Series Based on Hair Love; Comedy Central Inks Deal with John Mulaney
07/07 - Dead to Me Picked Up for Final Season on Netflix; CBS All Access Orders Star Trek Animated Comedy
07/06 - ABC to Rebroadcast Live in Front of a Studio Audience: All in the Family and Good Times Episodes on Tuesday (July 7); Anthony Anderson and Billy Eichner to Guest Host ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live! This Week
07/05 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of July 6, 2020)
07/04 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Amazon Gets Streaming Rights to Mad Men; Too Close for Comfort on Pluto TV
07/03 - Fri-Yay: Streaming Services Remove Episodes of Sitcoms Due to Racial Jokes; The Kominsky Method Final Season Announced
07/02 - Netflix Renews Never Have I Ever for Season 2; Comedy Central Reviving Beavis and Butt-Head
07/01 - Remembering Comedy Legend Carl Reiner, MeTV and Decades to Air Tributes; HBO Orders Season 11 of Curb
06/30 - Decades 3rd Annual Rod, White & Blue: A Twilight Zone Celebration; Love in the Time of Corona Announces Cast
06/29 - BET Picks Up 2nd Season of Twenties; Vivica A. Fox Teams Up with Krista Allen, Jackée & More for More Wrong TV Movies
06/28 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of June 29, 2020)
06/27 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Sitcoms Present and Past Deal with Current Racial Issues; Binge Watch Past Favorites on Roku Channel
06/26 - Fri-Yay: Search Party Season 3 Thoughts; HBO Max Teams Up with Marlon Wayans
06/25 - CNN and HLN Announce Slate, with History of Sitcom; Lil Rel Set to Host NBC Game Show
06/24 - REELZ Announces New Specials on John Ritter, Bernie Mac, David Cassidy, Larry Hagman & More; Netflix Releases Unsolved Mysteries Trailer
06/23 - Fox Renews Animated Comedy for 2nd Season Before Series Premiere; Cobra Kai Moving to Netflix
06/22 - Antenna TV Summer 2020 Schedule; USA Network's Cannonball to Sneak Peek on NBC
06/21 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of June 22, 2020)
06/20 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Comedy Central Picks Up Daria Spinoff; Networks Finally Set Fall Lineup
06/19 - Fri-Yay: Expectations on 30 Rock Remote Special; ABC Schedules Sitcom United We Fall for Summer
06/18 - ABC Upfront 2020-21: Fall 2020 Schedule; Debra Messing Heads to the East Wing on Starz
06/17 - NBC Upfront 2020-21: Fall 2020 Schedule; 30 Rock Returns for Upfront Special on July 16
06/16 - NBC Cancels Indebted, Picks Up Manifest; ABC's For Life Gets 2nd Season, The Baker and The Beauty Doesn't
06/15 - truTV Announces Tacoma FD Return and More; NBC Brings Back Freshman Drama, Cancels Two Others
06/14 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of June 15, 2020)
06/13 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist Renewed for Season 2; Cops and Live PD Cancelled
06/12 - Fri-Yay: Rick and Morty Season 4; HBO Max Orders 2nd Season of Love Life
06/11 - Hulu Changes Premiere Dates of Two Series; ABC Encores Powerful Documentary Next Tuesday