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An Appreciation: Andy Griffith, 1926-2012

What do you remember and love about Andy Griffith, Mayberry and the lessons learned from a legend?

Folksy and rural, Andy Griffith may have cut an unusual figure for a legend. The North Carolina actor created two roles that America grew up with, and in the wake of his death Tuesday at age 86, we have an opportunity to celebrate his influence on the family as we also mourn his loss.

But mostly, we should celebrate his influence.

Whether teaching a child about living things (Opie and the Bird Man), dealing with adversity (anything with Ernest T. Bass) or responsibility (with Bill Bixby as the spoiled young antagonist in Baily's Bad Boy), The Andy Griffith Show has influenced all of us a little bit.

If we didn't know the show, our parents or grandparents did. The bottom line is that no one in America is more than three degrees from Andy Taylor. Kevin Bacon should be so lucky.

"Mayberry" became synonymous with simple small town life in the same way that Mario Andretti became code for speed demon.

How often have we heard "Where (or What) do you think this is, Mayberry?"

Talk about hyperlocal, Mayberry might have been the original Patch city, the town news delivered to us on a small black and white screen before anyone dreamed of an internet. Fortunately, we live in a world now of larger screens and syndication.

Griffith also went on to create and star in Matlock. Still folksy and rural in a big city, Ben Matlock seemed to be Sheriff Andy Taylor with a law degree.

With as many lawyers as there are in this country, maybe they could all take little bit from Matlock.

But chances are, they already took a little bit from Andy Taylor.

All of us have.

Martin Henderson July 05, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Thanks, Shri. I still kinda wonder if they put the Andy Griffith Show on a major network at 8 p.m. if it wouldn't outperform some of those new shows. The first five years, when Don Knotts was patrolling Mayberry, can stand up to any five-year run around—including Seinfeld (and I loved Seinfeld). Although you say the show represented America the way it never really was, I respectfully disagree with you—sorta. America may not have been like Mayberry (or our families like the Taylors) 100 percent of the time, but I'm sure most of us had those Mayberry moments, of simple sweetness, humility, humor, honor and love. You are right -- it does make us yearn for that kind of life.
Joan Fantazia July 05, 2012 at 05:30 PM
There are so many great episodes, but I think my favorites are the ones in which Andy Taylor doesn't teach a lesson--but learns one (like the Mr. McBeevee episode).
Janet Whitcomb July 06, 2012 at 03:26 AM
Like so many Baby Boomers, I grew up watching Sheriff Andy, Opie, Aunt Bee, and all the others. In fact my mom, who was raised in El Modena—later annexed by the City of Orange—used to say she could recognize a lot of the small-town folks from her childhood on The Andy Griffith Show! But my mom also mentioned Andy Griffith's excellence in the 1957 film A Face In the Crowd. Upon seeing the film I was astonished that my mom would have seen it, much less appreciated it, for she much preferred musicals and light comedies. But she stood by her recommendation of both the film and Griffith's performance—even tho' he played a truly nasty individual—and I likewise recommend all Griffith fans to this dark but fascinating film, which is in part based on the rise to fame of folksy radio and TV star Arthur Godfrey. However, if you want something light-hearted, I also recommend 1958's No Time for Sergeants, a film adaptation of the original teleplay and Broadway play, all of which starred Griffith. Bonus: Also featured within the film . . . Don Knotts in a supporting role!
Panglonymous July 06, 2012 at 08:08 PM
Interesting, Janet. Might be fun to watch these in succession: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) A Face In The Crowd (1957) Network (1976) To Die For (1995) Roughly twenty years between each. Wonder what'll be screening in 2015. (p.s. Andy in the Mayberry show was a single father. Was there ever a backstory episode on that?)
Lloyd Klefstad July 14, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Andy Taylor thought this country many lessons about using common sense.

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