Andy Gets Grumpy by Scot Savage, 2005|
Published 19 June 2005 :: Humor and Satire
Read more by Scot Savage
Andy Gets Grumpy
After watching a special on TVLAND of the top ten episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show,” all ten of them were of the first five seasons. Ironically, the first five of the eight seasons of the show were filmed in black and white and featured his inept deputy, Barney Fife.
It seemed that in the black and white days, ol’ Ange was a happy-go-lucky country bumpkin. He was very patient and slow to anger and irritation. Andy encountered his share of the local boobs and know-it-alls, but seemed to get over them with a smile, laugh, or pearl of wisdom. He would go out of his way to teach a misguided soul a lesson in humility. After all, Andy was a humble man. He even allowed his deputy to take credit for things that were his ideas. When his son got a little out of line, he sat him down and talked to him man to man. He patiently explained the situation in terms in which a child could understand. Instead of a temper tantrum, Opie would walk away a little wiser.
That all changed in the sixth season when color came to Mayberry. Andy’s temper became quick and his disposition became sour. People got on his nerves in a matter of seconds. He let people get into just enough trouble before he stepped in to help them, often with great disgust and reluctance. When Opie got out of line, this same understanding father, snapped back with a quick and obnoxious “Go to your room, boy” or “Don’t you have homework to do?”
What prompted this sudden change? I have my theories.
Theory One: Exit Barney Fife
It’s not to say that Barney Fife was the show, but he was an important ingredient. If “The Andy Griffith Show” were a cake, then Barney Fife would be the eggs. Unlike most sitcom stars of today, Don Knotts did not get a chip on his shoulder and demand more money. Had the situation been different, he would have stayed for the entire run of the show. Barney’s departing was no fault of his own. Andy Griffith specifically told Don Knotts that he would do five, and only five seasons of the show… nothing more.
During the summer break before the fifth and supposedly final season, Don Knotts did a movie. He made such a splash, that he was offered a multi-picture contract. Seeing that his current job would end next year, he happily agreed. It wasn’t until mid-way through the next season that Andy agreed to extend his contract to two more seasons (and later one more after that). Having already made his commitment, Mayberry lost its most colorful and beloved character.
This was the beginning of the end. Andy was a natural straight man and Barney was his perfect comic foil. They played off each other like Abbott and Costello. With Barney gone, he had no one to absorb his frustrations. He no longer had anyone to playfully tease or be the brunt of his jokes. Barney was the outlet he needed to deal with the stress of protecting a town of nimrods.
With that outlet gone, Andy’s nerves went into emotional turmoil and his hidden anger began to simmer. Goober Pyle, Warren Ferguson, Howard Sprague, and Emmet the Fixit Guy were poor substitutes. They were about as funny as a toothache. And what was the deal with Howard Sprague? What was so funny about a man in his mid-thirties that still lived with his mother? Can we say serial killer? The only redeeming characters were Floyd the Barber and Otis the Drunk, but Floyd bailed out while the going was good and Otis made his appearances too few and far between to make a difference. Andy only seemed to get that gleam in his eye and smile on his face only when Barney made his annual guest appearance. It was just like old times, but it was only a temporary reprieve at best.
Theory Two: Enter Helen Crump
I never understood how Andy, who had been married, had a child with his wife, and was widowed, would suddenly be shy when it came to women. It was like he never dated before and acted like an inexperienced inept teenager when it came to the opposite sex. He struck out with Ellie Walker the town pharmacist. He struck out with Miss Peggy the county nurse. He couldn’t even score with Daphne and Skippy, the “fun” girls from Mount Pilot. Okay, they weren’t marriage material, but would it kill him to kick back and have a few laughs and beers with these dizzy, but relatively harmless women. Personally, I always thought that Miss Peggy was a well-stacked hottie and Skippy was a cute little pixie. Even Barney managed to have a steady woman in the form of Thelma Lou.
Then along came Helen Crump and with that the darkest spot in Andy’s mundane life. In actuality, she was an emotional black hole and she planned to suck the life out of any poor unfortunate male that crossed her path. Once she got her hooks on hapless Andy, she refused to let go until he was but a mere shell. He slowly killed his sense of humor and robbed him of his smile.
For a woman with a college education, Helen Crump was a shrill, nasty, and jealous bitch. Why would someone with a Master’s Degree in Journalism settle to be a low paid elementary school teacher in some tiny town in the Southern United States? Maybe she was pissed off at the world that all her hard work amounted to nothing and that the paper of her degree was about as useful as wiping her ass. She needed an emotional punching bag, and Andy was willing to oblige.
She made Andy totally paranoid. If any attractive woman dared to casually talk to Andy or approached him on personal business, she would burn a hole in him with her evil stare. She never had a problem if the woman in question was some fat cow or old bat. One time Andy had to meet with an attorney, and the attorney turned out to be an attractive blond. Poor Andy had to withhold that information to avoid a verbal ass kicking.
Despite being an educated woman, she would accept false information from unreliable sources and accept it as the gospel of truth. She would simmer and boil and not speak to Andy for weeks. She never politely confronted Andy to get to the bottom of things. That would be too simple and painless. She simply could not function if she went too long without giving Andy any unnecessary grief.
To top it off, Helen Crump was a rotten teacher. She never took responsibility for any of her mistakes. One time, she screwed up and gave Opie a report card with all A’s. Being a typical father, Andy was so proud that he rewarded his son with a bike and bragged all over town about how proud he was of his boy. The next day, the rotten teacher tells Opie of the error. Not only did he not get straight A’s but Opie received a D and an F. How could she make a mistake of that magnitude? She never informed Andy that his son was failing Math. To top it off, she never calls Andy over the phone or sets up a conference to inform him of this terrible goof-up. What does she do? She leaves it up it Opie. That is too much for a ten year old to handle. “Hey, Paw. Guess what? I’m not the genius that you’ve been bragging all over town about after all. I’m a loser.” How could he tell his father? Then she has the arrogant gall to be all shocked and surprised that Opie didn’t tell his father. Of course, Andy is not innocent either. He didn’t even get pissed off at Crump’s incompetence. He wasn’t even miffed over her misguided negligence in the matter. He didn’t even say, “Why should Opie tell me. It’s your responsibility. You’re the teacher. You’re the adult and he’s the child.”
Well, there goes the future State Superintendent of Education of North Carolina. Luckily for her that Andy makes it a habit of not carrying a gun.
Of course, it would be unfair to put the entire blame on the old shrew. A few times, Andy dropped the ball. Andy learned that Helen had a brush with the law. She was had been a blackjack dealer in an illegal casino, cavorted with gangsters, and was caught in possession of a hand gun without a permit. Dopey Andy could have saved himself some grief if he asked Helen up front instead of researching the details behind her back. It turned out that she was doing a thesis on organized crime. What kind of professor would approve this topic and allow her to put herself in danger by getting involved with organized crime?
Can you imagine the court room scene?
“But, your Honor, I was only doing a report for school.”
“Oh, in that case, Miss Crump. Case dismissed.”
I am so sure. If that really happened, she’d be fitted for a pair of cement shoes. Why couldn’t that happen?
Fortunately, after eight seasons, the show ended its run and Andy was put out of his misery. Helen had no choice but to let go of his jugular. And a good thing he did. Another season, and I believe that Andy would have finally strapped on his gun and emptied a few boxes of shells on the residents.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, your verdict, please: Not guilty by reason of temporary insanity. Helen Crump to receive lethal injection.
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A critical analysis on Sheriff Andy Taylor’s sudden personality shift.
Lady GRITS, 24 June 2005:
Oh, boy! You sure had me laughing. I don’t do much watching of TV (after all, who can do that with a puter!) and I completely understand the gist of what is going on. Poor Andy, sounds more like me!
Tomás Ó Cárthaigh, 20 June 2005:
You watch way too much telly.... excellently written, as if we saw the shows ourselves!
Ernest Muller, 19 June 2005:
A direct reflection of the "sign of the times," and the time inwhich America changed. Old virtue’s and value’s are out. Scourn and malice are in!
Lesson learned: Politic’s corrupts absolutly. Even the most mellow of sherrif’s will be turned...Fantastic insight and presentation. Bravo!