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, June 27

The Neighborhood - "Welcome to the Knockout" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
As Dave nears his 40th birthday, Calvin offers to coach his friend for an amateur boxing tournament. Also, sparks fly when Marty meets a new woman at the gym.

Bob Hearts Abishola - "Cats in a Bathtub" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When Bob accidentally reveals Morenike is gay, Abishola and Kemi are forced to defend her against their church, and even their own families. Also, Douglas comes clean to Olivia about not being poor.

Breeders - "No More: Part One" (FX, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Jim and Jackie are both struggling under their new circumstances; Luke has to choose between Jacob and Ruby; at Alex's 65th birthday party, Ally meets someone who makes her see Paul in a new light.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of June 27)

Monday, June 27

  • Joey King (Bent) - Watch Joey on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Chelsea Handler (Are You There, Chelsea?) - Chelsea guest hosts Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Martin Lawrence (Martin/Partners) - Martin is a guest on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:35pm on NBC. He will also be on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am.
  • Michaela Jaé Rodriguez (Loot) - Michaela appears on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:35pm on NBC.
  • Wanda Sykes (The Upshaws/The New Adventures of Old Christine/Wanda at Large) - Wanda is a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Chelsea Handler (Are You There, Chelsea?) - Chelsea will be on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Kieran Culkin (Go Fish) - Kieran appears on a repeat of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Tig Notaro (One Mississippi) - Tig is a guest on a repeat of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Kym Whitley (Young & Hungry/Animal Practice/Sparks) and Finesse Mitchell (Outmatched/A.N.T. Farm) - Kym and Finesse guest co-host a repeat of The Wendy Williams Show, so check your local listings.
  • John Hodgman (Married/Bored to Death) - John talks the Judge John Hodgman podcast on CBS Mornings sometime between 7-9am.
  • Valerie Bertinelli (Hot in Cleveland/Café Americain/Sydney/One Day at a Time) - Valerie stops by to talk about her cooking show Valerie's Home Cooking and book Enough Already, plus she joins the Tam Fam kitchen to cook a delicious dish on a repeat of Tamron Hall, so check your local listings.
  • Sheryl Lee Ralph (Abbott Elementary/Fam/Instant Mom/Moesha/It's a Living) - Sheryl talks about Freeform's Motherland: Fort Salem on Access Daily, so check your local listings.
  • Danny Bonaduce (The Partridge Family) - Danny will be on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (March-June)

Brooklyn Nine-Nine - The Complete Series (Blu-ray) Head of the Class - The Complete Fourth Season Becker - The Complete Series (2022 Release) Young Rock - Season One The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet - The Complete Season One

03/08 - Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Eight
03/08 - Brooklyn Nine-Nine - The Complete Series (Blu-ray) (DVD)
03/15 - Head of the Class - The Complete Fourth Season
03/15 - The Proud Family - The Complete Original Series - Anniversary Collection
03/22 - The Honeymooners Specials - The Complete Collection
03/29 - Rick and Morty - The Complete Seasons 1-5 (Blu-ray) (DVD)
03/29 - Young Rock - Season One
04/05 - Up All Night - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
04/26 - The Danny Thomas Show (aka Make Room for Daddy) - The Complete Fourth Season
04/26 - Jackie Gleason TV Treasures - 70th Anniversary Collection (including Honeymooners Rarities)
05/03 - No Activity - Season Three
05/13 - The Donna Reed Show - The Complete Seasons 1-5 (Time Life)
05/31 - Becker - The Complete Series (2022 Release)
06/14 - Curb Your Enthusiasm - The Complete Eleventh Season
06/14 - Hacks - Season One (Blu-ray) (DVD)
06/14 - Rutherford Falls - Season One (Blu-ray) (DVD)
06/21 - The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet - The Complete Season One / Season Two / Season Three (07/26) / Season Four (07/26)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


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