Andy Griffith passed away this morning. He was 86 years old. He played a Southern lawyer named Matlock for 9 seasons. Before that, he played a Southern sheriff named Andy Taylor for 8. Matlock was OK, but Andy Taylor was a keeper.
A while back, 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 sort of explained the setup, but I couldn’t explain what makes the show so great, and why it still matters to folks here 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, it sounds pretty mediocre.
I explained 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, but it sounds strange to say that a comedy isn’t about the jokes.
Really, though, the writing on ”The Andy Griffith Show” was subtle and brilliant, and the humor was genuine, 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 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 real. It feels right, and movies and TV shows about the South never get it right.
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 Andy Griffith Show” has been around almost 52 years, and it’s still on. In some markets, it’s on several times a day, and every last episode is on Netflix, and they’re just as good today as they were the first time around.
Andy, we’ll miss you.
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.