It’s Saturday morning and TV Land is showing something other than Bonanza and Gunsmoke?
n fact, it appears that they’re running The Andy Griffith Show through 8:00pm tonight. Oddly enough, unless the listings are just wrong, every episode being shown today seems to have been produced in 1961. It’s entirely possible: back then, a television season consisted of more than 30 episodes rather than the 20 or so we get now.
And when it comes to The Andy Griffith Show, the episodes made prior to 1965 had two additional things going for them: first, they were in black and white, which made the nostalgia factor soar much higher. Mayberry, North Carolina was like a window to yesteryear. Color episodes were just plain unnecessary. And the courthouse never looked all that great in color: in some episodes, they were an ugly green and in others they were an ugly gold.
But more importantly, the episodes from the first five seasons had Don Knotts. His Deputy Barney Fife character made the show, and Andy Griffith wisely realized that he should play straight man to Knotts’ Fife rather than going for all of the laughs himself.
Griffith had always told Knotts that he was only going to stick around for five years. So Knotts planned accordingly: after establishing himself as a great comic actor on that show, when movie offers started coming in, Knotts jumped at the chance to move to the big screen. He signed his movie deal, then found out that producers had persuaded Griffith to stay on for Season 6.
In a perfect world, The Andy Griffith Show would have been put out to pasture with Barney’s final episode. Sadly, we were left with Mayberry sans Fife, with two of the worst characters in television history: Howard Sprague, the nerdy county clerk, and Warren Ferguson, the bumbling Fife-wannabe deputy.
It was only a testament to the show’s enduring popularity that these two didn’t kill the show completely. Fortunately, the producers saw the error of their ways to a point and dumped the Warren character.
But that was all well-past 1961. So if you’re a fan of Mayberry’s collection of colorful characters, in their black-and-white glory, switch over to TV Land and take a visit. Aunt Bee might even make you a nice apple pie for some good ol’ front porch conversation.