Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Happy birthday, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.!


The actor who became one of the best public relations tools of the Federal Bureau of Investigation celebrates his 92nd natal anniversary today—Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., born in the Big Apple to noted concert violinist Efrem, Sr. and opera soprano Alma Gluck.  Naturally, with parents of that stature it was only fitting that the younger Zimbalist give serious consideration to a career in the performing arts, and upon completing his education at both the Yale School of Drama and the Neighborhood Playhouse he was tanned, rested and ready for the job at hand.

Zimbalist’s stage work in such productions as The Rugged Path (with Spencer Tracy) and Hedda Gabler (Eve Le Gallienne) soon attracted the attention of Hollywood; he made a rather auspicious film debut in 1949 with one of my favorite noirs, House of Strangers.  But Efrem put his acting career on hold shortly after that when his first wife Emily McNair succumbed to cancer, and his attention was diverted to musical studies, serving as an assistant director and researcher at the Curtis School of Music under his father.  Once the acting bug bit again, and he landed a contract with Warner Bros. and began to make appearances as “Dandy Jim Buckley” on the TV western Maverick—a role that then led to a more prominent gig on a WB-produced private eye series, 77 Sunset Strip.

Zimbalist starred as detective Stu Bailey on Strip for six seasons until the show folded its tent in 1964.  A season later, the actor began what would be his longest-running boob tube job—playing the part of FBI inspector Lewis Erskine on the popular ABC-TV series The FBI from 1965 to 1974.  As Erskine, Efrem was pretty much a promotional tool for the agency that often found itself rife with controversy—director J. Edgar Hoover was pleased with the choice of Zimbalist for the part, and the two men became friends and mutual admirers for the rest of J. Edgar’s cross-dressing stay on Planet Earth.  For his demonstration of fearlessly sucking up to a man most of us wouldn’t go near unless mandated by a federal judge, Zimbalist received a special plaque in 2009 from FBI director Robert Mueller in recognition for his television achievement.

In his later TV career, Zimbalist landed recurring roles on Hotel (as Charles Cabot) and Zorro—the latter series had him playing Don Alejandro de la Vega for a season before relinquishing the part to Henry Darrow.  He even turned up a few times (as David Chalmers) on the detective series Remington Steele, a show that starred his daughter Stephanie.  His busy television schedule didn’t leave Efrem much time for movie work but he did appear in the occasional feature film, notably vehicles like Band of Angels, The Crowded Sky, The Chapman Report, Wait Until Dark, Airport 1975 and—in the tradition of TV dramatic heroes demonstrating a sense of humor—Hot Shots.  These days, Zimbalist’s activity has been concentrated toward doing a lot of voice work; he’s been the voice of butler Alfred Pennyworth in many of the animated Batman series and its various permutations.

TVShowsOnDVD.com announced several weeks ago that Efrem’s signature series, The FBI, will soon be made available on DVD—and while it’s a slight disappointment that this will be a MOD project through the auspices of the Warner Archive, it’s gratifying to know that the actor’s television legacy will be out there for a new generation of viewers and fans.  Happy birthday to you, Mr. Z—and the best of natal anniversaries to these notables in the bargain:

Philip Sidney (1554-1586) – English author-poet, courtier and solider…but let’s be honest, were it not for that Monty Python sketch (“I’m not Sir Philip bleedin’ Sidney!”) I’d probably have never heard of the guy

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) – Irish satirist and essayist whose famous writings include Gulliver’s Travels and A Modest Proposal

Mark Twain (1835-1910) – Author and humorist who created such legendary characters as Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn

Winston Churchill (1874-1965) – British politician and statesman

Donald Ogden Stewart (1894-1980) – Author and screenwriter whose cinematic contributions include Going Hollywood, Holiday, Love Affair, The Philadelphia Story and Keeper of the Flame

John Dickson Carr (1906-1977) – Mystery novelist whose works were adapted into films like The Man with a Cloak and Dangerous Crossing; also created the character of Colonel March, who was seen in a 1956 TV series with Boris Karloff in the role

Gordon Parks (1912-2006) – Photographer, journalist, musician, poet-novelist and activist who also directed a few feature films like The Learning Tree, Shaft and Leadbelly

Charles Hawtrey (1914-1988) – Bespectacled English comic actor best known for his many appearances in the Carry On films

Virginia Mayo (1920-2005) – Stage, screen and television actress-dancer whose vehicles include The Princess and the Pirate, The Best Years of Our Lives, Colorado Territory, White Heat and The Flame and the Arrow

Graham Crowden (1922-2010) – English stage, screen and television actor best recognized on this side of the pond as the eccentric Tom Ballard on the Britcom Waiting for God

Allan Sherman (1924-1973) – Comedy writer and TV producer best known for his song parodies and for supplying the voice of Dr. Seuss creation The Cat in the Hat; also created the TV panel show I’ve Got a Secret


Shirley Chisholm (1924-2005) – Politician, author and educator who became the first black woman elected to Congress in 1968 and the first black major party Presidential candidate (and first female to run on the Democratic Party ticket) in 1972

Martin E. Brooks (1925-     ) – Stage, screen and television character actor best known for playing Dr. Rudy Wells on two series at the same time: The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman

Richard Crenna (1926-2003) – TDOY actor fave who, though he later matured to serious dramatic roles and even became a TV director, will always be remembered for his triumvirate of OTR nerds—Walter Denton on Our Miss Brooks, Oogie Pringle on A Date with Judy and Bronco Thompson on The Great Gildersleeve

Robert Guillaume (1927-     ) – Stage, screen and television actor best known to legions of couch potatoes as the acerbic manservant Benson DuBois on Soap and its spin-off, Benson

Rex Reason (1928-     ) – Beefcake film and television actor whose vehicles include This Island Earth, The Creature Walks Among Us, Band of Angels and TV’s Man Without a Gun and The Roaring 20’s

Joan Ganz Cooney (1929-     ) – Television producer who founded the Children’s Television Workshop—which is actually responsible for bringing kids Sesame Street, not the letters “H” and “M” and the number “9”

Dick Clark (1929-     ) – Radio and television personality who, as “America’s Oldest Teenager,” served as host of the long-running American Bandstand—not to mention The $10,000 Pyramid and TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes

G. Gordon Liddy (1930-     ) – Attorney, politician, radio talk-show host and convicted criminal douchebag; my first “what the f**k?” television moment was seeing him as a celebrity panelist on Super Password in 1988

Jack Sheldon (1931-     ) – Stage, screen and television character actor who had regular roles on the sitcoms The Cara Williams Show and The Girl with Something Extra but remains better known as the star of The Fugitive parody Run, Buddy, Run

Abbie Hoffman (1936-1989) – Social-political activist famous for founding the Youth International Party (the Yippies) and for being a member of “the Chicago Eight”

Ridley Scott (1937-     ) – Motion picture director-producer whose oeuvre includes Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down and American Gangster

Frank Ifield (1937-     ) – Australian-English pop music vocalist


Jimmy Bowen (1937-     ) – One-time pop music vocalist turned major record producer, overseeing such artists as Frank and Nancy Sinatra, Dean Martin, Hank Williams, Jr., the Oak Ridge Boys and Garth Brooks

Terrence Malick (1943-     ) – Motion picture writer-director-producer whose skimpy oeuvre includes Badlands, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line and The New World

David Mamet (1947-     ) – Gleefully profane playwright and director-screenwriter whose oeuvre includes House of Games, Things Change, Homicide, The Spanish Prisoner and State and Main

Kathryn Witt (1950-     ) – Film and television actress-model whose vehicles include Tropic of Cancer, Lenny, Looker, Philadelphia and TV’s Flying High

Margaret Whitton (1950-     ) – Stage, screen and television actress whose vehicles include The Best of Times, The Secret of My Success, Major League and The Man Without a Face

June Chadwick (1951-     ) – English stage, screen and television actress whom I always remember as the alien Lydia in the original TV series of V but she’s also in the movie This is Spinal Tap

Mandy Patinkin (1952-     ) – Stage, screen and television actor best known for his roles on the TV series Chicago Hope, Dead Like Me and Criminal Minds—and whose “singing” has been known to be an effective tool in interrogating terrorism suspects*

June Pointer (1953-2006) – Pointer Sister


Billy Idol (1955-     ) – English rock musician and one-time front man for the punk band Generation X who, upon remarking that he could be an idol just by calling himself one prompted a college buddy of mine to observe that that principle would work for “asshole” as well


Kevin Conroy (1955-     ) – Stage, screen and television actor whose extensive resume is overshadowed by the fact that he’s best known as the voice of Bruce Wayne/Batman in many of the animated Batman series and its various permutations

Ben Stiller (1965-     ) – Actor-director-comedian whose schtick works best at ten minutes or less; his vehicles include Flirting with Disaster, There’s Something About Mary, Meet the Parents, Zoolander, Night at the Museum and Tropic Thunder

Mindy McCready (1975-     ) – Country music vocalist who constantly seems to be running afoul of the law


*Okay, I may have made that up


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Monday, November 29, 2010

Mayberry Mondays #27: “Andy’s Baby” (09/22/69, prod. no. 0205)

Since this week’s Mayberry Mondays also kicks off a brand new season of Mayberry R.F.D. (the second of the series) I thought I’d shake things up a bit by working up a new logo that features a TV Guide cover with the show’s hero, city council head and poor-but-honest dirt farmer Sam Jones (Ken Berry) and his idiot son Mike (Buddy Foster).  R.F.D.’s inaugural year was a huge ratings success, ranking at #4 among Nielsen families for the 1968-69 season and securing the bragging rights of being network television’s second most popular situation comedy (Gomer Pyle, USMC, which said adios in its fifth and final year, was #1.)  The second season of R.F.D. would see a slight dip in viewership though its Number Four ranking (behind Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, Gunsmoke and Bonanza) would remain unchanged.

I’ve actually watched the remaining fifty-two episodes left in the series (hey, I had a bit of free time) and while my favorites don’t always mesh with the ones chosen at TV.com there are some pretty hooty installments to come—“Goober and the Telephone Girl,” “The Caper,” “The Mayberry Float” and “The Mynah Bird” all have some genuine laugh-out-loud moments that I’m sure will amuse even the most skeptically stone-faced R.F.D. fan.  Unfortunately, these episodes are sprinkled amongst a bunch of outings that are a real chore to watch—including a four-part Palm Springs “story arc” that if I actually manage to complete it without putting it off for weeks on end will be a major miracle.

But since that is in the future—where you and I will spend the rest of our lives—let’s attend to present matters with a special guest star announcement:


That’s right!  He’s baaaaack!!!  As our playlet opens, we find Sam, Beatrice “Aunt Bee” Taylor (Frances Bavier) and Millie “I’d lick the glaze off her donut any day of the week” Swanson (Arlene Golonka) in the process of preparing the fatted calf for Mayberry’s prodigal son and…wait a sec…why is Sam rolling up the rug?

SAM: Aunt Bee, do we really have to take this rug out?
AUNT BEE: Absolutely, Sam…carpets hold dust, and dust breeds germs…and there mustn’t be any germs in the room if there’s going to be a baby…
SAM: Well, there are germs right in the air
AUNT BEE: That’s just what I’m going to spray… (Aunt Bee whips out a can of aerosol and begins to fog the room with disinfectant) Put it out in the hall…
SAM: Oh… (He takes the rug out of the room)
MILLIE (adjusting a crib): Well, I guess you’re all set…
AUNT BEE: Yes…you know, most of these things were Mike’s—oh, but I did buy (holds up a toy, shaking it) a new rattle…but I went through about twenty of them before I found one that wasn’t too loud…
MILLIE (giggling): Just perfect…just perfect…
SAM (returning from the hall): Gee, I hope this crib is going to be big enough
AUNT BEE: For a new baby?
SAM: Well, judging from Andy’s letter the kid has to be at least six feet tall…

Aunt Bee hands Sam some diapers to be placed in the bassinet, and then in strolls a reminder that while babies can be as cute as the dickens they have a tendency to mature into oafish cretins like the Son of Sam—Mike the Idiot Boy.

AUNT BEE (holding up a pair of baby booties): Mike…Mike, do you realize that you were once small enough to wear these?
MIKE: Gee…
SAM (holding up a diaper): Yeah…and you once wore these, too…
MIKE: Pa…do you have to show it right out in the open?

Oh, there’s a delightfully filthy joke waiting to be mined with that remark but instead, let’s move along with our story—because Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Jackson Taylor (Andy Griffith, Aneta Corsaut) have just pulled up at Rancho Jones.  Andy is opening the passenger-side door for Helen, who’s cradling their newborn son in her arms as she prepares to get out of the car.  Sam, Millie, Mike and Aunt Bee rush out of the house to greet them:

HELEN: Would you take him, dear?
ANDY: Yeah…we can wait and come back and get the other stuff…
AUNT BEE (running out on the porch): Oh, where is that beautiful baby?!!!
ANDY: Here I am, Aunt Bee…

Aunt Bee runs past Andy to get to Helen in a moment I can only describe as…awkward.  There is much billing and cooing at the infant between Bee, Millie and Helen so Sam and Andy have time to catch up:

SAM (playfully punching him in the shoulder): Well, how are you, Andy?
ANDY: Oh, fine, Sam—you old farmer…you don’t look bad for a rural type, you know it?

You can tell Andy’s been away from Mayberry too long—he’s forgotten how much time Sam puts in actually farming.  Aunt Bee is positively gaga over the child, and she tells Mike to look at him which prompts this reaction:


“Um…that be baby, all right.”  Kid should probably back away before he breaks it.

MILLIE: Helen, you look wonderful
HELEN: Oh, thank you—you look great!  More glamorous than ever

Well, I’m not too particularly wild about Mill’s new coiffure—but at least it’s not as bad as the third season, when by that time she was obviously saying: “Oh, f**k it.”  (I like first season Millie the best.)

AUNT BEE: You know, I can’t tell who he takes after—he’s certainly got the Taylor chin, but I think he’s got the Crump nose
(Millie and Helen laugh and murmur in agreement as Mike walks over to where Sam and Andy are standing)
MIKE: Pa…what’s a Crump nose?
SAM: Well, that’s…uh…that was Helen’s last name, Mike… (Millie, Aunt Bee and Helen begin to make their way towards the house with the baby but Sam stops Bee short) Aunt Bee?  You remember your nephew, Andy Taylor?
AUNT BEE (realization kicks in): Oh…Andy…how are you?
ANDY: Fine, Aunt Bee…just fine…


And…here’s the clinch.  I was worried there for a sec; concerned that the animosity clearly on display in “Help on the Farm” was still present.

AUNT BEE: Come on in, everybody…come on…
(Andy, Sam and Mike follow Aunt Bee up the steps and into the house)
SAM: Well, how are things in Charlotte, Andy?
ANDY: Oh, fine, Sam…I like my new job…
SAM: State Bureau of Investigation, huh?
ANDY: Yeah…

And with that, a once proud lawman has severed ties with the community that he policed and patrolled for eight glorious sitcom years…which means that the security of Mayberry is now in the hands of its “deputy sheriff,” village idiot and gas pump jockey Goober Pyle (George Lindsey).  May God have mercy on their souls.

SAM: Gee, it’s too bad Opie couldn’t come…
ANDY: Well, he’s in high school….exams and everything, you know…

Yeah, I’ll just bet he’s studying for exams…he’s probably out with a bad crowd somewhere…


AUNT BEE: Oh, that’s too bad…oh, by the way, Andy—we spoke to the Reverend and the christening is all set for Sunday…
ANDY: Oh, good…good…
MILLIE: He thought it was so lovely to have Andy, Jr. christened in the same church you were…
ANDY: Well, we like to throw all our business to the same place
MILLIE (grabbing a bag): I’ll just put these things away for Helen…
HELEN: Oh, thank you, Millie…
AUNT BEE: Now—what about a godfather?
SAM: Yeah…?
ANDY: Well, Helen and I gave it a lot of thought…and we finally decided…

Andy is interrupted by the sound of some commotion on the porch, and the camera cuts to the front door as Mayberry’s brain trust—Goober, resident fix-it savant Emmett Clark (Paul Hartman) and pedantic county clerk Howard Sprague (Jack Dodson)—burst into the room.

GOOBER: Andy, you son of a gun!  I seen ya when you passed the gas station—we rushed right out…
ANDY: Aw…it’s nice to see you guys!
GOOBER: Well, where’s that scrawny kid of yours…?


He’s out drinking beer with Candy Clark and Charles Martin Smith.  Oh, you mean the newest addition to the family…check out the kid’s expression, it’s like: “Sweet Fancy Moses…what the hell is that guy wearing on his head?  And how come it smells like gasoline in here?”

GOOBER: Let me hold him, huh, Helen?
HOWARD: Yeah, come on—let me get a look at him…
GOOBER: Howard, I asked first
HELEN: Here, Goober…
GOOBER (pulling away): I’m scared…

Helen passes the child to Emmett, clearly realizing that letting Goober hold the child would be the television equivalent of letting Steinbeck’s Lennie pet the rabbit.

EMMETT: Let me have him…
HELEN: Okay, Emmett…
(Emmett makes “kitchy-koo” noises at the baby)
GOOBER: Boy, you can sure tell he’s smart…
HELEN: At his age?
GOOBER: Well, heck—my mama and daddy told me they knew that I was gonna be smart when I was only three months…as a matter of fact, I said “dada” before I was two years old

And that’s only because an apologetic Geranium the maid said to Goober’s mother: “I’m sorry, Miz Pyle…I dropped the baby…”

HOWARD: Kitchy kitchy koo...hey, look—I think he’s taken a fancy to me already…
EMMETT: Nah, he’s happy because I’m holdin’ him…
HOWARD: Emmett, I was the one doing the kitchy-kooing…
EMMETT: He doesn’t know what you’re saying—it’s just the way he feels, that’s all…
GOOBER: It just so happens he was lookin’ at me when he was laughin’…
EMMETT: Well, that’s enough to make him laugh, all right…

Oooh, snap!

HOWARD: Listen, my kitchy-koo’s attention was directed right at me
GOOBER: I don’t care what you say…
ANDY (interrupting): Hey Goober…hey guys…I’m sure the baby’s impressed with all of you

Oh, I gotta get a wager down on that…

HELEN: I…I think it’s time to put him to bed…
AUNT BEE: Now the room’s all ready, Helen…
HELEN: He didn’t sleep very much on the trip…
ANDY: Good thing, too—he was drivin’…
GOOBER: He was drivin’…that’s a good’n!!! (He gives out with that patented stupid guffaw)
AUNT BEE: Sam and Millie…see that Helen gets settled…
SAM: Oh, sure…
AUNT BEE: Now I’ve got some lemonade and some sandwiches in the kitchen… (Motioning toward the brain trust) Come on, I need some help…
EMMETT: At your service, Aunt Bee…
(He follows Bee into the kitchen, with Howard behind him…Helen calls out to Andy from the stairs)
HELEN: Oh Andy, would you get the things out of the car for me?
ANDY: Oh, sure…

Goober, noticing that Andy is going outside, scampers after him.  Did you ever have an experience where you meet up with an old high school friend or college chum and you take the time to catch up…and then discover after five minutes you have nothing left to talk about?  I think that conversation might go something like this:

ANDY: There really isn’t that much, Goob…
GOOBER: So you’re gonna christen the baby tomorrow, huh, Andy?
ANDY: Well, that’s the plan… (Andy walks to the back of the station wagon and opens up the back to get his and Helen’s luggage out) How are things goin’ with you, Goob?
GOOBER: Oh, no complaints…I guess you’re gonna have a godfather for him and all that…
ANDY: Yeah…the works…how’s your bowlin’?
GOOBER: Oh, still layin’ ‘em in there…
ANDY: Yeah…
GOOBER: You know, I was just thinkin’…here you are, christenin’ your baby tomorrow and it seems like only yesterday that I introduced you to Helen…
ANDY: Yeah…time sure flies…

Hold it…hold it…wait just a cotton pickin’ minute…Goober introduced Helen to Andy?  What are you, on crack?

Andy makes the acquaintance of his bride-to-be in the TAGS episode “Andy Discovers America” (03/04/63), in which he is asked by his now party-hearty son Opie to intervene on his behalf when he experiences difficulties with his schoolteacher, affectionately known to the Opester as “Old Lady Crump.”  A quick glance at the cast list shows no Goober to be found—Goober, in fact, doesn’t show his ugly mug in Mayberry until a year later, in the TAGS classic “Fun Girls” (04/13/64).  The mere notion that an imbecile like Goober thought he was going to slide this past yours truly just goes to demonstrate the boy’s been huffing brake fluid again.  (I can’t believe Andy’s buying it, though.)  Let me just say that I am shocked…shocked…to see this sort of pathetic distortion of the historical television record all in the name of lobbying to be the kid’s godpop:

EMMETT: You know—it seems to me like an older man would be just the right one to fit the bill…you know, some fella’s who lived and knows what the score is…
ANDY (baby bottle in hand): Excuse me, Emmett—I have to get this up to the baby…
EMMETT (calling after him as Andy leaves): It’s important to have a godfather with his feet on the ground!

Oh, yeah—you definitely want a godfather who’s more likely than not going to kick it before the baby reaches kindergarten.  Well, I for one am pleased that at least Howard hasn’t resorted to this kind of cheap promotion just so he can…oh, hell…wait for it

HOWARD: Now, making sure you choose a steady, reliable-type godfather…you know…the kind you really deserve…
HELEN (calling off-screen): Andy?
ANDY: Yeah?
HOWARD: You know, I mean a loyal friend…one who…
ANDY (making his way past Howard): Excuse me, Howard…
HOWARD: Uh…one…uh…

Helen calls Andy over to let him know that she spoken with the Reverend and that he’s asked them to come over to help make the arrangements for the christening.  Andy announces to everyone assembled his and Helen’s plans and as they turn to go out the door Sam runs after them…

SAM: Oh, Andy…
ANDY: Yeah?
SAM: Andy, I meant to tell you—don’t go by Olive Street ‘cause the gas company’s putting in a new pipeline
ANDY: Oh…okay…
SAM: Is there anything you want me to do for you while you’re gone?
HELEN: No, thank you, Sam…oh!  Wait a minute—you should come with us!
ANDY: Well, yeah!
SAM: Me?  Why?
ANDY: Why?  Didn’t we tell you?

At this point, the edited-for-syndication rerun leaves out what is painfully obvious to the casual viewer—Andy and Helen want Sam, an individual who materialized out of nowhere just in time to be in the final four episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, to be their baby’s godfather.  What I want to know is—who voted against this guy?


The scene shifts to Emmett’s fix-it shop, where there is much pissing and moaning among Emmett, Howard and Goober as to why Andy didn’t ask them to the Godfather Dance:

EMMETT: You know, anyone of us would have been a more logical choice…even you, Howard…
HOWARD: What do you mean, even me...?
EMMETT: Well, what I just meant…
HOWARD: Have you forgotten that for two whole years Andy and I shared a locker at the lodge for our ceremonial robes?

Not to mention that other thing they shared during that crazy June night alone under the stars up at Myers Lake…but that’s an episode for another day (and it’ll probably be on Cinemax).

GOOBER: Well, look at me!  I’m the one who brought him and Helen together!

Goober…I’m not going to say this again.  Liar, liar…pants on fire.

HOWARD: Yeah, but I even helped him out with his income tax returns every year and you can’t get much closer to a man than that
EMMETT: You talk about bein’ close to a man—whenever Andy was troubled, and had to do some thinkin’…who was it that he always asked to go fishin’ with him?  Me!  Emmett Clark, that’s who…not Sam Jones…

Emmett…dude…be honest…it’s not like you were getting anything done at that wretched excuse of a business you run.  (Not that Sam is the poster boy for industrious hard work, either, but you get what I mean…)

HOWARD: How soon they forget…
GOOBER: I ain’t sayin’ that Sam ain’t a good man…it’s just that we was a lot closer to Andy than him…
HOWARD: Yeah…you think you’re real friends with a guy, then all of a sudden…poof!

Funny…that’s how I always think of Howard, as a poof.  Look, from a sentimental point of view, it does seem odd that Andy would pick a guy who couldn’t even keep Sergeant O’Rourke and Corporal Agarn in line—but from a standpoint of cold hard logic, would you want any of these three bozos in charge of your offspring should something particularly nasty and tragic befall you?

EMMETT: Yeah…I know it’ll never be the same between Andy and me…
GOOBER: Well, I feel the same way…

Let’s wander directly outside the fix-it shop, shall we?


ANDY (to Sam): You wanna go in and kind of kick things around the way we used to?
SAM: Oh gosh, Andy—I can’t; I’ve got to run down the street…why don’t you go in, and I’ll meet you back at the office…
ANDY: Okay…

Notice that Andy is wearing a sweater…and he’s going to be glad he’s got one on, because it’s about to get a little chilly…

ANDY (coming in the front door): Well, I see it’s still the old hangout…hi, guys!
HOWARD: Hi, Andy…
GOOBER: Andy…
ANDY: Boy, you guys got it made…loafin’ around all day…

Oh, he can’t be serious—is the first time he’s noticed?  Because I’ve been bitching about this for months…

ANDY: Emmett, isn’t that the same iron you was workin’ on last year?
EMMETT (giving him a dirty look): Who knows?
ANDY (walking over to where Howard is sitting on a stool by the counter): Howard, you old goat—you got any new jokes?  Hey, remember that one you used to tell about the parrot that lisped—how’d that…tell it again…?
HOWARD: Well…I’d like to, Andy, but…uh…I gotta get over to the office…I’ll see ya… (Howard gets up and leaves)
ANDY: Oh…hey, Goob…where’s Emmett’s old checkerboard?  I’m a little rusty but I bet I can take ya…
GOOBER (without enthusiasm): I don’t know where that thing is, Andy… (He gets up from his chair and moves to another part of the shop)
ANDY: I see…well, listen—it’s great seein’ you guys again (He heads for the door) and…listen, I’ll see you around…

Boy, when you can’t get even one of these losers to be your BFF, you can’t possibly sink any lower.  The scene then shifts to Goober’s Gas-Up-and-Condoms-in-the-Back-Restroom, where Sam tries to engage Mayberry’s comic book expert in a convo:

SAM: Uh…sure is nice to have ol’ Andy back, huh, Goob?
GOOBER (staring at an air filter): Yeah… (After a pause) Your air filter needs changin’
SAM: No, that’s okay—I checked it myself…
GOOBER: Look, just because you’re a godfather don’t mean you know everything
SAM: Oh?
GOOBER: I say you need a new filter…
SAM: Well, fine…I’ll…I’ll stop in and get one next week…
GOOBER: I don’t care if you are the godfather…don’t mean nothin’ to me…
SAM: Yeah…uh…I guess ol’ Howard and Emmett were glad to see Andy again, huh?
GOOBER: Well, how glad could they be to see somebody who forgets who his friends are?
SAM: Yeah…

I’ll bet Sam is wishing he really was The Godfather right now, because he could then arrange for the Three Stooges to sleep with Luca Brasi, if you get my meaning.  The camera then cuts to a scene where Aunt Bee, Sam, Millie and Helen are all gathered around having coffee…and there’s a pan across their sad, concerned faces that stops with Andy, who hasn’t got a friend left in the world…I don’t think even Barney would return his calls by this time.

MILLIE: I’m sure it’s something they’ll get over…
ANDY: Oh, I don’t know…
SAM: Look, Andy…now…please don’t think that I don’t appreciate the honor…’cause I really do…but if it will help any, I’ll step aside and…
ANDY: No!  Helen and I decided on you!
HELEN: And if we chose one of the others, we’d just be back in the same boat anyway…
ANDY: Yeah…
SAM: Yeah…
ANDY: Hmm…I wonder if there’s ever been such a thing as four godfathers…
AUNT BEE (after a pause): Four godfathers?

Oh, Sheriff—that’s just crazy talk…four godfathers.  Three godfathers, yes…


…but four—no, I just can’t see it.  Unfortunately, we’re at the halfway point and this is where our plot has ended up, so we’re just going to have to muddle through and see how this plays with the Right Honorable Reverend Hobart M. Tucker (William Keene):

REVEREND: Four godfathers…?
ANDY: Uh, yeah…see, Helen and I wanted Sam…

Hey, I just wanted to break in here and offer up another candidate to be the kid’s godddada:


No?  Okay, carry on…

SAM: Yeah, but uh…Goober and Howard and Emmett all thought that…
REVEREND: Goober…and Howard and Emmett…
ANDY: Yeah, that’s right…

I liked how Reverend Hobie repeats their names, as if he’s thinking: “Great God in Heaven, those three men should be seriously sterilized ASAP, never mind being allowed to supervise children!”

ANDY: I’d…I’d…I’d really appreciate it, Reverend, because…you know…
REVEREND: All right…all right…but only one of them can come up front for the actual ceremony…
ANDY: Well, uh…
REVEREND: Andy…only one…he’ll have to act as spokesman for them all…

You know, the only real reason they used to baptize babies was because they were concerned that the unbaptized ones wouldn’t get into Heaven and would end up in what the Catholics called Limbo…and I think they got rid of that about the time they called off no meat on Friday, so why not just forget this whole christening deal and head back for Charlotte?  I’m just sayin’

HOWARD: Oh, you mean…all four of us will be godfathers?
ANDY: That’s right, Howard…now, I know it’s a big favor to ask of you guys, but…I really had my heart set on something extra special for Andy, Jr. and I can’t think of anything that would be a bigger honor, so…what do you guys say?
EMMETT: Well…it’s okay with me…
HOWARD: Yeah…yeah, I’ll go along with that, Andy…
GOOBER: Uh…me, too, Andy…
ANDY: Aw…that’s great…that’s just great, guys…I really appreciate it…now, the Reverend said he’d need one godfather to be the spokesman for all four, and Sam says he thinks it ought to be one of you three guys—so you decide among yourselves, huh?  We’ll see you in church, okay?

And having tossed the hornet’s nest into the pup tent, our guest star elected to sit back and watch the fireworks from a safe and legal distance.  I’m beginning to think that Andy’s not the wise ol’ cracker barrel sage he used to be on his own show, but a man who threw down a couple of boilermakers at Morelli’s before springing this news on these goofballs…

GOOBER: You know, when it comes down to it—ol’ Andy ain’t such a bad guy after all
EMMETT: Ah, he’s the salt of the earth…
HOWARD: Just a question now of…who the spokesman will be…
GOOBER: Yeah…
EMMETT: Yeah…
HOWARD: I, for one, have done lots of public speaking…
EMMETT: Who’d want a nasal godfather?

Fortunately, I was not drinking a beverage when Emmett tossed off that little jewel.

HOWARD: Emmett, that was uncalled for!
EMMETT: Well, I’m just as good a speaker as you are!
GOOBER: Well, what about me—I speak real clear…a lot better than you, Howard…
HOWARD: I’m sure they’d much rather have a nasal speaker any day than a couple of hillbillies
EMMETT: Hillbillies?
GOOBER: Howard Sprague, I oughta smack you right in the nose…
EMMETT: Who do you think you are?  I can outtalk you any day of the year… (To Goober) And you, too!
GOOBER: Well, is that so, Mister Swelled Head?
HOWARD: You talk with a twang!
EMMETT: Who says I do?
GOOBER: I say you do…
EMMETT: You pipe down!


As you can tell from these admittedly poor quality screen caps of the anger present in these men’s faces, allowing them to choose a spokesman from amongst themselves is an idea that ranks up there with all the times my best bud The Duchess used to give her kids each a full baby’s bottle of chocolate milk before they went to bed at night…and then wonder why the kids would be awake all freakin’ night.  Fortunately, I’ve not given up on the idea of finding a suitable replacement to be the baby’s godfather…


Yes sirree, I think this is…um…someone has just handed me a note…apparently Mr. Lawson was no longer with us at the time this episode aired…oh, well…you can’t blame a body for trying…

ANDY (primping in front of a mirror): Everybody about ready?  This is one time we don’t want to be late for church…
MIKE (coming down the stairs): I’m ready!
SAM (walking over to him): Uh, Mike…let me straighten that tie…
MIKE: Aw, it’s okay, Pa…
SAM: Just stand…stand still…just stand still…
MIKE: How long does a christening take?
SAM: Well, however long it takes you’re going to sit there very quietly and no giggling, huh?
MIKE: What if it’s funny?

Kid…you’re on Mayberry R.F.D.  It’s never that funny.  Aunt Bee asks—no one in particular—if they’ve decided who will be the spokesman for the godfathers and Sam decides to place a call to his moronic friends and get an answer.  Millie, in the meantime, is having difficulty getting Helen’s dress to hook in the back and so Andy takes over…but when he has trouble, it’s Aunt Bee to the rescue.

MILLIE: Well, I guess we’re all ready…
ANDY: Just about…
AUNT BEE (finishing with Helen’s dress): There you are…
HELEN (relieved): Oh—thanks!
SAM (having just hung up the phone): Oh, those crazy guys—they still haven’t decided who’s going to be the spokesman…
ALL: Ohhhh…
SAM: They’re not even talking to each other!
ANDY: Oh, swell…
SAM: Yeah, but don’t worry about it now—I’ll straighten it out when we get to the church…


Sam starts to usher everyone out the front door, and as Andy and Helen head for the exit she exclaims: “I keep having a feeling I’m forgetting something…”  “Well—you can think of it on the way to the church, huh?” is her husband’s concerned response.  Aunt Bee is the last one out the door when suddenly…

…wait for it…


“Oh, the baby!” she exclaims, as she and Helen comically dash upstairs to retrieve the christening’s main event.


This expression on Goober’s face is sort of an apt metaphor for my reaction to that hoary old gag, but suffice it to say, things do not get any more side-splitting after this.  Goober and the other two dolts are sitting on chairs in the rectory, huffing and puffing in a frustrated fashion—but fortunately, Sam is on hand to defuse the situation:

SAM: Well?
HOWARD: Well, what?
SAM: Well, haven’t you decided yet?  (Sam gets dirty looks from all three of them) Come on, you guys!  The christening is almost over, we gotta decide somehow!
HOWARD: How can you decide anything when you’re dealing with just plain stubbornness?
SAM: Now, look…
EMMETT (leaping up from his chair): He’s the one who’s stubborn!  Nasal Ned!
GOOBER (doing likewise): Sam, I was closer to Andy than either one of these two but they think they’re so important that…
SAM: All right, all right…now we gotta decide somehow…

“Icka bicka soda cracker…”  Sam suggests they draw straws to see who will be the baby’s rep but before he can accomplish this an usher (Larry Delaney) bursts into the room and announces that they’re ready.  Well, I’ll cut to the quick on this one since it involves a lot of religious pomp and circumstance…basically, when Reverend Tucker asks for the spokesman to come forward—Sam, Goober, Howard and Emmett all race to the front of the church where Andy and Helen are standing with Andy, Jr.


Love that expression on Aunt Bee.  “Idiotas…”  So if you were ever curious as to why Andy and Helen never showed their faces in Mayberry again until 1986, this would go a long way towards explaining it.

REVEREND: I am aware that there are many of you today who feel that you have witnessed a departure from orthodoxy…and you’re right…

I’d be slightly amiss if I didn’t point out that this is the last time we'll see Reverend Tucker on the show, so I’m thinking the powers-that-be felt the same way and sent him packing.

REVEREND: But let me hasten to add that you have also witnessed a rather moving demonstration of love…these four men…because of a deep affection they have for an old and dear friend…in a selfless act of cooperation and devotion…

Um, Rev—were you watching the same sitcom I was just now?

REVEREND: …have committed themselves to a joint guardianship…of this little child…and may I say…

Okay, Rev…that’s enough…domini, domini, domini, you’re all Catholics now.  Coda time!

MIKE: Pa…who are my godfathers?
SAM: Oh…well, I guess you wouldn’t remember that…you were a little young at the time…it was your grandpa…
MIKE: And who else?
SAM: Well…nobody else…
MIKE: That’s all?
SAM: Sure!
MIKE: Just one?
SAM: Well, that’s all that’s customary, Mike…
MIKE: Andy, Jr. has four…
SAM: Yes, I know, but…
MIKE: …and he’s just a baby…
SAM: Well, sure, he’s just a baby, but you…
MIKE: I’m just as good as him, aren’t I?
SAM: Well, of course you’re just as good…you…
MIKE: Looks like he did better than I did…
SAM: No, no…he didn’t do…and…and…no…wait…wait…

Resignedly, Sam gets off the couch and walks out to the porch where Andy is strumming a guitar and Goober, Emmett and Howard are throwing back a few glasses of Mike’s Hard Lemonade.  “Hey, guys,” Sam addresses his friends.  “What are you doing next Sunday?”  It’s enough to make me wish I had been at Mike’s original christening…’cause then I could have drowned the little mook.

”Andy’s Baby” kicks off the first R.F.D. participation in the second season of the fair-weather Aunt Bee, and in making the necessary adjustments on Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s patented Mayberry R.F.D. Bee-o-meter™ this makes a total of thirteen appearances so far in the show’s run. “Baby” was written by veteran Lum ‘n’ Abner scribe Roswell Rogers, and as I previously stated, marks the last time Andy and Helen Taylor were obligated to spend time in that nightmarish hick town until 1986’s Return to Mayberry, which reunited most of the cast members from The Andy Griffith Show in a prime example of wallowing in nostalgia.  We learned, of course, that in that gap of time Andy, a U.S. Postal Inspector, returns home to Mayberry with Helen to visit Opie, now a newspaper publisher and an expectant father.  Andy, Jr., of course, is busy…half a tick…what did become of the youngest Taylor son?

Sadly, we don’t know—Return to Mayberry keeps that a secret.  This is not an uncommon occurrence in TV Land—audiences are introduced to family members like Chuck Cunningham, Davey Gillis and Eugene Barkley who then disappear into the ether and are never heard from or mentioned again.  So how could this happen in the case of the Taylors—how could they lose track of their own flesh-and-blood?  I like to think that this wasn’t Andy’s fault; he raised Opie on his own and did a pretty good job of it as far as that went.  My theory is that Helen is the irresponsible parent in this equation—we caught a momentary glimpse of it when she was about to go out the door for the christening, narrowly leaving the baby behind were it not for Aunt Bee’s realization that something was amiss.  It’s not too hard to speculate that this blatant act of child abandonment might have occurred a second time, with the end result being that Andy II’s cute little mug ended up on millions of milk cartons drank by schoolchildren with attentive parents.

To discuss this theory in greater detail, I’ve invited a special guest to Mayberry Mondays—a noted television expert whose research stands him head and shoulders above others who have trod a similar path.  We spared no expense in…

TOBY (scoffing): No expense is right!

ME: I’m sorry?

TOBY: Folks, I’m holed up at a Howard Johnson’s on the Atlanta Highway here in Mr. Shreve’s city of Athens, GA—and this room is so small, even the mice are humpbacked

ME: Look, that’s not…

TOBY: He wouldn’t even pay for my meals!

ME: I gave you what spare change I had for the vending machine…but look, this is not what I want to talk about…allow me to introduce Dr. Tobias O’Brien, an eminent scholar and academic who currently occupies the Communications Chair at Toobworld Institute.

TOBY: Good evening…

ME: First off, Doc…I want to thank you for focusing on one of TDOY’s Mayberry Mondays posts from a few weeks back, “The Church Bell.”  You wrote a series of fascinating dissertations on the curious phenomena of doppelgangers in Mayberry—how it was actually possible for two characters to look exactly alike one another and yet be able to commiserate in the same town without their heads exploding from the shock of seeing one’s unknown twin.  So, my question to you is this—with the disappearance of Andy, Jr. after this one Mayberry R.F.D. episode, would it not have been responsible on the part of interested authorities to make certain Helen Crump Taylor was brought to trial and prosecuted for crimes of child neglect and…dare I say it…possible homicide?

TOBY (chuckling): Mr. Shreve…

ME: Uh, Doc…you can call me “Ivan” if you like.  Mr. Shreve is my father.

TOBY: Indeed.  I will, however, insist that you refer to me as “Dr. O’Brien.”  None of this “Doc” nonsense…

ME: Very well…

TOBY: You’re not Bugs Bunny, you know…

ME: Okay, I get it…

TOBY: First off, as for the fact that there was no reference to the baby in the reunion movie, that's not such a logistical problem.  Using the first meeting between Chekov and Khan in the "Space Seed" episode of Star Trek as the classic example, we don't always see what happens within the "reality" of a TV show.  A lot of prime-time life is going on during the commercials and between episodes.

ME: I see.

TOBY: Maybe Andy and Helen did mention their son Andy, Jr. at some point to someone there, probably to ol' Barn; we just didn't get the chance to see it happen.  Maybe since the kid would have been turning 18 that next year, he was off college hunting, preferably one with strong Toobworld roots.  Maybe even Faber, where he could have become a pledge at Delta House - the sitcom continuation of Animal House.  Or we could backdate the college connection with him going to the same school now being seen in Glory Daze, which just started on TBS.  Andy Taylor, Jr. might be seen in the next batch of freshmen pledges in the next season...if it gets a second season…

ME: Well, there’s always hope…by the way, you just received an envelope from TBS…looks like a check

TOBY: It must be my stipend…or he could be enrolled in a school where he lived away from home and couldn't get the time away to join his parents and half-brother Opie for the trip back home.  Maybe he was at the Concord School, a private school in California run by Andy Thompson as The Headmaster.  Wouldn't that have been a head trip for the poor kid?  To be going to a school where the man in charge not only was the spitting image of your Dad, but had the same first name?

ME: Well…yeah…kind of like that doppelganger thing that went on in “The Church Bell”…

TOBY: I think those might be the best possible options as to why we never saw Andy Taylor, Jr. in Return to Mayberry.  But they're not the only possibilities…

ME: Continue, Dr. O’Brien…this is, as Mr. Spock himself would say, fascinating…

TOBY: Usually when one thinks of those "Very Special Episodes" which TV sitcoms saddled us with (mostly back in the '80s), I’d like to think that All in the Family was where they all started.  But they had been around for awhile; The Dick Van Dyke Show had episodes about race relations, and even one on spousal abuse! 

It's just that All in the Family seemed to have more of them, often quite powerful in impact.  And over the years, on various sitcoms, "Very Special Episodes" have tackled topics like alcoholism, homelessness, pedophilia, disabilities, protests against the government, sexual orientation, and the ultimate: Death (always a goodie for Sweeps!)

They've pretty much handled Death in all of its manifestations, but has there ever been a TV episode about SIDS—Sudden Infant Death Syndrome?  This may have been what happened after the episode of "Andy's Baby" aired, unseen by the audience viewing at home in the "Trueniverse".  It sounds like a much darker episode than one would expect from the world of Mayberry, but like I've said before, we don't see what happens in these characters' lives when they're not on screen.

ME: Gosh all fishhooks!

TOBY: I'd hate to think the kid died just because he was left in the care of one of his yahoo godfathers.  Emmett's workshop alone was a death-trap for toddlers!

ME: Well, I’m not sure I can agree with that, considering the amount of actual repair work that went on in that place…

TOBY: If I may continue…Andy Junior could have died at any point after that episode and before the reunion movie.  It might even be seen as a reason why Andy felt like moving home to Mayberry.  But if so, it probably happened some time back, so that it was just an accepted part of their family history and no one felt the need to bring it up.  Life Goes On…

ME: Or to use the Latin: Ob-la-di, ob-la-da…

TOBY: To go even darker, maybe he was kidnapped.  Happened all the time in Mayberry.  Ernest T. Bass kidnapped what he thought was to be his bride, only for it to turn out to be Barney in a wedding dress.  Briscoe Darling kidnapped Aunt Bee.  Maybe somebody kidnapped the Taylor baby, only for it all to go horribly wrong.

ME: Straight out of the Lindbergh baby playbook—that’s just amazing, Dr. O’Brien…I never would have considered such a possibility.

TOBY: Indeed…personally I must admit I find such a precept a bit too morbid.  I'll stick with the theory that Andy, Jr. was at school during the events of the reunion movie.  I believe Return to Mayberry should be considered as happening around the same time that it aired, so school would have still been in session back home.

ME: It certainly is food for thought, that’s for sure…

TOBY: Oh…speaking of food…

ME: Honestly, Dr. O’Brien…I’m completely tapped out…I could rifle through the couch cushions if you like…

TOBY: No, I just wanted to address something you said earlier about children’s pictures on milk cartons.  People in Mayberry get their milk in bottles.

ME: My humblest apologies…I completely forgot about that…

TOBY: One other point about this episode—I have to assume that the only reason Barney wasn't asked to come back to Mayberry to be the godfather of Andy, Jr. was because he was already the godfather to Opie.  You'd have to check with some Mayberrian scholar to verify that, however.  This is one of those times where I don't know the trees, just the overall forest.

ME: Dr. O’Brien, thanks ever so for being our guest today and for providing such fascinating insights from an individual who clearly has more time on his hands than I do…perhaps we can arrange for you to return to TDOY in the future…

TOBY: Always a pleasure, Ivan…though a word of warning—think Country Inn and Suites next time, or this is the last time I agree to this arrangement.

ME: I will, sir…thanks again, and I want to personally invite the vast TDOY readership to join us next week for another Mayberry Mondays installment—a stirring saga that allows Ken Berry to get in touch with his inner song-and-dance man…”Saving Morelli’s.”


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