Over the past 48 hours, we have had two KSR posts remembering the Andy Griffith Show and its effect on our lives. That may seem like overkill to some, but to me it is fitting. Turkey Hunter expressed his love for the women of Mayberry and Drew Franklin merely wanted to give a shout out to his brother Andy and both felt appropriate. Simply put, many of them are like me and for me, there is no show that I have seen more often in my lifetime than the Andy Griffith Show. I was thinking about this a few weeks ago and I decided the Andy Griffith Show, Saved by the Bell, The Brady Bunch, Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm have taken up so much of my time over the course of my life that I almost consider the characters involved liked family. And of those family members, none were more a part of my home for a longer period of time than those in Mayberry. With that thought, I decided my best tribute would be a simple countdown of The Top Ten Andy Griffith Show Episodes of All Time. This is simply my list…yours may be different. But I hope you agree with me about the memories involved:
10. “The Pickle Story”
Many lists would put the “Pickle Story” at number one, but for me there are far more worthy candidates. This simple tale involved Aunt Bea, usually a great cook and miracle worker in the kitchen, showcasing an uncharacteristic weakness. In an attempt to keep up with Clara, she entered the County Fair pickle contest, only to prove to be unable to put together an impressive pickle. In order to make Aunt Bea feel good, Andy, Opie and Barney act like they enjoy the pickles. Big mistake…Aunt Bea mistakes their fake approval for real approval and makes a massive amount of pickles, leading to hijinks and problems down the road. I love this episode for two reasons…one, the looks on the characters’ faces (especially Barney) as they attempt to eat the toxic pickles always made me laugh and two, it showcased just how far the folks in Mayberry would go to make each other feel special. Andy, Barney and Opie reverse course three times, at each point to attempt to help Aunt Bea or Clara feel good about themselves. That is true humanity, and is the same reason I act like I think Bryan the Intern has talent at least once a week.
9. “Andy Saves Barney’s Morale”/”Barney Gets His Man”
Because there are so many Andy Griffith episodes I love, at times on this list I have combined similar plots. Because the show came on 32 times a season (As opposed to 22 on most modern shows…and even as low as 13 on cable shows), plotlines tended to get repeated. Both of these episodes involve situations in which Barney screws something up and then either falls backward into, or has Andy set him up to, fixing it in the end. These episodes show Barney at his best…working hard to try and get to the bottom of a situation, acting a complete fool and messing it up, and then coming through in the end, followed by irrational confidence at a job well done. Barney in that way is a bit like Antoine Walker in his heyday…he might miss his first five threes, but he is certain his sixth is going in…and if it does, he is shimmying no matter what you think.
8. “Convicts at Large”/”Fun Girls”
Every man has a soft spot for women who are madly into them and come a’chasin. In these two episodes, two different groups of women come after Mayberry men. The Convicts at large kidnap Barney and friends, and then simply want to dance…as all women like to do. But the better of the two episodes involves the Fun Girls, Skippy and Daphne. Oh if there were not more women like the Fun Girls…they simply want to come into town, have fun with Andy and “Bernie” and then leave and go about their lives. I refuse to believe that Andy and Bernie truly wanted to ignore the advances of the Fun Girls to hang out with the Ice Queens, Helen and Thelma Lou. As Chris Rock says, we can only run so fast. My guess is that in one of the uncensored episodes, Andy and Bernie submitted to the whims of Skippy and Daphne and Andy asked Sarah to hold all his calls.
7. “Ernest T Bass Joins the Army”/”My Fair Ernest T Bass”
Next to Floyd the Barber, Ernest T Bass is my favorite secondary character on the show. He likes to come into town, throw some rocks, raise some hell and then go back into the mountains to settle down. Call him the Arjay of the Andy Griffith Show. These two episodes both involve fish out of water issues for Ernest T. First, he tries to enter the Army, to no avail. He loves his country but we do have to have standards. The second is a classic episode that produces one of the legendary quotes of all time on the show. “How Do you do Mrs. Wiley” and “No coffee, tea or punch, thank you” are lines that I have repeated often in talking not only to Lexington radio hosts, but also strangers at formal events all across the land. Ernest T tries to become a respectable member of society, but like my attempts to fit in at the Rupp Arena media room, it is ultimately for naught. The clip below showcases the quote and my favorite image of a character who also directed a number of the other episodes:
6. “Barney and the Sidecar”/”Barney’s First Car”
Everyone knows that person who is constantly getting screwed over because they are too naive/trusting. Barney is that in Mayberry as these two episodes showcase. Each illustrate the principle of the sucker, the belief that one can get “something for nothing.” The best of these is Barney’s First car, where Barney becomes a car owner, only to realize he has purchased a lemon. The scene where the steering wheel comes off is iconic, as is the scene in “Barney and the Sidecar”, when Barney drives off and the sidecar remains. In both cases, Barney ends up winning in the end, but as a person who has at times driven cars with questionable road worthiness (I am looking at you 66 Dodge), these episodes are two of my favorites.
5. “Citizen’s Arrest
I will admit that I remember very little of the actual contents of this episode. Something happens the gist of which is that Barney gives out tickets to Gomer for a U-turn or the like. Then later, Gomer sees Barney do the same thing and attempts to execute a “Citizen’s Arrest.” While I don’t remember much of the plot, the sound of Gomer yelling, “CITIZEN’S ARRRAYYYEST!” is one that is lodged into my brain. Whenever I see a person of power (I am looking at you Mitch McConnell and Greg Fischer) do a questionable act in public, I channel my inner Gomer and scream “CITIZEN’s ARRRRAYYYEST!” at the top of my lungs. Usually the looks I get are ones of “this guy is crazy, honey let’s get in the car…”
4. “Black Day for Mayberry”
Part of the reason I love the Andy Griffith Show is that it is one of only two shows that I have ever seen on television (the other being “Friday Night Lights”) that I thought really got what it means to live in a small town. The episode that best illustrates this phenomenon is “Black Day for Mayberry”, in which a truck is scheduled to come through Mayberry with gold on its way to Fort Knox. The delivery is supposed to be a secret, but Barney lets it out and the next thing you know, the town is in a frenzy. As a person who saw a near stampede in his home town the day they opened a new “Ryan’s” steakhouse, I know the way small moments of excitement can captivate a town. The Gold Truck coming through brings out onlookers, celebrations and even gold standard protesters. It is a perfect recreation of what a big moment in a small place can be like and is one of my personal favorites.
3. “The Darlings are Coming”
An underrated part of the greatness of this show was its reliance on good old fashioned mountain music. And the embodiment of that principle were the folks from the hills, The Darlings. They were involved in a number of episodes over the years and every time one of them is on, I make it a priority to watch it. It isn’t really because of the story (which usually involved finding Charlene a husband), but more because of the music. In real life, the Darlings were the bluegrass group “The Dillards” and their renditions of “Dooley”, “Ebo Walker”, “Salty Dog” and others, were always stellar. Below is one of their tunes and it is the embodiment of what the phrase “pickin and a grinnin” should mean:
2. “Barney and the Choir”/”The Mayberry Band”
Music is also a central theme in these two episodes, which both involve poor music performances being saved by talent. The first is another instance of Andy saving Barney…he can’t sing but he thinks he can. So when a big solo comes up and Barney has it, Andy convinces him to sing softly, while a ringer is backstage singly loudly. Barney thinks the good voice is his and all is saved (complete with unnecessary confidence). The second is an episode I have seen at least 100 times. The Mayberry Band wants to enter a state competition in Raleigh but they are awful. The town mayor (who was a great character at this time) says no, but Andy convinces him to allow them to try out via a march down Main Street. With the talented “Freddy Fleet and His Band with a Beat” in town, uniforms are switched and the band gets to go to state. The heart of this episode is the truly terrible rendition of “Stars and Stripes Forever” performed by the Mayberry Band, one that so ruined the song in my head that I now prefer its butchered version to the actual one.
1. “Man in a Hurry”
Without question, the greatest episode in the history of the series is this one featuring out of town businessman Malcolm Tucker’s trip to Mayberry. His car breaks down and thanks to Gomer and Goober’s difficulty, he is stuck in town for longer than he likes. As he attempts to do anything to leave, his frustration grows. But then he realizes the virtues of small town life and when his car is actually fixed, he finds an excuse to wait and stay the night and enjoy a more peaceful existence a bit longer. It is the best embodiment of the “small towns do it right” mentality that is at the heart of the show and I love the entire thing from Opie talking about his “adventure sleeping” (on an ironing board between two chairs when visitors stay over) to the moment when Andy, Barney and Malcolm sing “Church in the Wildwood.” The latter is my favorite scene ever in the show and is no better way to end my tribute to Andy.
Goober says hey, Hey to Goober: