July 4, 2012

ANDY'S AMERICAN REVOLUTION:

MORE: The Folksy TV Sheriff From Mayberry (DOUGLAS MARTIN, July 3, 2012, NY Times)
Mr. Griffith was already a star -- on Broadway in "No Time for Sergeants" and in Hollywood in Elia Kazan's film "A Face in the Crowd" -- when "The Andy Griffith Show" made its debut in the fall of 1960. And he delighted a later generation of television viewers in the 1980s and '90s in the title role of the courtroom drama "Matlock."

But his fame was never as great as it was in the 1960s, when he starred for eight years as Andy Taylor, the sagacious sheriff of the make-believe town of Mayberry, N.C. Every week he rode herd on a collection of eccentrics, among them his high-strung deputy, Barney Fife, and the simple-minded gas station attendant Gomer Pyle. Meanwhile, as a widower, Andy raised a young son, Opie, and often went fishing with him. "The Andy Griffith Show," seen Monday nights on CBS, was No. 4 in the Nielsen ratings its first year and never fell below the Top 10. It was No. 1 in 1968, its last season. After the run ended with Episode No. 249, the show lived on in spinoff series, endless reruns and even Sunday school classes organized around its rustic moral lessons.

The show imagined a reassuring world of fishin' holes, ice cream socials and rock-hard family values during a decade that grew progressively tumultuous. Its vision of rural simplicity (captured in its memorable theme song, whistled over the opening credits) was part of a TV trend that began with "The Real McCoys" on ABC in 1957 and later included "The Beverly Hillbillies," "Petticoat Junction," "Green Acres" and "Hee Haw."

But by the late 1960s, the younger viewers networks prized were spurning corn pone, and Mr. Griffith had decided to leave after the 1966-67 season to make movies. CBS made a lucrative offer for him to do one more season, and "The Andy Griffith Show" became the No. 1 series in the 1967-68 season. [...]

[T]he show's 35 million viewers would have been reassured to learn that even at the peak of his popularity, Mr. Griffith drove a Ford station wagon and bought his suits off the rack. He said his favorite honor was having a stretch of a North Carolina highway named after him in 2002. (That was before President George W. Bush presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.)

Posted by at July 4, 2012 12:56 AM
  

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