The Andy Griffith Show, which ran on television for less than a decade, will always have a special place in the hearts of those fortunate enough to have seen all 249 episodes, especially the early ones, countless times.
Just what makes a show so enduring that one can watch it, and enjoy watching it, even after so many repeats? Ah, it has much to do with the charm and authenticity of the now late Andy Griffith, who passed away today at his home in North Carolina. If you ever watched him and didn’t love him, you are a very strange and incomprehensible American.
My mom adored him, from his “Just for Laughs” comedy album in 1958 all the way through Matlock, which ended in 1995. She wouldn’t miss an episode. But it was The Andy Griffith Show, which aired from 1960-1968, that gave my family and the larger American family the cultural gift of Sheriff Andy Taylor—”Ange” as Barney called him—and Mayberry, and, well, America as some dreamed it was.
Whatever America was, or is, Andy Griffith was, and is, one of the few great American icons. Sure, Mayberry didn’t experience the tumult of the Civil Rights Era, and there weren’t black characters featured in any episode, but The Andy Griffith Show did embrace the values of fairness and community, which Sheriff Taylor managed to promote mostly without the use of a gun. Imagine doing that in today’s NRA-dominated America.
What we may without guilt take away from The Andy Griffith Show and Mayberry, besides those values of fairness and community that permeated every episode, is the sense that we might need to slow down a bit, stop and appreciate the gift of existence, sit on the front porch and sing and catch flies with our bare hands and let them go because, as Barney said, “Well, it’s Sunday.” (If you haven’t seen the opening of that episode in a while, go and watch it.)
Finally, I remember hearing Griffith’s comedy album when I was very young, and I was and remain fascinated by his amazing ability to tell a tale. He managed to incorporate his story-telling into episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, like his classic retelling of “Romeo and Juliet” for Opie, which I will leave you with, as incontrovertible evidence of the good man’s charm and talent: