When I first heard this morning that Andy Griffith had died at the age of 86, my reaction was likely shared by millions—that poignant wave of shock and sadness that always accompanies news of the death of a friend.
While Griffith will certainly be remembered for many roles in his 60 years in stage, recording, television, and film, there's little doubt about which one moved us most—as the small-town, country-wise, easy-going sheriff Andy Taylor of fictional Mayberry, North Carolina.
It was a love affair from the start. Along with young son Opie and fluttery Aunt Bee, Deputy Barney Fife and a host of the funniest, quirkiest and most memorable characters ever in a Hollywood sitcom, Andy Taylor made our lives richer and our burdens lighter. The Andy Griffith Show (TAGS) premiered on October 3, 1960 and ran for eight years and over 249 episodes. It ranked number one in the ratings for almost its entire run—one of only a couple series to quit production while still at the top—and more than four decades later, it still brings laughter, lessons, and folksy wisdom in syndication and DVDs all over the world.
But what's the draw? Why do we so desperately long to live in Mayberry? Why do we listen, ponder, laugh and even shed a few tears over episodes we've seen so many times before?
Perhaps the simplest and best answer comes from Griffith himself, given several years ago at the unveiling of a statue of Andy and Opie in Mount Airy, North Carolina, the actor's home town. When asked why TAGS remained so popular for so many years, and why it served as a vehicle of blessing to so many still, Griffith replied, "It was all about love."
True words. Mayberry was a collection of oddballs and homebodies, little old lady bootleggers ...1