RIP Andy Griffith

Best known as Sheriff Andy Taylor of “The Andy Griffith Show,” Andy Griffith died this morning at age 86.  If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember that show with its cast of colorful characters, including Opie (Ron Howard), Aunt Bea (Francis Bavier), Gomer (Jim Nabors) and of course the nervous deputy Barney Fife (Don Knotts), whose gun was always empty, with Andy retaining one bullet in case of emergency.

The show ran from 1960-1968, and was immensely popular. I watched it nearly every week. The NYT notes:

But the 35 million viewers of “The Andy Griffith Show” would have been reassured to learn that even at the peak of his popularity, Mr. Griffith drove a Ford station wagon and bought his suits off the rack. He said his favorite honor was having a 10-mile stretch of a North Carolina highway named after him in 2002. (That was before President George W. Bush presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.)

37 thoughts on “RIP Andy Griffith

  1. Correction (this stuff is important, you know): Barney Fife always kept the bullet — in his shirt vest pocket.

    And Griffith was electrifying in the pre-Maybury \”A Face in the Crowd\”, which provided an early warning about media which we apprently completely ignored.

      1. Oh, Lordy. Andy Griffith was in a left-wing subversive movie (and how!) before becoming the embodiment of everything nice about small-town America.

        I was also a great Griffith fan. Andy Griffith and Lassie were about the only two shows I watched as a kid that were !*not*! science-fiction.

  2. I’m not of a certain age, but I’m still nostalgic. We used to watch reruns on TV Land all the time growing up. Dad loved it.

  3. A measure of that shows success is that, to this day, anyone describing a small US town will invariably compare it to Mayberry. Invariably.

  4. I’m the same age as Professor Coyne. I never watched the Andy Griffith Show. We had three TVs scattered about the house, so it occasionally could be seen in snippets, but I never watched an entire episode. I grew up within the vast suburban Los Angeles flatlands, and even to this young person, the show seemed hopelessly rural, small-town, and, worse, Barney would get into problems that even a twelve-year-old could solve, yet Barney could not (grrrr, click!!.) We had very good neighbors who originated from West Virginia, who sounded like the people on the show, yet were unlike Andy & Co. in every other way.

    Most neighbors worked in the aerospace and defense industries…white collar jobs. What was RFD??!! Did not care.

    Yet, I appreciate Andy Griffith, the actor and person. Good guy, so long!

  5. The theme to The Andy Griffith Show was the first song I ever taught myself to whistle. I’m only old enough to have caught the show in syndication during hot Arizona summer vacations along with Leave It To Beaver, Gilligan’s Island and The Beverly Hillbillies, but I think I caught most of the series.

  6. Goodbye Matlock. Naah, I knew him from the reruns of The Andy Griffith Show and Mayberry RFD. Folks say he was a genuinely nice person, not just nice on TV. I wonder if Jim Nabors is still running his farm in Hawaii.

  7. I’ve read that The Andy Griffith show was noted as the first real casualty of the new age of advertising: it was cancelled even though it was the #1 rated show on television. Why? Because they used new methods of analysing data on viewers and discovered that the average age of the person watching The Andy Griffith show was too old — over forty, I think. Advertisers wanted a young market because they apparently spent more money. Thus, the loyal viewers were out of luck.

    I’m just old enough to have watched the show when it originally aired — though I’m pretty sure most of what I watched was the after school reruns (iirc it preceded Dick Van Dyke.) I think the characters and storylines stil exist as some sort of template in my head.

    I loved Aunt Bea. That was what I wanted to be like when I grew up. Which, when you think about it, is a more reasonably achievable ambition than most. And it allows you second helpings on the pie.

  8. I’m of both a certain and uncertain age and remember Mr. Griffith with affection and regard. I thought he had a great range as an actor (I never have seen Matlock). I’d forgotten about his musical talents. I loved all the characters on Mayberry and often marveled at how well they worked together. That program might have done something for blue grass, too with the Dillards appearing from time-to-time. As Sastra pointed out, Ah, those pies. I will miss him and was glad to be on the planet when he was too.

    1. I don’t remember watching AGS much *I was a big fan of the Wild Wild West that ran within the same window, tho), but your reference to the Dillards caught my attention. I’ll keep an eye peeled for one of those!

  9. I too, was born during the Precambrian and remember spending hours sitting cross legged
    on the floor, in cuffed jeans and U.S. Keds
    watching the Andy Griffith Show while eating
    corn flakes from a ceramic bowl. Both the
    corn flakes and the show were “GRRREAT!!!”.

  10. I have a hard time understanding how this post is appropriate for a webpage about science and evolution. Yes, I loved Andy but I don’t want to read about him on a website extolling the virtues of science!

    1. WEIT is immense and contains multitudes. It is also Jerry Coyne’s website. It reflects all of his varied interests and tastes.

      You’re probably not going to care much for the fancy boot posts either, or the culinary ones. But you better not complain about the kittens and cats. That’s all I’m saying. You have been warned.

      Jeez. What you don’t like, skip — and everyone is happy. I have a hard time understanding that you have a hard time understanding that.

    2. Andy Griffith is a sign that the arc of evolution bends towards good things in life.

  11. I was an Andy fan before I even knew who he was – dad had (still has, probably) an old vinyl record (1953) of Andy’s monologues, my favourite being “What It Was, Was Football!” To this day, lines from that piece get thrown into casual conversation 🙂

      1. On the flip side of his recording of “What It Was Was Football”, was his description of a performance of “Romeo and Juliet.” That was just as good.

  12. Single fathers in the 1960s weren’t that common (they aren’t that common today), so one would think it bizarre that so many television shows revolved around them. Yet they did. Just off the top of my head: The Andy Griffith Show (Aunt Bee), My Three Sons (Uncle Charley), Family Affair (Mr. French), Fury (Pete, his top-hand, who cut his teeth on a branding iron) and The Beverly Hillbillies (Granny). In parentheses are the characters who care for the children in the absence of the mother. OK, not all technically single fathers, but you get the point.

    Isn’t this bizarre?

    I think this is related to the fact that the first U.S. television show to show a married couple in the same bed was (drum roll, please) The Flintstones. (Yes, cartoons can often push the envelope a bit more.) In other words, family-oriented shows were desired, but actually having a man and a woman implies…the network executives and revival preachers shudder to even think about it.

    Does anyone have a better explanation?

    (Single mothers, of course, would be taboo.)

    1. Well, the Flintstones was aimed at adults. After all, the sponsor was “Winston Cigarettes” and even had Fred and Barney smoking and blowing smoke in a promo at the end of the show, extolling the taste virtues of “Winstons”.

      1. Yes (something of a takeoff on The Honeymooners), but there were other shows aimed at adults as well, none of which had such scenes before the Flintstones did.

    2. Which is one of the reasons I’m curious about the woman beside Andy in the photograph above. I don’t remember her from the show.

      Someone, please?

      1. That’s Elinor Donahue as Ellie Walker, the pharmacist. Andy’s long time girl was Helen Crump (Opie’s teacher) and Barney’s was Thelma Lou.

        1. I guess I should clarify that she was in the first three seasons of the show and was Andy’s girlfriend. Helen Crump was his girlfriend after that.

  13. As an occasional angler, I especially appreciated that Andy and Opie always went fishing at the start of the show. They must have been good anglers (and/or had really good bait) because they always seemed to go home with nice fish at the end of every episode.

  14. A documentary filmmaker friend just tipped me to this one, which has had surprisingly few views for having been up for ~4yrs. Submitted for your approval:

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