Reviews

The Andy Griffith Show: The Complete Fifth Season

Michael Buening

The very concept of change was anathema to Mayberry, and the beginning of Season Five delivered a grim portent: Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors) was replaced by his brother Goober (George Lindsey).


The Andy Griffith Show

Distributor: Paramount
Cast: Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, Ronny Howard, Frances Bavier
MPAA rating: Not Rated
Subtitle: The Complete Fifth Season
Network: CBS
First date: 1964
US Release Date: 2006-02-14
Last date: 1965
Amazon affiliate
Amazon

In a medium whose appeal lies largely in the reliable comfort of self-contained worlds, The Andy Griffith Show created one of the most beloved. The North Carolinian idyll of Mayberry has been cemented in popular consciousness as shorthand for bucolic Americana. Mayberry is one in a series of Cities on a Hill embraced by U.S. popular culture, a dream that couldn't be maintained forever.

The very concept of change was anathema to Mayberry, and the beginning of Season Five delivered a grim portent: Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors) was drafted into a spin-off and replaced by his brother Goober (George Lindsey). The start of the sixth season brought color, a pubescent Opie (Ronny Howard) and, most importantly, the loss of comic focal point Deputy Barney Fife (Don Knotts).

Prior to Barney's departure, the show remained largely intact, and 32 episodes of Season Five (now released to DVD) demonstrate its timelessness. Generally this was accomplished by a fine cast of characters -- including Andy (Andy Griffith), Barney, Opie, and Aunt Bea (Frances Bavier) -- who came alive within a detailed community. Each episode revolves around a single story, which unfolds at a relaxed pace, and drama as well as comedy.

This comedy takes various forms. The satire in the episode called "TV or Not TV" has writers Art Baer and Ben Joelson poking fun at their bosses when some network executives arrive in Mayberry, interested in creating a show about Andy Taylor; actually, they're planning to rob the bank. In the hilarious "The Rehabilitation of Otis," Barney decides Otis (Hal Smith) needs psychological help for his alcoholism, which he will provide based on a magazine article. The show also managed freewheeling comedy, as in the final good Andy/Barney episode, which has the two friends arresting Mt. Pilot's "Fun Girls" to keep them away from Thelma Lou (Betty Lynn) and Helen (Aneta Corsaut).

The less imaginative episodes are constructed as moral tales, sweet and gentle, but also simplistic. Worse, almost all the characters besides Andy, who does the moralizing, come across as mildly retarded. Barney had to be instructed how to deal with bullies in "Barney's Uniform," and Bea had to confront the fact that she couldn't play the lead in the community theater production in "The Pageant." This infantilization is most blatant in Barney. For all of Knotts' brilliant and loving characterization, Barney is a shuffling child in relation to Griffith's father figure. Barney's streak of deep, if misguided compassion is reduced to gross ineptitude, his friendship with Andy typically upended by Taylor's condescension.

Barney's departure from Mayberry starts slowly. Throughout the fifth season, he takes mysterious leaves of absence. In "Opie and Arithmetic," he is concerned about the boy's grades, but in the following episode, "Opie and the Carnival," he's nowhere to be found to counsel him. That carnival drifts into town à la Something Wicked This Way Comes and in the next episode, the last of the season, it spits out a bumbling sideshow assistant (Jerry Van Dyke), who attempts to take Barney's place.

Actually, Andy threatens to leave for Raleigh first, earlier in the season when he's offered a job as a detective in the episode "Goodbye Sheriff Taylor." Barney immediately grasps the seismic shift such an event would have on Mayberry, screeching in his West Virginia drawl, "All the times we've spent together, goin' fishing, and double datin', and kiddin' around. I don't know what's going to happen to law and order around here."

Their relationship grounds The Andy Griffith Show, and is reportedly mirrored by Griffith and Knotts' real-life, long-time friendship. In one of his final scenes, Barney gets ready to leave the Taylor home, saying, "Thanks for the supper, Aunt Bea. It's delicious, as usual." Knotts' voice cracks and he turns away from the camera. Understood now as the end of his time in Mayberry, after watching the previous episodes numbered on the DVD, the scene is poignant. Watched out of sequence, without context (say, in a tv rerun), it means nothing. It is what it was: a passing moment. And then he was gone.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

Patrick Madden's 'Disparates' Makes Sense in These Crazy Times

There's no social distancing with Patrick Madden's hilarious Disparates. While reading these essays, you'll feel like he's in the room with you.

Music

Perfume Genius Purges Himself and It's Contagious

You need to care so much about your art to pack this much meaning into not only the words, but the tones that adorn and deliver them. Perfume Genius cares so much it hurts on Set My Heart on Fire Immediately.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Confinement and Escape: Emma Donoghue and E.L. Doctorow in Our Time of Self-Isolation

Emma Donoghue's Room and E.L. Doctorow's Homer & Langley define and confront life within limited space.

Books

Political Cartoonist Art Young Was an Aficionado of all Things Infernal

Fantagraphics' new edition of Inferno takes Art Young's original Depression-era critique to the Trump Whitehouse -- and then drags it all to Hell.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

OK Go's Emotional New Ballad, "All Together Now", Inspired by Singer's Bout with COVID-19

Damian Kulash, lead singer for OK Go discusses his recent bout with COVID-19, how it impacted his family, and the band's latest pop delight, "All Together Now", as part of our Love in the Time of Coronavirus series.

Books

The Rules Don't Apply to These Nonconformist Novelists

Ian Haydn Smith's succinct biographies in Cult Writers: 50 Nonconformist Novelists You Need to Know entice even seasoned bibliophiles.

Music

Siren Songs' Merideth Kaye Clark and Jenn Grinels Debut As a Folk Duo (album stream + interview)

Best friends and longtime musical collaborators Merideth Kaye Clark and Jenn Grinels team up as Siren Songs for the uplifting folk of their eponymous LP.

Music

Buzzcocks' 1993 Comeback 'Trade Test Transmissions' Showed Punk's Great Survivors' Consistency

PopMatters' appraisal of Buzzcocks continues with the band's proper comeback LP, Trade Test Transmissions, now reissued on Cherry Red Records' new box-set, Sell You Everything.

Music

Archie Shepp, Raw Poetic, and Damu the Fudgemunk Enlighten and Enliven with 'Ocean Bridges'

Ocean Bridges is proof that genre crossovers can sound organic, and that the term "crossover" doesn't have to come loaded with gimmicky connotations. Maybe we're headed for a world in which genres are so fluid that the term is dropped altogether from the cultural lexicon.

Books

Claude McKay's 'Romance in Marseille' Is Ahead of Its Time

Claude McKay's Romance in Marseille -- only recently published -- pushes boundaries on sexuality, disability, identity -- all in gorgeous poetic prose.

Music

Christine Ott Brings the Ondes Martenot to New Heights with the Mesmerizing 'Chimères'

France's Christine Ott, known for her work as an orchestral musician and film composer, has created a unique new solo album, Chimères, that spotlights an obscure instrument.

Music

Man Alive! Is a Continued Display of the Grimy-Yet-Refined Magnetism of King Krule

Following The OOZ and its accolades, King Krule crafts a similarly hazy gem with Man Alive! that digs into his distinct aesthetic rather than forges new ground.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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