On a serious note, Appellate Judge Amanda DeWees wants to take a moment to observe the passing on May 21 of Howard Morris, who played the unforgettable Ernest T. Bass and also directed a number of episodes of The Andy Griffith Show. Thanks for everything, Howard.
Our reviews of The Andy Griffith Show: The Complete First Season (published December 1st, 2004), The Andy Griffith Show: The Complete Third Season (published February 15th, 2006), The Andy Griffith Show: The Complete Fourth Season (published February 15th, 2006), The Andy Griffith Show: The Complete Fifth Season (published May 17th, 2006), The Andy Griffith Show: The Complete Sixth Season (published November 17th, 2006), and The Andy Griffith Show 50th Anniversary: The Best Of Mayberry (published December 21st, 2010) are also available.
"You gotta understand, this is a small town. The sheriff is more than just a sheriff. He's a friend. And the people in this town, they ain't got a better friend than Andy Taylor."—Barney, in "Andy on Trial"
After the pleasant warm-up of Season One, this season is where the magic really starts to happen and The Andy Griffith Show becomes the classic that we love and remember. Season Two contains some of the show's most popular episodes, classics like "Barney and The Choir," "Andy on Trial" (which the cast members chose as being among their ten favorites), and especially the episode that TVLand viewers voted number one out of the entire series, "The Pickle Story." Get ready for 31 episodes of classic sitcom goodness that are as satisfying as home-cooked fried chicken (but a lot kinder to the waistline).
Facts of the Case
The quiet little town of Mayberry, North Carolina, is seeing a veritable explosion of crime this season. Between all the speeding, parking violations, jaywalking, and illegal stills, it's a good thing Sheriff Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith) is on the job. Andy knows enough about human nature that he can usually spot a wrong 'un before a serious crime occurs; he can head off a bank robbery or a con game without even having to fire his gun. But his deputy, Barney Fife (Don Knotts), is quite another matter. Barney is all too prone to jump into action (or at least into a lecture) without having sussed out the entire situation. So not only does Andy have to keep order in his town, he has to keep getting his deputy out of hot water—especially when Barney is on the outs with his sweet-tempered girlfriend, Thelma Lou (Betty Lynn).
Andy finds time to squire a few pretty ladies around, too, and even his motherly Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier) dallies with romance this season. At the same time, Andy's young son Opie (Ronny Howard) is having to deal with troubles like bullying and falling in with the wrong crowd, so Andy always has to juggle his own personal life—and his job as sheriff—with his duties as father. But somehow or other, everything always ends up all right, and peace descends on Mayberry once again.
Season Two contains 31 episodes on five discs:
After establishing its format and down-home style of humor in Season One, The Andy Griffith Show hit the ground running with Season Two. By this season the cast's personas have gelled into the form they'll hold for the remainder of the series' long run: Andy has toned down the aw-shucks country boy shtick in favor of a more assured and understated manner more in keeping with his intelligence and position of authority, and Barney's endearing combination of egotism and ineptitude has come to the fore. Griffith lets Knotts take on more of the comedy, playing the straight man who nudges him on with feigned seriousness as Barney expounds on various subjects, and only partly hiding his amusement as Barney takes the bait every time. The writers are also spotlighting Knotts more, writing a substantial number of episodes around his character ("Barney's Replacement," "Sheriff Barney," "Barney and the Choir," to name just a few), and these are some of the highlights of the season. Knotts is simply virtuosic this season, whether he's seething with injured pride when guest actor Alan Hale, Jr., hauls him off his feet like a rag doll, or whether the expression on his mobile face is changing from shock to pleased surprise to smug assurance as he listens to the voice he thinks is his own emerge from the microphone in "Barney and the Choir."
Knotts also turns in one of the season's most heartwarming speeches in the "Andy on Trial" episode, in which a vengeful city slicker has sent an undercover reporter to cause trouble for Andy. In the resulting hearing, which will determine if Andy will be removed from office, Barney has to own up to having shot off his mouth to impress the reporter (a pretty young woman) and make up for his error by testifying to Andy's merits. It's a genuinely touching scene, a testament to the strong character development—and character relationships—that give this series its heart. That heart is also part of what makes the series' most beloved episode, "The Pickle Story," such a winner: It's because Andy and Barney don't want to hurt Aunt Bee's feelings that they pretend to love her horrible pickles and so precipitate an increasingly complicated plot. Likewise, no one can bear to tell Barney he can't sing ("not a lick!"), which is why Andy has to keep thinking up ways to keep him from ruining the choir's chance at winning a competition. The labyrinthine deceptions and ploys that form the backbone of so many episodes work precisely because they're based in love.
The entire ensemble is in excellent form this season, and each actor gets a chance to shine in different stories. Aunt Bee shows an unexpected tough side in the hilarious "Aunt Bee the Warden," in which town drunk Otis is placed under house arrest and learns to regard Aunt Bee—or "Bloody Mary," as he soon dubs her—with fear. Be sure to stick around for the epilogue to this episode. Andy faces some unusual challenges this season, including a feminist date in "The Perfect Woman" and a ruthless city woman in "Andy and the Woman Speeder" who assumes he's a corrupt cop and sets out to sabotage him, driving a wedge between him and Barney. As always, it's wonderful to see the caring relationship between him and Opie, which comes to the fore in "Opie and the Bully." And even Andy's usual savvy fails him from time to time, as in "Aunt Bee's Brief Encounter" and "Guest of Honor," when he comes close to being duped by a plausible faker—but always manages to set things to rights.
There are also some memorable guest appearances by actors who would later become TV regulars, including Alan Hale, Jr. (Gilligan's Island) in "The Farmer Takes a Wife" (already addressing people as "Little Buddy"); the young Bill Bixby (The Incredible Hulk) as an arrogant rich kid in "Bailey's Bad Boy"; and the stunning young Barbara Eden (I Dream of Jeannie) as the bubbly, bodacious title character in "The Manicurist." Seeing these familiar faces in their younger days is like taking a nostalgic peek at a family photo album.
Audiovisual quality for this set is quite nice, with clean, clear mono sound and a surprisingly sharp black-and-white picture that boasts respectable contrast and depth. Only some occasional moiré on patterned surfaces distracts; otherwise, this is mighty purty-lookin'. (I'm sorry, but my typing develops a drawl when I think about this show.) Packaging for this set is charming: The five discs and their three slim cases are all designed around a place setting theme, with checked tablecloth backgrounds, episode listings printed on recipe cards, and each disc showing an apple pie in increasing stages of consumption.
Best of all, though, is that we actually have disc extras this time around: all the episodes' original sponsor spots, in which Andy and various cast members perform a little scene to proclaim the merits of Post cereal or Sanka decaffeinated coffee. The lovably earnest way product placement was handled forty years ago is a lot of fun to see, but best of all is that many of these advertising spots were written to dovetail with the plot of the specific episode they accompanied, so they act like additional epilogues (albeit surreal ones). For that reason, it's regrettable that there's no option to play the sponsor spot automatically after its parent episode; you have to go to a separate menu and select it from the list instead. Nevertheless, despite this slight inconvenience, I'm excited to see these vintage goodies, and I'm also pleased to see that their audiovisual quality is as fine as that of the episodes themselves. Paramount gets a pat on the back and what Andy calls "a little sugar on the jaw" for giving us these fun extras.
We'll have to wait until Season Three to see feisty schoolmarm Helen Crump arrive on the scene—not to mention that unforgettable "nut," Ernest T. Bass. Otherwise, this is a classic season, chock-full of memorable episodes. Snap it up before it vanishes like Aunt Bee's apple pie.
Well, I happen to know the justice of the peace, and I think I can convince him to go easy on the defendant. Not guilty!
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