This morning Andy Griffith passed away at his home in Dare County, North Carolina. And even though I am a generation younger than those who grew up watching “The Andy Griffith Show,” I too have many fond memories of Andy, Opie, Barney and Aunt Bea. Thanks to syndication the show was on–and still is, I think–just about every day. It was my dad’s favorite show, and I developed a fondness for it, too. In fact, I now own every episode on DVD, and the show never fails to make me smile. Like just about anyone else who ever saw the show I can whistle the theme song from memory and clearly picture Andy and Opie strolling along with their fishing poles.
I also became a big fan of “Matlock,” Griffith’s legal-mystery show from the late-eighties and early-nineties. Even as a child I enjoyed legal dramas–“Perry Mason” was a favorite–and the combination of a legal drama and Andy Griffith proved a dream come true. For a long time the “Matlock” theme song was the ring tone on my cell phone.
I think what resonates with me and so many others about “The Andy Griffith Show” is the lifestyle that it represents. In Mayberry people get along, for the most part, treat each other as they would like to be treated, and help out those in need. Community matters, and church attendance is the norm. Andy’s homespun wisdom reflected genuine insight into the human condition, and the way in which he handled matters–whether with Opie or lawbreakers–that required correction and discipline was gracious yet effective. I am aware that Bible study curriculum has been created based on the show. I think that may be a bit of a stretch, but the life lessons contained in each episode are certainly worth taking to heart.
“The Andy Griffith Show” also showed–and still shows–that a show can be uproariously funny without even coming close to being indecent, inappropriate or offensive. No one uttered a bad word, there was no sex, there was no mocking the government–and yet every episode brought laughter. Many of today’s half-hour comedies contain plenty of language, sex and mockery and completely fail to produce real laughter. It seems there is a lesson in there somewhere, too.
I never met Andy Griffith in person, so I don’t know what he was like. Because he lived on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, which is my favorite vacation spot, I always hoped I might see him sometime, but I never did. Depending on who you talked to locally (and, I guess, their experiences with him) he was a friendly neighbor or a grouchy old man. I know that he was married three times, but I don’t know why or what caused the end of his first two marriages. I know that he endorsed some politicians and political policies later in life that I did/do not agree with or support, and I know that he starred in some movies in which he played roles in which he did everything I just commended “The Andy Griffith Show” for not doing (i.e., Play the Game).
I also know, though, that he recorded several CDs of gospel songs, hymns and a Christmas album. I own them, and enjoy them. Andy loved to sing–he managed to work singing into all of his television shows–and to tell stories.
Regardless of any differences I may have had with Andy Griffith personally, I will always appreciate his contributions to American culture, and television specifically. I will remember him fondly. And I hope that the message of those gospel songs he sang in his trademark voice were understood by Andy, that he believed them, and that he accepted Christ as his Savior…because then he can play and sing for eternity.