Reviews

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
Amazon

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.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image