Monday, June 28, 2010

Mayberry Mondays #7: “Youth Takes Over” (11/11/68, prod. no. 0115)

I know what you’re thinking. I know because I thought the same thing when I saw the title of this episode pop up on the menu of the disc of the “rootpeg” Mayberry R.F.D. collection I bought a good while back. This episode is going to kick much butt! A title like this hints at rebellion; it suggests that the bored youth element in that sleepy little North Carolina hamlet has had enough, and they’re going on a rampage to end all rampages. Why, the very title is similar to Youth Runs Wild, the 1944 j.d. drama produced by Val Lewton and directed by Mark Robson. I was picturing an episode where village-idiot-in-training Mike Jones (Buddy Foster) had acquired a “sickle” and was spending his after-school hours riding up and down Mayberry’s tiny streets, terrorizing the populace. Next thing he’d be telling R.F.D. writer-producer Bob Ross: “I’ll grow my !@#$ing hair any !@#$ing length I !@#$ing well please!”

Why else would we see this in the opening credits?

It’s a sign—Mayberry’s going to become “the town too tough to tame,” and Sheriff Andy is going to have to ride herd. “What are you rebelling against, son?” he’d ask Mike. “Whaddya got…sir?” would be the kid’s smart-assed reply.

Well, “Youth Takes Over” doesn’t swing that way. I know that it’s a wee bit early in this stage of the Mayberry Mondays feature (less than two months in) but this segment is a prime candidate for a Top Ten list of "Most Boring Mayberry R.F.D. Episodes." Honest to my grandma.

Oh, well…might as well get started. As our stirring saga unfolds, a Mayberry city council meeting comes to a standstill because the assembled members—including head councilman Sam Jones (Ken Berry), Sheriff Andy “Only two more guest shots and I am so out of here” Taylor (Andy Griffith), Howard Sprague (Jack Dodson) and Cyrus Tankersley (George Cisar)—are waiting for Goober Pyle (George Lindsey) to arrive. Yes, you read that correctly…apparently Goober is a member of the council. (God help us all.) But fear not…Goober makes his entrance, ice cream cone in hand:

GOOBER: I’m sorry I’m late, but there was a long line at the ice cream store…
SAM: That’s okay, Goob…sit down and we’ll get started…now…
GOOBER (as he sits): I wanted chocolate but they was out of it, so I had to take strawberry
SAM: As I was saying…Andy and I have been giving some thought to the youth program…
GOOBER (interrupting): They had pistachio but that makes my mouth turn wrong side out…
ANDY: Goob…
GOOBER: You reckon that’s because “pistachio” sounds a lot like “persimmon”?
ANDY: Goob…we’re trying to get on with the meeting…
GOOBER: Well, yeah—let’s go…


Never a taser when you need one. Sam forges on by explaining the concept behind “Youth Day,” a high-minded civic scheme he and Andy have hatched that will allow “three or four” elementary school kids “to take over the operation of Mayberry city government.” One kid will assume Sam’s responsibilities (which means he’ll spend a lot of time hanging out at Emmett’s), another will take on Andy’s job (he’ll disappear and never be heard from again) and still another will tackle the overwhelming responsibilities involved in being a city clerk (that job will go to the most boring kid in class).

Howard thinks it’s a wonderful idea, and Cyrus—being the toadying lickspittle we’ve come to know and ridicule—signs on to the plan, too. “Hey—you gonna have a boy to take over the job of Special Emergency Sheriff’s Deputy?” asks Goober eagerly.

ANDY: Well, we hadn’t planned to, Goob…
GOOBER: Well, I’ll teach him everything I know…


No…I won’t do it…it’s too easy…

GOOBER (to Andy): I was Special Emergency Sheriff’s Deputy when you went on your honeymoon, remember?
ANDY: Yeah…
HOWARD: Goober, we just can’t have a boy taking over every little unimportant job in town…
GOOBER: Unimportant? Why, I was responsible for the safety of this town for one whole week…
CYRUS: Goober…your ice cream cone is dripping


“Well, that’s none of your business,” Goober retorts snippily. (Ooooh, snap!!!) Fortunately, Sam has again taken control before this turns into a real slap fest, and with the consent of all assembled he agrees to contact the principal to explain how the deal will go down…there is then a dissolve, and we find schoolteacher Miss Evans (Julie McCarthy) addressing the three boys (notice there were no girls chosen…a bit sexist, don’t you think?): “You three were selected because of the high grades you’ve gotten in civics…which is, after all, the study of government,” she informs the all-male choir. (Girls don’t like civics…they’re just too dumb…and they’re icky and have cooties.)

Hang on just a minute…did I just…no, it couldn’t be…could it? A black kid in Mayberry?

Using public domain footage from 1962 and 1963 episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, filmmaker David Bright created Why Come They’re Ain’t No Black People in Mayberry (2008), a Twilight Zone-ish parody that examines what would result if an African-American paid America’s favorite small town a visit. Now, technically the title of this short is a misnomer; black actor Rockne Tarkington has a prominent role as football coach Flip Conroy in The Andy Griffith Show episode “Opie’s Piano Lesson” (03/13/67), which aired in the program’s seventh season. But at the risk of firing up a controversy about the social and political climate of the South in the 1960s, I have to admit that the presence of a “student of color” is a bit off-putting, considering the region’s lily-white sensibilities at the time (after all, it wasn’t Greensboro, New Jersey that turned away black people from lunch counters in Woolworth’s stores). Mayberry’s more progressive than I gave it credit for…

Anyway, Mike asks his teacher if he’s going to be taking his father’s place on the city council—and Miss Lewis informs him instead that he’ll be appointed acting sheriff. Mike’s classmate Arnold Bailey (Sheldon Collins) will be stepping into Sam’s shoes…which leaves Martin Barton (Calvin Peeler)—Martin Barton? Didn’t somebody test-drive that moniker to see how it would sound?—with the county clerk position.

His enthusiasm is a bit…shall we say…dampened. “What does a county clerk do?” he asks Evans.

“Oh…all sorts of things,” she replies—or in other words, “I haven’t the slightest idea.” (Let me fill you in, Martin—you basically tell boring, pointless anecdotes and use a lot of big words until your friends literally bolt at the sight of you strolling down one of Mayberry’s sidewalks.) “That’s why we’re going to be having this class for the next two weeks,” she alibis. When asked what they’ll be expected to do as honorary city officials, Evans can shed no further light on this, either—“I imagine our city officers will have that all planned.” (Yeah, over a pinochle game in the back of Emmett’s…)

We then dissolve to several of Mayberry’s leading lights putting up banners and setting up tables in preparation of the upcoming Youth Day festivities—Martin’s father, Ralph, enters the scene…thereby upping the town’s black population by one. (Well, it stands to reason that there's an African-American dad involved—after all, this is Mayberry R.F.D. we’re talking about…not Diff’rent Strokes. As to where Mrs. Barton is…well, we’re not privy to that information.) Ralph (who’ll become a semi-regular on the show) is played by the great character actor Charles Lampkin, who is revered at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear for his portrayal of bartender Tiger Shepin on the late, lamented Frank’s Place.

HOWARD: Hey, Ralph—I’ll bet Martin’s all excited about taking over the county clerk’s job tomorrow, huh?
RALPH: Oh, yes, Howard…I’m sure he is…yeah…
HOWARD: What did he say?
RALPH (after a nine-month pregnant pause): Uh…well…uh…of course, you know he holds things in pretty good, you know…
HOWARD (a little disappointed): Oh…yeah…well, I guess that’s the way most kids are…they’re always kind of reluctant to reveal their true feelings…
RALPH: Oh, that’s what it is, all right…yeah…yeah…


Goober—still obsessed with this Special Emergency Sheriff’s Deputy crapola—then approaches Ralph and informs that he’d only be too happy to teach Martin the ropes if the kid’s interested. Insisting that it’s probably the most important function in Mayberry government, Goob editorializes that “County clerk can’t save you from no robbers.”

Arnold’s father, Frank Bailey (Stuart Nisbet), soon joins the group as Sam outlines the program for tomorrow—emphasizing that the boys participating need to be gussied up because they’ll be taking pictures (Ralph remarks that the attire will be “a blue suit and a sincere tie”). This meeting doesn’t last too long before Bailey announces that he has to mosey—which is kind of curious in light of the fact that his son Arnold appears to be…well, here’s the deal. Arnold was Opie’s sidekick on the old Andy Griffith Show, appearing in (again, using the IMDb) nine episodes from 1966-68. Now, in the eighth season TAGS episode, “Opie and Mike” (03/18/68), it’s established that Mike is younger than the sheriff’s son—and since there’s very little evidence to support that Mike is some sort of whiz kid prodigy it’s safe to assume that he’s a school grade or two in back of Opie. So why is Arnold in the same class as Mike? Well, it’s obvious—Arnold is Goober-like slow, and has been held back in school as a result. So you’d think his old man would be a bit more concerned about Arnold’s scholastic progress…but this doesn’t appear to be the case.

Ralph exits along with Frank, leaving Sam, Andy, Howard and Goober to continue discussing tomorrow’s festivities—with Sam and Andy placing emphasis on the fact that they don’t want things to be too regimented…otherwise the kids will think it too much like schoolwork. “It may be interesting to see how they react, you know,” Howard starts in, and you can see the eyes of the rest of the people in attendance start to close. “Might make a deep impression on them—who knows, by tomorrow morning Martin might comes up to me and say, ‘Mr. Sprague…when I grow up I want to be the county clerk.’ Now that oughta make the day worthwhile, huh?” (I get the impression that shortly after making this pronouncement, Martin would throw himself under the first Greyhound that pulled up at the Mayberry bus stop.)

Back in the classroom, Mike is reciting by rote the duties involved in the sheriff’s office. He gets an “attaboy” from Miss Evans, who tells Mike, Arnold and Martin: “Well, boys—I certainly want to compliment you on the way you’ve learned the functions of these offices. I think the two weeks we’ve spent on this have been very worthwhile…I think tomorrow can be a very meaningful day for all three of you.” (Hey, they get out of going through the usual classroom grind—that’s meaningful enough for anybody.)

The big day has arrived! Goober is explaining to Cyrus (who’s in charge of setting out the banquet place cards) that as “Special Emergency Sheriff’s Deputy” he should sit next to Andy. (Ferchrissake, Goober…let. It. Go.) As the “program” gets underway, you can see in the picture below that there is another black man standing next to Sam...and that sound in the background is the shrieking of Mayberry’s resident bluenose Clara Edwards (Hope Summers) upon discovering that property values in that town are beginning to plummet.


Mike, Arnold and Martin are discussing how nervous they are about assuming their duties—and Martin relates to his chums how Howard remarked that this might be the turning point of young Martin’s life. (Hoo boy.) Since Goober has nothing to do, he volunteers to instruct the youngsters on the finer points of…yes, you’ve guessed it—being a "Special Emergency Sheriff’s Deputy." The three kids humor Goober because they’ve been instructed not to make any sudden moves around him…until Sam calls them up to announce that they need to get with their adult chaperones and commence with the officiating. They’ll meet back at the banquet room at noon for lunch and “we’ll be anxious to hear what you’ve learned,” Sam remarks.

This is the best screen grab I could get of this encounter—but that little tow-headed moppet (the one being pestered by Goober as to whether she’s familiar with the concept of "Special Emergency Sheriff’s Deputy") is addressed as “Jodie,” marking one of the first television appearances of the woman who would go on to win Best Actress Oscars for The Accused (1988) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991). It’s not Alicia C. Foster’s first television gig—she was appearing in Coppertone ads at the age of three—but it may very well be one of the first (if not the first) showcases on an actual TV series (she’s not credited in the closing credits, however). (The IMDb reports that next week’s Mayberry Mondays episode, “The Church Play,” is her first "official" television credit.) Since show business is a breeding ground for rampant nepotism, it can be assumed that Ms. Foster got the work because Buddy Foster is her brudder—and in 1998, commented on the Budster’s unauthorized “biography” of her (Foster Child) by noting: “A cheap cry for attention and money filled with hazy recollections, fantasies and borrowed press releases. Buddy has done nothing but break our mother's heart his whole life.” (I’ll bet Thanksgiving dinners were a real prize in that household.)

Exiting the building, Howard takes a few moments to reflect on the momentous nature of this grand experiment in the teaching of civics to Mayberry’s future leaders:

Oh, wait…just…just a minute…I…I…before the boys actually assume office, I…I’d like them to take just a moment now to look up and down this street…this is your town…one of these days you’ll be picking up the torch and carrying it forward… (Pause) That’s all, boys…

Okay…so he’s not exactly General George S. Patton…but let’s go to the videotape to get reactions from those in attendance:




All righty then. At this point, nothing really happens that's worth mentioning in rigorous detail; Mike, Arnold and Martin essentially make their adult handlers (Andy, Sam and Howard) look even more idiotic with their knowledge of the duties required for each office holder. (Martin, in particular, pretends to humor Howard when the county clerk bloviates about the obvious bureaucratic uselessness of his position—I just wish the child actor playing this part were…well, a better actor—according to the IMDb, this was Peeler’s only acting gig...and it shows.) Mike lectures Andy on the inappropriateness of suggesting they take some humorous pictures of the youngster locking up the sheriff in his own jail (where was this kid when Barney did this all the time…and got big laughs in the process?) and Arnold reminds Sam that Mayberry’s zoning map needs to be updated every year (the last time this was done was in 1964).

So we now arrive at the most important part of the day: the eats. Cyrus glances over at the three would-be city government drones and remarks: “Looks like our junior city officials are ready to make their speeches.” The boys, on the other hand, think otherwise:

MIKE: They’re almost finished eating…
MARTIN: What are we going to say?
ARNOLD: They’re going to want to know what we learned…
MIKE: We can’t lie…
MARTIN: I don’t think I learned anything
MIKE: Me either…
ARNOLD: We’re going to have to say something when they ask us to speak…
MIKE: Yeah, but what?


Well, they could take a tip from Cyrus “Shecky” Tankersley, who addresses the crowd as “fellow residents of Mayberry…and when I say ‘fellow residents’ I mean the ladies, too.” Over the ensuing laughter, Goober nudges Andy and comments that Cyrus is “sharp.” (Yeah…as a marble.) Tankersley introduces the boys to the crowd, beginning with Martin—who remarks that spending three long, excruciatingly boring hours with Howard was “the turning point of my life.” (He then sits down.)

“Well…there’s a boy who doesn’t waste any words…comes right to the point,” Cyrus observes with a chuckle. He then brings on Mike, who sums up his experience as acting sheriff with “It was nice.” Mike starts to sit back down but then remembers his P’s and Q’s: “Oh…thank you.” “We could all learn from these youngsters…how to make a short speech,” Cyrus responds—and I’m almost positive he wasn’t looking at Howard when he prefaced this remark. Arnold is the last to speak, and he can’t really add anything to what Martin and Mike have already observed—that civil service is a pointless, soul-sucking existence 95% of the time. So it’s up to good ol’ Sam—or Andy Taylor-lite, as I’ve come to refer to him—to sum up this noble experiment in government:

I think I know why the boys are having a little trouble expressing themselves…it’s because they didn’t learn too much this morning…but that’s not their fault—it’s ours…I think we underestimated the young boys we have here in Mayberry…you see, we all just assumed that this morning was going to be kind of a lark for them, that…that we’d all just go through the motions and that’d be it…but what Andy and Howard and I soon found out was that…these boys were generally and sincerely interested in how our Mayberry government works…I…I congratulate them for that interest…and I promise them that next year when we have Youth Day we’ll all be a lot better prepared to give them a…a true understanding of the workings of our government.

Sam sits down to a rousing bit of Mayberry applause…and then Andy rises to say a few words—which, in light of Sam’s speech is woefully anti-climactic…and serves as an apt metaphor for the fact that he’s no longer relevant in that town having in essence turned the reins over to “Bland Sam.” In the episode’s coda, Sam is hanging up the new zoning map that Arnold was being such a pain in the ass about while Andy is continuing his struggle to remain relevant and faithful, loyal Goober licks an ice cream cone.

Andy and Sam discuss how things will be different come Youth Day 1969—but Goober warns them not to go overboard because, after all, they’re just kids. “We as adults gotta remember that they ain’t as intelligent as we are.”

“What’re you talking about?” asks Andy, though it’s obvious he doesn’t give a flying frog’s butt.

“Well, for instance, all them three boys…whenever I loan ‘em my comic books they don’t take care of ‘em like an adult would,” Goober points out helpfully. “They come by the gas station for a bottle of pop…get pop all over the books, dog-ear the pages, mark ‘em up…they still ain’t learned no respect for private property. They’re still just kids—we adults gotta remember that.”

Andy and Sam exchange knowing glances as if to say: “I know we’ve discussed this in the past…but it’s time to face facts. Goober must be put to sleep.”

Once again, “Aunt Bee” Taylor (Francis Bavier) sits this one out, so Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s patented Mayberry R.F.D. Bee-o-Meter™ remains clocked at four episodes. The real surprise in “Youth Takes Over,” however, is that it’s credited to “Jim Brooks”…aka James L. Brooks—better known in the show bidness world as the Oscar-winning director of Terms of Endearment (1983) and the creator of such television landmarks as Room 222, Mary Tyler Moore, Rhoda, Lou Grant and Taxi. So how is it that the individual who was also present at the birth of The Simpsons managed to churn out such a boring episode (it plays, oddly enough, like a discarded 222 script)? It has been observed by many media historians that writers often need an outlet to hone their craft and separate the wheat from the chaff—and Brooks did just that by penning episodes of sitcoms like My Mother the Car, Accidental Family (where he served as story editor), That Girl, My Three Sons and The Doris Day Show in his early years. “Youth” would be Brooks’ only contribution to R.F.D., despite having previously donated two scripts to The Andy Griffith Show: “Emmett’s Brother-in-Law” (01/08/68) and one of my particular eighth season favorites, “The Mayberry Chef” (01/01/68).

Bookmark and Share

3 comments:

Stacia said...

Mayberry’s more progressive than I gave it credit for…

I just saw a movie from 1962 where a Southern town wasn't OK with integration, but they put up with it because it was now the law... so the law could be what the producers were referencing here, rather than Mayberry's true feelings about it.

Also, my parents in the 1930s and 1940s had "integrated" grade school classrooms, but only because they were such small towns that there was no point in having more than one school. I don't think the high schools were integrated, though.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

I just saw a movie from 1962 where a Southern town wasn't OK with integration, but they put up with it because it was now the law

This sounds like it might be Roger Corman's The Intruder (1962)...and I'm guessing it is because of a certain blogathon being sponsored by a certain award-winning classic movie blog. :-)

Had I hung onto my copy, I'd probably be tackling that particular Shatner film -- I still remember the first time I saw it on USA's Night Flight so many years ago. One of my favorite Corman flicks.

I've got a metric ton o'stuff to finish this week -- a Radio Spirits project, plus a visit from sister Debbie and her hub/daughter. I may not be able to jump immediately into the 'thon with both feet from the get-go but I will definitely be there in time for the homestretch!

Stacia said...

You guessed right -- in fact, I think this IS your copy. Didn't I buy this from you on eBay?

Anyway, don't worry about submitting anything to the Shatnerthon. It's summertime and starts right after the 4th of July, so I expect a rather low turnout.