JIM DAVIS: Always Time For Visit To Mayberry
One of the fringe benefits of retirement is that you can spend your time any way you like, and no one -- well, almost no one -- will criticize you if you choose to watch television or do crossword puzzles all day.
I play a lot of golf, so my days are built around that. There are, however, two half-hour shows on daytime television that I never miss. If I'm out of the house from 10 to 11a.m. weekday mornings, I set my recorder for reruns of "The Andy Griffith Show."
The show ran from 1960 to 1968, but the best ones were from 1960 to 1965. After 1965 the show went to color, and some of the original cast left. Those early episodes featured Don Knotts as Barney Fife, bungling deputy to Griffith's Sheriff Andy Taylor. Taylor was a widower, the sheriff of Mayberry, North Carolina, and the scripts were deeply rooted in small town America. There was practically no crime in Mayberry beyond littering, jaywalking, and the occasional bootlegger, so the stories were usually about the relationships among the town's residents.
Not everyone will remember that "The Andy Griffith Show" was a spinoff of "The Danny Thomas Show." In one episode of that show, Thomas was caught speeding through Mayberry, and Sheriff Taylor handled the case, much to the frustration of Danny and his friends. Audiences were so charmed by Taylor's administration of country justice that Griffith got his own show. The rest is history.
The show had several spinoffs of its own, including "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C." starring Jim Nabors, and "Mayberry R.F.D.," starring Ken Berry. In my opinion, however, these spinoffs never quite matched the charm of the original.
There were many continuing story lines, all of which were interesting and funny, and all of which contained that whimsical, gentle Mayberry humor.
I liked to watch Ernest T. Bass (Howard Morris), a demented mountain man who appeared in Mayberry occasionally. His preoccupation was throwing rocks through plate glass windows and running away. Another recurring character was Otis Campbell (Hal Smith), the town drunk, whose weekend toots were so predictable that the sheriff left the jail cell open for him. Fussy, excitable Floyd Lawson (Howard McNear) was the town barber, and the always-dense Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors) operated the local filling station.
Andy lived with his kindly Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier), who looked after Andy and his son, Opie (Ronny Howard). Another character I liked was Briscoe Darling (Denver Pyle), the head of a backwoods family of four country musician sons and one daughter, Charlene (Maggie Peterson). Charlene sang with her brothers and was enthusiastically pursued by the aforementioned Ernest T. Bass.
The sheriff had several girlfriends over the years, notably Peggy McMillan (Joanna Moore), Ellie Walker (Elinor Donahue) and Helen Crump (Aneta Corsaut). Helen and Andy finally married and moved away in the first episode of "Mayberry R.F.D."
Without question, the character I enjoyed the most was Deputy Barney Fife, played by the late, great Don Knotts. His interactions with the other characters, particularly Andy, were so finely honed that they were like a clinic on comedy acting.
Watch Barney put a clumsy but gentle move on his girlfriend, Thelma Lou (Betty Lynn). Watch him "under cover" at the bank, disguised as an elderly scrubwoman, scraggly hair amok and one trouser leg hanging out from under a dowdy dress. Watch him turn downtown Mayberry into a combat zone just by over-directing traffic or over-ticketing jaywalkers. And watch Andy, sometimes exasperated, but always gentle and tolerant toward his earnest but inept assistant. I loved Don Knotts. I'm sorry he's gone.
Excuse me, but I have to go now. It's 10 o'clock.
Contact Pinehurst writer Jim Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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