The other day, I tried to describe “The Andy Griffith Show” to a Londoner born in South Africa. She’d never seen the show, never heard of Mayberry.
I failed. I sort of explained the setup, but I couldn’t explain why it still matters folks in the South.
If she’d ask me to explain, “Everybody Loves Raymond,” I could have. It’s about a guy named Raymond, and everybody loves him, but they don’t get along with each other, right?
When you explain “The Andy Griffith Show,” though, the setup sounds pretty weak.
I wrote the Londoner that it’s a show about a widowed sheriff who lives with his son and aunt in a Southern town called Mayberry. I could imagine her eyes glazing over, so I added that the sheriff’s cousin is his only deputy and that it’s funny because of the characters, not because of the jokes.
Like that was going to help.
But, really, the writing on the show was subtle and brilliant, especially when you consider the quality of most sitcoms at the time. I can’t think of too many shows where the laughs don’t come from what the characters says but how or why they say it.
For example, “Hello, doll.”
If you know the show, that’s one of your favorite lines, ever. If you don’t, it would take too long to explain it (but I’ll try if anyone asks).
What’s really hard to explain, though, is that here in the South, “The Andy Griffith Show” isn’t just another rerun. It’s become part of the culture. Here in the South, it’s beloved.
We know it wasn’t real, that Mayberry was just a set on a Hollywood backlot, but it feels authentic, and movies and TV shows about the South never feel authentic.
Mayberry is how we remember our hometowns — a little eccentric, maybe, but friendly and basically decent and a good place to raise kids. We wish we could live there.
Nobody wishes they could live in the world of “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
The fall season is about to start. It’ll mark the 50th anniversary of “The Andy Griffith Show.”
You know what I think I’m gonna do? I’m gonna go home, have me a little nap and then go over to Thelma Lou’s a watch a little TV.