Sunday, October 3, 2010

"You read any book you want on the subject of child discipline, and you'll find that every one of them is in favor of bud-nipping."

Fifty years ago on this date, The Andy Griffith Show premiered on a Monday evening over CBS-TV…and though it wasn’t the first “rural” sitcom (that distinction would probably go to The Real McCoys, which premiered three years earlier…and was produced by Danny Thomas, who would play an important role in the launching of Griffith) it surely influenced the onslaught of comedies that were launched in its wake—I refer to, of course, the Paul Henning trilogy of The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction and Green Acres, of course. I’ll try not to lump all these shows together because each have their strengths and weaknesses but in the case of TAGS one of the reasons why it still entertains television audiences today (it’s one of the few “classic” series that’s allowed major face time on the once-proud TVLand) is because the show is just damn funny.

I was asked to write something up at Edward Copeland on Film but an article you also should check out is over at the A.V. Club as part of their always-delightful “A Very Special Episode” series. Noel Murray talks about the classic TAGS outing “The Sermon for Today,” an essay that made me positively green with envy when I first read it because I had given my left (expletive deleted) to have written it. “Sermon” would probably be in the running for my favorite TAGS episode of all time (I’m also partial to “Convicts at Large,” and the later seasons episode “Dinner at Eight” because I had a similar experience to Andy Taylor’s devouring of three different meals one time); I think it really captures the flavor of the classic sitcom in that it so beautifully encapsulates the endearing characters and eccentric milieu of rural life. Griffith sometimes gets a bad rap for presenting a rather too idealistic portrait of small towns but I knew a lot of people growing up in Ravenswood, WV who were not entirely dissimilar to the individuals who populated TAGS (it would not be incorrect for me to say that my graduating class had its fair share of Goobers). Any time I tune into an episode and see Andy and his son Opie (Ron Howard) strolling down the path to their favorite fishing spot accompanied by that oh-so-familiar whistling tune…it makes me want to grab a pole and join them, and I hope to continue doing so for many years to come.

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