Appellate Judge Tom Becker's just takin' it easy today at the fishin' hole...so step off!
Our reviews of The Andy Griffith Show: The Complete First Season (published December 1st, 2004), The Andy Griffith Show: The Complete Second Season (published June 8th, 2005), 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), and The Andy Griffith Show: The Complete Sixth Season (published November 17th, 2006) are also available.
"Well now, take down your fishin' pole
Dang, The Andy Griffith Show turned 50 in 2010, and in honor of the show's golden anniversary, Paramount is releasing The Andy Griffith Show 50th Anniversary: The Best of Mayberry. The set offers 17 episodes from the first five seasons—"the Barney Fife years"—all in black and white, along with a few extras, including the episode of the The Danny Thomas Show that introduced Andy and Opie Taylor, as well as the 1986 TV-movie Return to Mayberry.
The episodes are spread across three discs:
For those not in the know, The Andy Griffith Show follows the quiet exploits of the Taylor family in Mayberry, N.C. Andy (Griffith), a widower and the underworked sheriff of this sleepy, crime-free podunk, and Opie (Ronny Howard, American Grafitti), his school-age son, live with their Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier, The Day the Earth Stood Still), a cheerful, elderly virgin. Andy spends his days hanging out at the courthouse with his bizarre deputy, Barney Fife (Don Knotts, The Incredible Mr. Limpet), dealing with low-impact police matters, and attending to various personal problems and quirky Mayberrians.
When people talk about The Andy Griffith Show—well, at some point they did—two phrases usually come up: "gentle comedy" and "Barney Fife." These pretty much sum up the appeal of the program. The comedy is extremely low-key, to the point that funny scenes barely register on the laugh track; Mayberry is a place of soft chuckles rather than belly laughs.
While the scripts are well-written, it's the interplay between the actors that makes The Andy Griffith Show worth catching. The charismatic Griffith was a stand-up comedian who found fame on stage in No Time for Sergeants, as well as its TV and film adaptations, as well as Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd. While his comedic talents are on display here, he wisely allows the gifted Don Knotts to steal the show as Deputy Fife. Knotts, who left the show after its fifth season, won consecutive Emmy awards for the first three seasons of The Andy Griffith Show, and picked up two more playing Fife in guest appearances. Frances Bavier is both funny and comforting as Andy's straight-laced Aunt Bee, and future director Howard made Opie an everyboy, playing him with a natural quality that was especially rare in child actors at the time. Recurring characters include Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors), who went on to his own successful spin-off; Gomer's cousin Goober (George Lindsey); Helen Crump (Aneta Corsaut), Andy's steady girl (though he had a fling with Elinor Donahue's Ellie in Season One); Otis (Hal Smith) the town drunk; and Bee's best friend/biggest rival, Clara (Hope Summers).
I have to admit, I'm ambivalent about "Best of" sets like this. On the one hand, it gives the casual viewer the opportunity to have a selection of episodes without laying out lots of cash for a full-season (or full-series) box; on the other hand, you're at the mercy of the production company's decision as to what constitutes the "best" episodes. Never having been a big Mayberry fan, the 17 programs here might be the "best" to come out of the series' eight years—or at least, the first five years—but certainly, everyone is going to have a different idea.
I will say that Paramount seems to have put some thought into choosing episodes that have some significance to the series: "The Darlings Are Coming" and "Mountain Wedding" feature the musical hillbilly Darling family (portrayed by real-life bluegrass band The Dillards); "The Pickle Story" and "Barney and the Choir," reported to be Knotts' favorites; the charming "The Christmas Story;" "Fun Girls," which marked the first appearance of Lindsey's Goober Pyle; the sweet and poignant "Opie the Birdman;" and "Man in a Hurry," which marked the first appearance of Nabors' Gomer Pyle.
The shows look fine, the full-frame image clean and clear, and the mono audio tracks are solid. It's also nice that subtitles have been added. For supplements, we get:
• The Pilot—Andy is introduced on an episode of The
Danny Thomas Show as a slightly less endearing version of Sheriff Taylor.
In addition, each episode has text introduction providing some history and trivia.
While your own "Top 17" might vary, The Andy Griffith Show 50th Anniversary: The Best of Mayberry offers a worthwhile representation of one of the most popular TV sitcoms of all time.
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