The world lost one of its greatest entertainers in Andy Griffith. To many, he was Matlock, but to many others, he was also Andy Taylor, the peace-keeping sheriff of Mayberry, North Carolina. Having been born well after The Andy Griffith Show and its spin-off series (Mayberry RFD and Gomer Pyle, USMC) ended their runs, my generation inherited re-runs of what was one of the greatest shows on television.
What was great about Andy Griffith and The Andy Griffith Show wasn’t something you could simply measure with Nielsen ratings (although the show was at the top of the ratings when it ended). Sure, the show made you laugh, whether it was one of Andy’s old-fashioned Southern expressions or the bumbling, hilarious behavior and general demeanor of his sidekick deputy Barney Fife (portrayed by Don Knotts). But the show was able to accomplish something extremely rare, perhaps non-existent in modern television: it could advocate a basic sense of morality without being preachy or overbearing.
I think of many of the shows on television, cable, and premium channels now and I’m hard-pressed to find one that could achieve the positive, upbeat, and morally good nature that Andy Griffith was able to achieve with his show and its characters. When each episode ended, you clamored for more and not because there was a cliffhanger or because it was an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride. The show put the viewer in a good mood. When you were in Mayberry, even if there was some form of conflict, you could relax knowing that Andy Griffith (that is, Sheriff Andy Taylor) would have it under control, even if it meant he’d learn a lesson himself in the process, which he often did.
As an actor, a comedian, and a musician, Andy Griffith won our hearts with his undeniable talent and charm. He was even awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush in 2005. Unfortunately, the world is short of folks like Andy Griffith. He reminded us of simpler times, the best part of ourselves, and the ideals we all aspire to. We have truly lost an icon of positive American entertainment.