Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Nothin' Much But Mayberry

In a recent blog I stated that the only television show my husband and I watch is "The Iron Chef" on the Food Network. I must admit that's not quite true. Oftentimes we cozy down into our sofa with the irresistibly simple and clear introductory whistle of The Andy Griffith Show floating through the air.

We have the first two seasons on DVD. The third season (and possibly the fourth) will find itself unapologetically plugged into our what-we-want-the-most-for-Christmas-this-year-please slot on our 2011 Wish List. And with good reason. The whole show is just... funny! It's really, truly, honestly, wholesomely, intelligently, brilliantly funny.

I'm a fan.

My introduction to Mayberry came rather in reverse. What I mean is that I was actually an Andy Griffith fan via Matlock first (this is all Jenny's fault, but that's another story). I enjoyed the silver-haired, hot-dog-eating, gray-suit-wearing, pseudo-mystery-solving lawyer from Atlanta, and I tuned in faithfully to reruns, along with about a million or so AARP recipients who also call themselves fans. That came first. And since I was born in the days of disco, about 15 years after The Andy Griffith Show debuted, this progression makes sense.

At some point I realized that there was actually a show before this starring the same man. And it was, apparently, quite popular in its day. It had something to do with a jail and a small town and a sheriff with a goofy sidekick. In other words, it sounded about as exciting and appealing as eating a loaf of stale Wonder Bread.

But somehow or other, I watched an episode. And then I watched another. And another and another. And I found myself laughing with that kind of belly laugh that works the abdominal muscles in full force. You know that laugh? It's that rare, utterly delightful kind of laugh that results from humor which isn't just funny, but brilliantly witty -- the kind of laughter where you nearly choke on your meatball and can't see clearly for about five minutes for the tears in your eyes. That's how I laughed. It was great.

And since I can't help myself, I must wax philosophic for just a moment: What happened to that kind of writing? What happened to that kind of entertainment? It's true that there is still that occasional spark of brilliance, certainly in some contemporary movies, and perhaps in a very few modern television shows (or maybe not?). I'm not of the school who believes that all old television shows are good (have you ever suffered through an episode of Adam 12?) and that all current television shows are bad. However, I do think that, generally speaking, as our culture exercises its collective mind and soul less and less, finding the basest and crudest forms of expression "funny," there is a tendency to produce entertainment that is, if I might say so, rather stupid. Vacuous. Very unfunny.

If you really want to laugh, get your hands on The Manicurist from Season Two of Andy, or Barney and the Choir (a few episodes later). The writing is just brilliant! And who can resist the stuttering barber Floyd, the curmudgeonly Ben, or the sweet-spirited but ever-inebriated Otis? Not to mention the gentle Sheriff Andy, the lovable Aunt Bee, and the clumsy, misguided Barney.

So that's really all I have to say. Nothing too deep, really, it's just a TV show from the 1960s. But if you HAVE to watch television, try to get your hands on some of these episodes.

If you don't choke on a meatball, your abs will thank you.