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The Andy Griffith Show (TV Series 1960–1968) - Plot Summary Poster

(1960–1968)

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Summaries

  • Widower Sheriff Andy Taylor, and his son Opie, live with Andy's Aunt Bee in Mayberry, North Carolina. With virtually no crimes to solve, most of Andy's time is spent philosophizing and calming down his cousin Deputy Barney Fife.


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The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • The Andy Griffith show is a fantasy small town called Mayberry and mostly goofy simple story situations. A place where we all want to visit, and some want to live. One sitcom with 249 episodes synonymous with the 1960s than "The Andy Griffith Show," which was a spin-off of "The Danny Thomas Show," it aired on CBS between October 3, 1960 and April 1, 1968, bringing to life the colorful characters and comedic situations. The main character is the towns widower sheriff, his aunt who is their house keeper and his young son (only six years-old when the show started and presently the famous director Ron Howard). Simple show beloved for almost 60 years now in syndication.

    The Beginning of the "Andy Griffith Show," all started with a simple musical score written by Earle Hagen who was one of the most versatile of television's composers. Some of his themes were for "The Dick Van Dyke Show," "I Spy," and the "Mod Squad." In 1960, Hagen new task was for a new series about a small-town sheriff surrounded by hometown residents. After considerable thought he wrote the theme in an hour and recorded it with guitar and a drum. Hagen whistled the tune himself and had his 11-year-old son at the time snap his fingers on the track.

    This was one of Sheldon Leonards' early shows as an executive producer, felt the theme told the exact story of the new Andy Griffith Show. The way he say the opening segment was Andy and his boy Opie walking down a country road with their fishing poles. He was sure of the representation of this music and the images were warm, unpretentious, and sure to show what the Andy Griffith Show would deliver to the viewers.

    At 33 Andy Griffith started work on the new show that and would become an essential sitcom of all time. With the show in syndication almost 60years later. Griffith had rolled this early success hit comedy to Manhattan nightclub engagements, Broadway stardom (No Time For Sergeants), and a movie career. Also climaxing his career with his favorite acting role as a country attorney "Mattlock," from 1986 - 1995.

    With Richard O. Linke, the Capitol Records executive who had discovered convinced his manager, Lastfogel, the head of the powerful William Morris Agency. Interestingly Griffiths third film, Onionhead, was redo of No Time for Sergeants, flopped with his second Broadway show, Destry Rides Again, was only a small amount better. It was to be television this rarely new medium that would become his road to fame and fortune.

    The Andy Griffith Show was an agency package, the way most early television shows were approved and then created. Although in these types of agreements talent agencies like William Morris, would receive 10 percent of the actors' salaries as well as the license fee for the show. During this time the show was owned by the talent, not the network or the sponsor, a huge incentive in creating longevity with the performers. Griffiths' profit share was as much as 70 percent.

    One episode as visioned by Leonard and writer Arthur Stander conceived an episode of The Danny Thomas Show where Thomas' passes through a small Southern town and asks its sheriff (Griffith), "Do you know who I am?" It was one of television's first spin-off pilots. Then off to CBS the show went, even though few of the elements were in place. In the Danny Thomas segment Griffith, Howard and Bavier (different character) had appeared in it. Barney Fife was the last major addition, born as an afterthought when Don Knotts, who had played a small role in the stage and film versions of No Time for Sergeants, saw the pilot and asked Griffith if Sheriff Taylor needed a deputy. This would turn out to be the largest contribution to the show as it would be shown over the time as the sitcom continues for almost 5 years with him before the character left as the actor had chosen to do movies over television. Don Knotts however would make many guest appearances after his departure.

    Lucille Ball had a huge influence on the series as well. Leonard's original premise had the main character Andy Taylor as the town's lawman, justice of the peace, and newspaper editor not the right direction of the character. Andy would just be the sheriff, and a down-to-earth one at that: No hat, no tie, no gun. Thus worked! First-season Andy had similarities with the movie "No Time for Sergeants," and his comedy albums which was part of the early episode "A Feud Is A Feud." "I was supposed to tell funny stories about people around the town and be very Southern, very rural, and very mountain," Griffith explained. But on the second episode, with Barney Fife, "The Manhunt." Knotts' it became so apparent that Andy would become the straight man. Bone episode where Barney buys a clunker in "Barney's First Car," one big laugh comes from the sight of the steering column slowly unscrewing itself. Griffith as a straight man simply says "I don't believe I've ever seen anything like that before." Andy Taylor an impressive father figure and a symbol of fair-minded judgments that no one saw at the outset of the series. With Andy the sheriff as a straight man, there was a need for more funny characters, there was the Amiable drunk Otis Campbell (Hal Smith), fun Floyd the barber (Howard McNear), and the gas station attendant Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors) were series favorites ad beloved by the viewers. Griffith discovered Nabors performing in a Los Angeles nightclub. Other notable characters were the proper Englishman Malcolm Merriweather (Bernard Fox), hillbilly folks the Darlings, and a real favorite mountain man Ernest T. Bass (Howard Morris) were unique and crazy and again the viewers favored seeing them when ever shown. Griffith felt that keeping the small-town and rural humor was important and id the reason why Ernest T. and the Darlings were said to have "come down from the mountains." Andy's character was a widower and seeking a leading lady for Sheriff Taylor wa a daunting task. Father Knows Best's Elinor Donahue had been signed to a long-term contract as town druggist Ellie Walker but left early. She was to have said she was going thru difficult times emotionally and felt she needed a break from acting to addresses these issues. Writer Jim Fritzell recommended his girlfriend, Aneta Corsaut. Corsaut, cast as Opie's teacher Helen Crump, was a self-described feminist who quarreled with Griffith over women's lib during her first episode. This turned out to be a good fit and the actors themselves would have a long-term friendship where again you would see Corsaut on episodes of the television series Matlock. With Corsaut in place (complementing Betty Lynn as Thelma Lou, Barney's girl from late in the first season), The Andy Griffith Show had finally completed its cast.

    The writers were a great working team and came up with gags such as Barney's one bullet, which he had to keep in his shirt pocket. Character buildup and interaction was the show and they worked hard with the series comedy to keep fluent and stayed constant.

    Sheldon Leonard encouraged the actors to contribute suggestions for the next episode, and those brainstorming sessions often lasted until after dark. "Much improved, much improved," Griffith would invariably say at the next table read. Leonard dropped in to offer occasional suggestions that earned him a reputation as a huge asset to the overall story production. Griffith had also become a part of the writing of the show with Knotts as a smaller but similar role in the creation of weekly episodes.

    Some of the best episodes were written with the characters persona being the story and the way they would interact into with the varied situations. Episode "The Pickle Story" Andy and Barney's do not want to disclose that they cannot eat Aunt Beas pickled pickles, "kerosene cucumbers." In "Citizen's Arrest," a famous scene has Gomer getting a ticket for a U-turn and then triumphantly turning the tables ("Citizen's ah-RAY-yust!") when Barney commits the same offense when using an emergency vehicle, the squad car, Barney overreacts by locking himself in jail and quitting. Andy, and later Gomer, bend over backward to reconcile with Barney. "They'd think about Andy and Barney's relationship as very simple and transparent," Griffith said of the writers. "It was actually very complicated." Griffith and writer Ruben insisted on grounding the show, both emotionally and geographically. Mayberry's was fictitious however towns like Mayberry existed all over the south.

    Griffith and Knotts had grown up with similar backgrounds, and it was reflected in the slow rhythms of the little towns they grew up in, where people would sit around for hours, just visiting' and talking' about nothing' in particular. (Decades later the Seinfeld show would tell producers about their concept of a sitcom is a show to be "about nothing.") The producers resisted at first, but soon realized that such plot-less scenes were what made the show unique. One best episode, "Man in A Hurry," was in effect a manifesto on behalf of the show's placid front-porch aesthetic. In it, an officious out of town-er looks for a auto repairman through town, trying on a Sunday. By the end of the day, he's so charmed by Mayberry that he contrives an excuse to extend his stay. Griffith felt that, although the series was explicitly set in the present day it was really represented small town life in the '30s - 40's. and lending to the show's appeal.

    But the series' authenticity was always conditional, the logic was the series was filmed in Southern California and this is where the actors lived. The writers were mostly Jewish immigrants or children of Jewish immigrants so the final product was a creation of a perception and not an overall reality. The Andy Griffith Show was never the South to Southerners who knew better, and yet the viewers loved what they saw each week. He himself knew these contradictions and Andy Griffith himself, who unlike the principal cast usually shunned public appearances connected to The Andy Griffith Show. For fans, this made people who loved the character sad. The Andy Griffith Show was a fantasy of how small-town life should be, not the story of his life. When the real world tried to lay claim to what he had created, Griffith cried foul. He was not Sheriff Taylor!

    He had a point. It's not very Mayberry like for a town to turn itself into Mayberry in order to attract tourists, and it's bizarre to see Southerners as I have emulated The Andy Griffith Show's courtly gentility in the same way an idealized little town so inviting that a fan couldn't help but want to wish Floyd's barbershop or the Griffiths' front porch into existence. Griffith said-ambiguously. Living in Mayberry, that's something Barney Fife would try to do. Andy Taylor, with his wistful grin? He'd know better.

    Be a viewer whether it be in 1960 or today nearly 60 years later you want to see small town life. A town with the residents are overall honest, a town with little to no crime. A place where people move just a little slower and are not caught up in the busy lives of those in larger cities then this is your show. Sunday is for church and porch sitting and Sunday dinner with the family. This is your town, and this is a peaceful place we believe that we all want to live in. A fantasy place of safety, caring people and neighbors. A place where you can leave your doors unlocked. No hospital. No CPS. One Sheriff, one deputy, one police car, two jail cells, one friendly drunk one diner. Then Mayberry is where you want to be. - Martin Snytsheuvel

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