The Andy Griffith Show

23 Nov

When I was a kid, my after school activities involved eating a snack; doing homework; and watching reruns of old television shows. The choices were plentiful as Gilligan messed things up on the island; Uncle Joe kept an eye on the Shady Rest as the girls skinny dipped in the water tank; Will and the Robot explored strange planets; and Herman and Grandpa got into trouble on Mockingbird Lane. However, those shows and characters paled in comparison to the exploits of the police force in Mayberry.

I became entranced by “The Andy Griffith Show” and watched in every time it came on the air (which was a lot). At one point, it was estimated that the show was ALWAYS on somewhere in the world. I watched it so much that I had the shows memorized and knew what the story would be within the first few frames. Eventually, I recorded the episodes on VHS tapes and cataloged them by episode number and title. By this point, you are thinking about how big of a dork I am. But wait, it gets worse.

I learned that Jim Clark and Ken Beck (who is from my hometown) started The Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club, and it eventually grew to have chapters all over the world. I joined the club and attended the cast reunions that it hosted. I met (using character names) Barney Fife, Thelma Lou, Otis Campbell, Charlene Darlin and the Darlin Boys, Malcolm Meriwether and Ernest T. Bass. The reunions became a cottage industry as hundreds of people would attend. Memorabilia was sold, and I, like others, began collecting everything about the show. The actors found second lives in their careers as the phenomenon grew. There was only one catch. Andy Griffith would not take part. He spent a great deal of his post-TAGS career bitter about being typecast as the small town sheriff. This kept him from facing the fact that the role made him who he was. It was only after finding success as Ben Matlock (which is Andy Taylor as an older lawyer) that he gave in and agreed to do a reunion movie. It sucked, but that isn’t the point. The movement of fans made the show popular again and put Mayberry back on the map.

Somewhere along the way, Ken Beck, who wrote for a Nashville newspaper, published a story about an art teacher in Maryland who built a model of Mayberry. My mom contacted Ken and eventually got in touch with the teacher. She asked if he could build another one for my birthday. He replied that we could have the original one. That is how I became the owner of the only replica of Mayberry, for which I was featured on the old Nashville Network. I was like ZZ Top. I was nationwide. At the next cast reunion, I introduced myself to Jim Clark. He said, “You’re the one with the town.” Apparently, I had made my mark in the Mayberry universe.

The reunion phase faded away in the late 1990s for a couple of reasons. One, everything runs its course. Second, the actors were getting older and not able to appear. When Don Knotts passed away the spark was gone. He was the star attraction just like he was the star of the show. Many people say the show was never the same when it went to color. Coincidentally, that coincided with his departure. However, the show did not reach Number 1 in the ratings until he left. Something to ponder for those haters of the post-Barney years (which I am).

The reunions don’t happen much anymore, and I rarely watch the show. However, I still have the town and all of the memorabilia. Also, the show finally came out on DVD with uncut episodes, and I have all of those. I can go back to Mayberry at any time.

As I think back on the days of reunions and collecting, I wonder what attracted so many people to a 1960s show and its stars. Everyone I knew thought of it as more than just another sitcom. Maybe it was a utopia that they wanted to live in but knew they never could. No matter the reason, “The Andy Griffith Show” has many adoring fans.

There will come a time when it is not remembered as much as it has been. In fact, I feel it is happening now. It will fade from memory like other shows of the 1950s and 1060s. But for those of us who attempted to enter the fictional town for just a bit, it will always be a place that we can go to in our imaginations.

8 Responses to “The Andy Griffith Show”

  1. imbrocata July 4, 2012 at 01:58 #

    Well done.. we’ll miss you Andy.

    • surroundedbyimbeciles July 4, 2012 at 03:12 #

      Thank you. He will be missed.


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