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Archive for August 14th, 2017

by Sam Juliano

You’d almost think that the fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina was the creation of renowned American playwright Thornton Wilder.  That is until you realize that life in Grovers Corner, New Hampshire is steeped in melancholy, and the concerns are more deeply philosophical.  Yet one would be hard pressed not to note the small town parallels, and how seemingly innocuous village institutions like a drug store, barber shop, auto repair depot, school, post office, courthouse, and town hall can be the center of every mode of interaction and incidence, a place where everyone knows everyone else, and where for its erstwhile inhabitants life stands still.  Mayberry is a town with a purported population of 5, 360, and an elevation of 671.   Scholar Donald Margulies declares in his Our Town forward, “the work is about the universal experience of being alive” and the same came be said for the archetypal Mayberry, which bears the name of the county that owns it.  The Bluebird Diner, The Grand Theater, Floyd’s Barber Shop and Myer’s Lake are central to the Mayberry experience as it was played out in eight long years in one America’s most revered and enduring sitcoms, The Andy Griffith Show, a television watermark that continues to this very day to attract new fans, while remaining a treasured refuge for those who either grew up with it during the baby boomer era or discovered it in syndication.  There are very few American television enterprises that have maintained the kind of fervent appeal as this CBS tour de force, a show as ingrained in the nation’s culture as any before or since, and one remarkably that has never dated one iota, since the full run of emotions and human inhibitions are as relevant today as they were six decades ago.  I’d venture to pose that a hundred years from now The Andy Griffith Show will be scoring new adherents, people all too eager to ingest its tame but telling brew and to find special solace spending time with characters everyone has grown to know and love.  The program was and remains a sanctuary from crisis and unease and an invitation to indulge in the show’s meditative showcase of life’s inscrutable mundanities.  Alas, in the end the show is deep, wistful and profound, and is fully foolproof to those who would ordinarily look down their nose at such seeming simplicity.  One can never deem to understand and appreciate American television and indeed the culture without visiting Mayberry and partaking either moderately or with the force of a tornado, in The Andy Griffith Show.

First aired in September of 1960, The Andy Griffith Show became an immediate hit.  It continues to run several times a day in some markets, and the overall circulation circulation needs to be spoken of in worldwide terms.  It would be difficult to argue that by way of staying power it doesn’t rival The Honeymooners or I Love Lucy, those other CBS masterpieces, but unlike them the appeal can’t be explained completely by acting and writing excellence.  At a time when the civil rights movement was gaining momentum, sex, drugs and rock and roll were redefining the culture, and riots and assassinations began their tragic paths, this celebration of life in the slow lane was of special interest to those wanting to resist the turbulent changes and to remember what it once was in less complicated times.  Black and white helped to frame this nostalgic program, and in some cases it allowed viewers to reconnect with their own past.  Andy Griffith himself grew up in Mount Airy, NC, which some assumed was the model for Mayberry, though the performer himself refutes that, declaring instead that the nearby Pilot Mountain was the intended replica.  His beloved co-star Don Knotts was also brought up in a rural hamlet in West Virginia, so it could be confidently posed that the setting was exceedingly well suited.  The show’s central dramatic concern was the friendship between these two men, Griffith as likeable Mayberry Sheriff Andy Taylor, and Knotts as his big-eyed and child-like deputy Barney Fife.  Andy’s lawman possessed a gently satiric edge, since the town he was entrusted with had almost no crime.  If anything, through his actions, or more often non-actions Andy helped the town’s citizens to hold steady to their homespun values, while protecting his compulsive deputy from a variety of problems emanating from his overwrought behavior.  The other major player in this minimalist dynamic is the widower Andy’s eight year-old son Opie, a precocious boy who his only child and immediate family member.  Some of the show’s most memorable episodes and situations are fueled by this irresistible lad, one who of course grew up to be the major Hollywood director Ron Howard. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Our nine day trip to Sunset Beach, North Carolina, which also included a few trips over the state border to Myrtle Beach SC is now over, though Lucille is with her Florida cousins who picked her up by car on our day of deprature to escort her down to Atlantic Beach, a part of Jacksonville.  She will be taking a flight to Newark on this coming Wednesday, and we’ll all be there to greet her.  Though our trip included much more rain than we’d have liked it was still loads of fun.

The Top 80 Television Countdown resumed on Saturday with Marilyn Ferdinand’s essay on The Bob Newhart Show.  It will run unabated till late September.  Thanks to all who have made it the monster hit it is. (more…)

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