Here in the Charleston area, The Andy Griffith Show comes on every day at 11 a.m. for a full hour, two episodes. News and talk shows come on before and after. If I don’t watch anything else, I try to watch Andy. I would rather watch a 50-year-old TV show than find out what’s going on today. A little Andy makes every day better.
The show was well-acted and well put together for its time, but that’s not what makes it a classic that is watchable lo these many years later. It stands the test of time because of its simplicity, which is lacking in a lot of newer programs that depend on special effects and complicated storylines. To me, the appeal in the show is related to the appeal in many old-fashioned pursuits such as canning or milking a cow. It’s retro comfort and basic in its purpose, meaningful in a way that is both ethereal and intrinsic. Everyone is happy at the end, problems are always solved, and even the bad guys aren’t really bad. It promises order in the world if we just try to do the right thing. And, best, I can stretch out on the couch while I’m watching it. It’s a weird kind of stress relief in the middle of my day.
I’ve become a sort of Andy Griffith expert over the time I’ve been watching the show. Recently, they started back again at the earliest episodes and I noticed that Andy spoke with a much larger, slower drawl, and smiled or laughed too much, playing more the “dumb” sheriff in the first episodes. Apparently at some point they realized somebody needed to be the “smart” one and it needed to be Andy. I also had never realized that there was a character Ellie who was his original girlfriend. He hasn’t broken up with Ellie yet, and I try not to miss a day because I want to see what happens when Helen shows up. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re obviously not ready for watercooler talk about The Andy Griffith Show. It must be really embarrassing for you at the office!
Nobody’s talking about The Andy Griffith Show around the watercoolers these days.
That’s just me.
Except I don’t even have a watercooler. And I don’t go to an office.
Anyway. It had occurred to me that I have some kind of weird fixation on The Andy Griffith Show but it’s possibly no weirder than other weird things I do. They don’t make shows like this anymore, and if they tried, they wouldn’t last, and yet Andy’s lasted longer than he lived, and so far, all of my life. When I’m watching the show, I soak in all the little bits of atmosphere. Aunt Bea wearing an apron. Opie asking to be excused from the table. EATING EVERY MEAL AT THE TABLE. The clothes they wear, the manners, the sense of propriety even in a common everyday setting. There’s an underlying ambiance of honor that is integral and unaware of itself. It’s like a pillow for your feet, and I’m not just saying that because I put my feet on a pillow while I watch it. It’s safe and comforting and tells you that everything is going to be okay, just be nice and laugh. There’s a gentle structure to it that reminds me of driving to church in the backseat of my parents’ car or pulling up a chair to a heaping table at my Great-Aunt Ruby’s house.
There are many ways in which we can’t replay time to create the simplicity of days before the internet and interstates, but wherever we live, city or suburb, if we can a jar of something fresh from the garden, bake a loaf of bread, milk a cow, or pull a warm egg from beneath a hen, whatever it is we can do in our circumstances, those basic simplicities are a way to touch that past, put order in our own modern worlds, bring a little Mayberry into our homes. And every time we do something meaningful, purposeful, simple, however small, that is what we do.
We don’t need more complicated storylines pushed on our already complicated lives. We just need to make our own Mayberry. And remember that we can.
And now I gotta go. It’s almost time for Andy!