Created by: Sheldon Leonard
Starring: Andy Griffith, Ron Howard, Don Knotts, Frances Bavier, Howard McNear
- All thirty-two first season episodes
Released by: Paramount
Anamorphic: N/A; episodes appear in their original 1.33:1 format.
My Advice: Avoid it before it brainwashes you.
America has an irrational nostalgia for the small town, seeing it a bucolic oasis from the forces of modernity, intellectualism, and diversity. Mostly this myth is carried by middle aged white men who are afraid their wives will cavort with eighteen year old hormonally supercharged sex machines, their sons will turn into white wine swilling communist homosexuals, and their daughters will have out of wedlock babies with black men. Many people still hold on to this fantasy with a loverâ€™s embrace even though most of their residents ran to the big city to escape narrow-mindedness and abject poverty. Believing that the small town is the only bastion for true American values and morals, these townships remain hotbeds for intolerance, corruption, and hypocrisy. Now this viral meme is being carried by the Republican Party, but during the 1960, the carrier was of all places, CBS. With other shows like The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, and Green Acres, The Andy Griffith Show managed to infect millions of Baby Boomers with the illusion of the quaint Southern county town. Donâ€™t believe me? Think itâ€™s a television classic? Think I’m a paranoid liberal? HA! Read on and all will become clear.
First off, the show whitewashes the uglier aspects of the South. The inbred clannishness and lawless violence of the Hatfield-McCoy feud that claimed over a dozen lives that we know of and lasted over thirty years? Here it becomes a cute retelling of Romeo and Juliet (with a happy ending of course) where their old coots of fathers deep down donâ€™t want to hurt each other. Cue violins. The potential of exploding stills, toxic moonshine, and willful disregard of federal authority? Why in Mayberry they just have two cute little old ladies with a flower shop making the hooch. Even the evil of alcoholism is made light of with the lovable Otis (Hal Smith), the town drunk and comic relief. Oh isnâ€™t he funny with his funny walk and slurred drunk talk. Nice example to give the kiddies.
And all this revisionist propaganda is headed by Sheriff and Justice of the Peace Andy Taylor (Griffith), who rules not by intimidation and midnight raids with burning crosses. Of course not. He doesn’t have to. With homespun homilies and cornpone humor, he can handle everything from dangerous fugitives to abusive domestic disturbances. Yeah. Right.
Then there is his deputy, Barney Fife (Knotts), whose appearance suggests too many cousins marrying each other. All his efforts to improve himself meet with failure and he is made a laughingstock by the show. Is Fife supposed to illustrate the futility of ambition and the drive to better oneself? When he tries to comply with official rules and regulations or tries to implement modern police techniques, he only gets supposedly good natured derision from Andy.
In fact, everyone from government inspectors to the state police fail miserably against Sheriff Taylorâ€™s back woods wisdom. Andy’s whole modus operandi is to not to interfere and let people be…except when he wants to. He even bends the rules to suit his needs. He tries to get the pharmacist to give pills to an elderly woman without a prescription (that the pills turn out to be placebos are beside the point). So all the professionals, with their book learning and citified ways, are shown to be inferior to the sheriff’s lackadaisical attitude and pastoral common sense? So why bother to educate yourself, expand your mind, change tradition when you have Generalissimo–I mean Sheriff Taylor to care for you. Is it going too far to say that Mayberry is a police state?
You can just imagine how the show deals with gender issues. The only function that the Taylors’ Aunt Bee (Bavier) has is to cook and clean. She even enjoys the cleaning the messes that Andy and his child Opie (Howard) generate. Iâ€™m sorry, but there is more to a mature woman than her ability to make fried chicken and apple pie. You would think that the local pharmacist, a woman, running for city council would a step in the right direction. But does her passion and eloquent words manage to sway the male population? Of course not. Her knight in shining armor Andy rides to the rescue and saves her campaign, completely undermining any real progress. When they have a young woman helping her father with the farm, do they show her proud of working the land? Please. She is only interested in make-up and chatting up boys. Andy–and Ellen, as a traitor to her sex–reduce this girl to a role of honey trap to snag a boy to work the fields.
The Andy Griffith Show is an exercise of nostalgia to a time and place that never existed. The Baby Boomer generation may indulge themselves in this redneck escapist twaddle, but I would like to think that we are capable of enjoying more elevated fare such as Married…With Children and Roseanne. And with no special features, the show being on TV Land every other hour, and of course it being anti-modern urbanism propaganda, there is no reason to buy it.