PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

The Andy Griffith Show: The Complete Second Season

Leigh H. Edwards

While Barney's marginality reinforces Andy's norm by contrast, their coupledom is consistent.

The Andy Griffith Show

Cast: Andy Griffith, Ron Howard, Don Knotts, Frances Bavier
Subtitle: The Complete Second Season
Network: Paramount
First date: 1961
US Release Date: 2005-05-24
Last date: 1962
Amazon affiliate

The Andy Griffith Show is an institution. A situation comedy that captures America's yearning for lost innocence, for small-town safety and community, it offers the possibility that days might be spent fishing. In Mayberry, the worst criminals are well-intentioned drunks and the only real threats come in the form of scam artist interlopers from the big city. That the homespun wisdom doesn't seem trite is due in large part to the charm of the man himself. Griffith's Sheriff Andy Taylor raises adorable son Opie (Ron Howard), plays straight man to Deputy Barney Fife (Don Knotts), and eats Aunt Bee's (Frances Bavier) apple pie. Now available on DVD, Season Two showcases the crew in fine form.

While Opie's lessons are premised on traditional respect for honesty, God, and the law, the series avoids nostalgic treacle through some serious quirkiness. Andy models for his son a familiar Southern white masculinity -- folksy and decent. But he's surrounded by alternative possibilities, ranging from Barney to Floyd the barber (Howard McNear) to Otis (Hal Smith). Barney frequently tries to teach Opie fatherly lessons too, but he's so clearly designated a comic distraction that he becomes the butt of humor that depends on effeminizing him.

While Barney's marginality reinforces Andy's norm by contrast, their coupledom is consistent. Andy plays the solid but fair father, Barney's the fussbudgety mother. Positioned like an old married couple, these bonded bachelors keep women at the edges of their lives. Though he goes home to Opie and Aunt Bee (not even the grandmother, she never fully takes the place of the absent mother), Andy maintains connection with his better half. The Cleavers, this ain't.

This dynamic is evident in a typical episode, "Opie and the Bully," where a bully stops Opie every day and takes his milk money. As Opie keeps asking everyone for extra milk money, an anxious Barney follows him, hiding on a nearby porch, where he peers through a hole in a morning newspaper. When he reports back to Andy and wants to step in (balling his fists and acting nerdishly bellicose), Andy insists Opie must learn to fend for himself.

To that end, Andy plays normal dad: he takes his son fishing and recounts his own experience of resisting toughs: take the hit, laugh, then punch back "like a windmill in a tornado." Andy sums up his parenting philosophy by saying, "I don't want him to be the kind of boy who goes looking for fights, but I don't want him to run from one when he's in the right." This advice works for Opie, and when he trounces the bully, he wears his black eye like a badge of honor.

Andy's love life also marks the series' departure from sitcom stereotypes. While we sometimes see him dating or verbally sparring (barely flirting) with women (like guest star Barbara Eden in one episode), those plotlines are few and far between. In "Wedding Bells for Aunt Bee," the issue of single fatherhood and Andy's seeming lack of interest in finding a mother for Opie are displaced onto the elderly Southern doyenne. She makes up an imaginary suitor so Andy can turn his attention from her to finding his own wife. Here, the show invents an alibi for Andy's disinterest (taking care of his unmarried female relative) and turns it into a comic storyline, again avoiding male-female romance.

This odd dancing around norms also occurs with regard to Andy's authority. Certainly, the series reinforces a sense of absolute confidence in systems of law enforcement, justice, and local government. But it also gently questions how authority works. "Andy and the Woman Speeder" identifies the consolidation of too much power in one person's hands as a potential problem. Andy gives a speeding ticket to a magazine writer, Elizabeth (Jean Hagen), passing through on her way back to DC. When she wants to appeal the ticket (saying he's set up a speed trap), Andy takes her to the station, where he informs her he's also the justice of the peace. As he increases the fine for her contempt of court, she wants to appeal to yet another authority, so he puts her in jail for the night to wait for Mayor's Court the next day.

Affirming the idea that his use of power is benevolent, Andy sends Aunt Bee to care for the "stubborn female" (because the law requires a female warden) and tells Barney to "lock her up and buy some pink towels." At the hearing the next day, Andy's witnesses, including Barney, Opie, and Floyd, abandon him due to Elizabeth's charms, and she gets off. Andy decries the miscarriage of justice, and his principled stand makes Elizabeth feel so badly that she speeds again while leaving, so he can charge her the original fine. Her protest against even the potential for corruption is allayed by the idea that Andy is an exemplary holder of justice.

Such individual integrity grounds The Andy Griffith Show. And so the series' allowances for non-traditional family life and challenges to conventional authority and gender roles never seem so troubling as they might have.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.