When I was eight, it was thrilling to be able to watch television. It was 1960, and as America’s new favorite past-time, television had quickly taken over as the modern recipe for family togetherness.
Early television programming came from only three channels (NBC, CBS, ABC), so the networks’ scheduling had to appeal to as many home viewers as possible to attract sponsors’ advertising dollars needed to fund the show. Usually that meant finding a personality with versatility and broad appeal, and crafting a show around their persona.
Aside from notable comedians (Sid Caesar, Milton Berle, George Burns, Jack Benny, Groucho Marks), variety stars (Ed Sullivan, Arthur Godfrey), and singers (Perry Como, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland), movie actors were also drawn to television with an opportunity to increase their audience. Yet few would cross over with the success enjoyed by Andy Griffith.
Already a star of stage…
Andy Griffith easily transitioned to sitcom television as a guest star on an episode of The Danny Thomas Show, playing a country bumpkin sheriff who arrests Danny Thomas for running a stop sign in Mayberry.
The Andy Griffith Show pilot ran on CBS later in the same year, where Andy reprised his role of sheriff,
often playing straight man to a host of characters…
who worked and lived in a fictionalized town patterned after Andy’s beloved hometown, Mount Airy, North Carolina, where today, the Andy Griffith Museum shares space with the Andy Griffith Playhouse,
bringing fans from across the nation…
to follow the career of Mt. Airy’s favorite son, and enjoy a collection of memorabilia,
dedicated to a cultural icon.
Whenever I watched The Andy Griffith Show, I’d pretend being Opie Taylor (Ron Howard), Andy’s son,
walking hand in hand with Pa, down to the Fishin’ Hole,
while whistling the show’s familiar theme song:
There would be lunch at Snappy’s…
and a haircut at Floyd’s…
before heading back home, where Aunt Bee would be frying up the catch of the day for dinner.
Without sounding too utopian, life seemed simpler in 1960. Looking back, our role models were wholesome, our families were intact, and civility was practiced in earnest.
How many of us Baby Boomers yearn for the nostalgia we remember from classic TV, before the innocence was shattered by the assassination of JFK, and television brought us closer to the horror and tragedy that’s so commonplace today?