Andy Griffith Show in 2016? No Way
The Andy Griffith Show is an American sitcom first televised on CBS between October 3, 1960 and April 1, 1968. This is not just a historical television fact, but a fact that changed, even pioneered how television sitcom's were produced.
Credit would have to go to Danny Thomas (Danny Thomas Enterprises) for having the moxy to "go out on the limb" in putting Andy Griffith who starred as "Andy Taylor," a widower and sheriff of an idyllic, fictitious town in North Carolina, "Mayberry," who was also raising a young son, "Opie," played by Ronny Howard. Throw in Frances Bavier as "Aunt Bea," to take on the duties of housekeeper for Andy and "Opie," get Don Knotts, "Barney Fife" as Andy's sometimes-bumbling deputy and you have the working formula for 249 episodes of what some noted television critics have said "was the finest years of the American sitcom in history."
It was the upgraded-but-all-important good versus evil that came in many shapes on The Andy Griffith Show. One week it might be Andy and Barney dealing with moonshiners and the next week a con artist trying to take Mayberry citizens for their hard-earned money. And all of the show was a perfect balance of humor and drama with a good dose of morality that most of us learned life lessons as the shows continued.
Are YOU an Andy Griffith Show fan?
What about now?
A sad fact about life itself is that change comes hard at times. And so might have hard changes been made if the Andy Griffith Show had stayed on the airways. My point: the understanding I have of the television business is that if your show does not remain popular, you make changes--writing off characters, adding characters, changing story lines and such that cause your show to secure needed ratings with the network who broadcasts your show.
Personally, I do not think that changes, hard or easy to take, would have kept the Andy Griffith Show going through 2016. I am not a turn-coat to Andy and the gang. It's the realist in me speaking. So what I am going to try and do is compare one or two story lines from 1960 and see how needed changes might have affected the complexion of each script as it would be seen in 2016.
"Man in a Hurry" - - starred Robert Emhardt as Malcolm Tucker as a hurried businessman who experienced car trouble while going through Mayberry on a Sunday morning. Tucker, who is not used to the slow-paced Mayberry lifestyle is frantic to get his car fixed so he can get to his next appointment. This is where the comedy begins. Of course, Andy, being the good Samaritan, engineers a way for Tucker's car to be repaired by Gomer and Goober Pyle while Tucker has to spend the night with the Taylor's. This is the original context.
This is how that same script would be developed in 2016:
- Andy and Barney are now wearing "five o'clock shadow" beards along with designer sunglasses while on duty and dressed in plain clothes as to not traumatize the residents of Mayberry.
- Malcom Tucker is arrested as a "person of interest" for having such an expensive car in such a small, under-privileged Southern town. He is taken to the courthouse, questioned, and then handcuffed. Andy suggests taking him to his home for lunch and shut down the courthouse to save the county some needed in lieu of an economic downturn.
- Gomer Pyle who is on duty at Wally's Gas Station refuses to do additional mechanic work on Tucker's car as mechanic work is not in his job description, so he contracts the job to "cousin Goober."
- Meanwhile Mr. Tucker is in a frenzy of fear as he does not trust Andy, Barney or Aunt Bea Taylor for being so overly friendly thinking that they are up to no good. Gomer reports to Tucker that Goober is going to repair his car, but the cost will be double due to it being on Sunday.
- Opie's "adventure sleeping" on the ironing board goes south when he pulls a muscle and gets Mayberry's only attorney to file a lawsuit against the ironing board manufacturer for damages.
- Gomer returns with Tucker's car that is now running great, but Tucker tells Gomer that he is filing suit against him, Goober and Wally for knocking him out of the biggest deal of his business career and he is suing for damages.
- Andy and Barney with the help of their informant, Otis, busts an illegal moonshiner, but takes an illegal kick-back or bribe for information instead of a jail sentence. Then good-hearted Andy donates, but really loans a portion of the windfall to Tucker for .05% interest to make up for his business losses.
- Andy, Aunt Bea, Gomer and Opie band together to get Mr. Tucker on the road out of Mayberry to never show his face again or face a much more serious charge of menacing the poor citizens by flaunting his fancy Lincoln automobile.
"Introducing Ernest T. Bass" - - Howard Morris stole America's heart by portraying an honery-but-loveable hillbilly, "Ernest T. Bass," who bursts onto the Mayberry scene by throwing a rock through the window of Mayberry's token socialite: Mrs. Wiley, who with the help of Mayberry icon, Mr. Shwamp, gets Andy and Barney to track down the vandal to arrest him.
But Andy, seeing the minimal amount of good in Bass, begins to change his looks, teach him some manners and show him off at Mrs. Wiley's singles mixer. But Andy's good-hearted gesture backfires when Bass cannot get the smart alec who is dancing with Ramona, Bass' love interest, to let him cut in to the dance and hits him over the head with a huge flower vase.
Case in point. Bass and Ramona are from the same fabric: silly antics and just being the free spirits that they are. This is the gist of the original script.
Now for the upgraded 2016 script:
- Ernest T. Bass, a victim of his poor upbringing and financial status in the hill country, vandalizes Mrs. Wiley's home just for meaness. He is shown with an evil grin as the camera does a close-up of him. Mrs. Wiley summons a laid-back Andy and Barney who are careful to not accuse Bass in front of witnesses due to the fact that Bass could sue them for slander.
- Reluctantly, easy-going Andy takes Bass home with him to groom him into a non-confrontational person of 2016. Taylor dresses him in sports shirt, plain pants and an off-color sport coat and then teaches him a few phrases like: "How much money do you you have in the bank, Mrs. Wiley?" and "My time and goods are expensive, sir."
- What Andy has done is turn Ernest T. from a common "grunge monkey" to a slick moonshine runner from the hills to make some fast cash to be divided with Andy and Barney who take bribes under the table due to the Mayberry County Commission not being financially able to give them needed raises.
- Bass, in his new lifestyle and knowledge, trains Ramona to be the madam for his stable of rural prostitutes which is another cash flow for him to share with Andy and Barney who are now pretty much set for life with all of the cash coming to them from Bass' various after dark business ventures.
- Andy can now easily send Opie to a good college instead of a vocational institute. Aunt Bea can retire and live in her lavish country estate that Andy has bought and taken a few hefty kick-backs from various contractors. Even Andy's friends at the Esquire Club in Raleigh get in on the shady action in Mayberry by forming an underground moonshine network thus giving them extra cash. Of course Andy and Barney are not left out as their fortunes continue to grow.
In all reality, a straight-shooter from the Raleigh State Attorney's Office does an undercover investigation on Andy and Barney and turns up with some damaging information, but is helpless to execute justice on them because of the judges that Andy has on his "payroll" who will not take the case.
Note: These are only two Andy Griffith Show scripts that I have presented with upgrades for 2016 and beyond. Now do you join me in my thinking that the Andy Griffith Show would not have survived without these upgrades?
Good night, Red Bay, Alabama.
© 2016 Kenneth Avery