Popular Culture (TeeVee) 20110218

(9 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Many of you will dismiss this installment as sentimental drivel about a TeeVee show that ran when Translator was a kid.  I beg to differ.  This program was much, much deeper than that, and was actually a shining example of how good TeeVee should work.

It had excellent writing, excellent production, and excellent acting from all of the principal players.  It also started the careers of several, now prominent, actors.

Please put up with me here and open your mind to what was a really wonderful situation comedy.  Also, I will pepper this with a bit of insight into the man himself and other roles that he has played that do not jibe with the kindly sheriff of Mayberry.

First, a little about the man.  Andy Samuel Griffith was born 19260601, just a few years later than my own father, and is still with us.  He was the only son of an extremely poor couple in North Carolina, and the tale is that they did not have enough money for a crib, so he, as an infant, was put to bed in a drawer in the bureau.  I do not know if that is true or not, but it is a very persistent myth.

He was a bright boy, musical and quite talented.  He actually changed his major from the preacher track to music, and did well.  But music came to be just a sideline.  His greatest gift was his spoken word.  His first big hit was back in the day when single records were in vogue, with What is was, was Football.  It was a big hit, and is still pretty funny today.  Here is an example.

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His TeeVee was a one time spot on anthology series, the spot being No Time for Sergeants.   That got him noticed and he starred in it on Broadway for over a year.  It was finally made into a feature film, and this is where he met his lifetime friend and often show business partner, Don Knotts.  This was a comedy, and the chemistry betwixt Griffith and Knotts was already evident.  The film was produced in 1958.

However, that was not his first movie.  The very chilling A Face in the Crowd came out in 1957, and Griffith was cast as Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes, who for all the world seems just like Glenn Beck.  This is some of his finest work, and I must give credit to Keith Olbermann for first making the comparison betwixt Rhodes and Beck.  You really ought to check this film out.  Here is a clip as his career was tanking.  Yes, that is Patricia Neal and a very young Walter Matthau on the other end of the telephone.

With his theatrical success, Griffith became not property.  He caught the eye of Sheldon Leonard, legendary TeeVee producer, who liked his country charm and recognized his comedic talent.  Leonard was producing Make Room for Daddy, aka the Danny Thomas show, and used that venue as the pilot for The Andy Griffith Show, just like The Andy Griffith Show was used for the pilot for Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., a show that I personally consider evil because I have no doubt that more than one recruit went to the Marines (during the height of the Viet Nam War) thinking that is was really like the show, but I digress.

I consider The Andy Griffith Show to be one of the best TeeVee sitcoms ever made.  Although not credited, Griffith had a large influence on each script in the early days, and it shows.  You can tell when he got tired of it, and it went bad very quickly then.  He wanted to leave the show earlier, but was contractually bound to CBS.  Interestingly, about the time it went from black and white to color was when it decayed.  However for the first five seasons or so, it was top drawer.

Please do not get me wrong:  I am the farthest thing that can exist from a prude, and certainly there are proper used for sex, crude humor, and violence in entertainment.  However, when they are used as a substitute filler for good writing, great acting, and well-done wit it rings hollow.  That show NEVER had a curse word, very little reference at all to sex, and about the extent of violence was Barney shooting his foot, but it was still a great show.

As an example of sex, crude humor, and violence working, just look at the Monty Python.  It is rife with all of those, but because those devices were used as complimentary parts of their humor, along with great writing and acting, the Python material is hilarious.

A lot of the success of the show had to do with the supporting cast, in particular Don Knotts.  Ron Howard was great for a child actor (most child actors are just annoying, but Opie was like a real kid).  Francis Bavier (Aunt Bee) rounded out the main cast, but there were several others who helped to make the show a success.  Of course, Jim Nabors (Gomer Pyle), Hal Smith (Otis Campbell), and Howard McNear (Floyd Thompson) rounded out the rest of the main supporting cast.  The extremely attrative Elinor Donahue played the pharmacist, Ellie, in the very early days and was Andy’s love interest until Helen Crump came along.

It is interesting that the characters of Andy and Barney were very nearly reversed in the first few episodes, in that Barney was the straight man and Andy the clown.  Because of their unique chemistry, they quickly realized that it worked better with Andy as the straight man.  Don Knotts was FUNNY, and had excellent physical humor.  Here is a classic clip with Knotts at his best.

Knotts left in 1965 and the show deteriorated, although it was still hugely popular.  I do not bother with the color ones, the older ones being much better.

Griffith tried and tried to make another successful TeeVee series, and just never seemed to get anything going for very long.  He even has a short series called Salvage 1 where he owned a junkyard and built a home made rocket capable of orbital flight!  It did not last too long.

He finally found success again with Matlock, which ran from 1986 to 1995, a long run indeed!  By that time I was not watching very much TeeVee, but tried to catch it when Don Knotts had a guest spot.

Griffith has done work now and then in movies over the years, but nothing really noteworthy in comparison with his two successful TeeVee series.  Many people do not know that he, and Ron Howard, are quite the progressives politically.  Griffith recently did an advert pointing out the changes to Medicare (many of which were due to the new health care law).

Here is an advert that Griffith, Howard, and Henry Winkler (another progressive) did during the 2008 Presidential campaign.  I could not find one with an embed code, so the best I can do is post a link.  If anyone can find an embeddable one, please add it to the comments.

Kossack kerflooy send me an embeddable version.  Many thanks!  Here it is:

UPDATE:  Gazetteer BobbyK reminded me about the theme song.  It is called The Fishin’ Hole, and here is Griffith himself singing it.  It really has words!

This is short post tonight, because I have to finish up my piece for my guest hosting tomorrow night at 7:30 PM Eastern for What’s for Dinner?, and have not even started on Pique the Geek for Sunday evening.  If any one has a Geeky topic idea, please let me know.

Warmest regards,

Doc

Featured at TheStarsHollowGazette.com.  Crossposted at Antemedis.com and Dailykos.com

7 comments

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  1. A great performer?

    Warmest regards,

    Doc

  2. Yes, Griffith’s character in “A Face in the Crowd” was unforgettable — definitely a must see.

    Griffith has tended to support Democrats, and in 1984 reportedly declined an offer by Democratic party officials to run against Jesse Helms, the long-serving senator from North Carolina.

    Griffith was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome and was unable to walk for seven months due to paralysis from the knees on down.  

    I’ve always been a huge fan of the Andy Griffith Show, and unlike many, thought that Floyd the Barber may have been the funniest of the lot.  You can see the opening third of “The Manicurist” here.

    • plf515 on February 19, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    It was a little before my time, I think.

    • RUKind on February 20, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    Scared the piss out of me because he was so out of “Andy of Mayberry” territory. The plot was his two sons helped him and another con escape. At one point they kidnap a family on RV vacation in the desert. I t just gets chilling from there.

    I’ve searched IMDB and Wiki and Wiki seems to have better data. Neither one had enough for me to pick out the movie. I’m hoping you’ll recall it. It was a made-for-teevee as I recall and was bone chilling cold at the end.

    I could never see any Mayberry work after that without thinking of the evilness that he was able to play so excellently.

    Brother, can you spare a title and a link?

    Thanks.

    • RUKind on February 20, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    Is there a set of prime numbers? Trick question. You’ll need a decent definition of set in mathematical terms. Clue: identity.

    I say no set of primes if you go by the rules. Prime numbers start at 2. Or so the rules go according to my understanding. I stand with Henri Lebesque that 1 belongs in there and add  the RUKind hypothesis that if there is to be a set of primes then 0 must be included – per rules of identity.

    Set or no set wrt primes?

    With the use of primes in public/private key encryption and the Patriot Act it may be a useful topic. Especially if WI is the American Tunisia. people should be aware of just how wide open their communications are. Primes are key (no pun) to digital secrecy.

    And as a a bit-head, I just loves the Mersennes.

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