Andy Griffith is the patron Saint of North Carolina. A lot of people do their best to reinvent themselves before they make it to the big time. They change their name, accents and birthplaces to seem more sophisticated. Andy Griffith never hid that he was from North Carolina. When he finally arrived on television, the state was his co-star. The Andy Griffith Show didn’t take place in Anytown, USA. He made sure that viewers were given a taste of Mayberry, North Carolina. The fictional town stood in for the quaint Mt. Airy. Now with the Blu-ray release of The Andy Griffith Show: Season 1, America can almost step into the finest jail cell in Mayberry.
The Andy Griffith Show remains one of the all time greats of sitcoms. Sheriff Andy Taylor (Matlock‘s Andy Griffith) is a caring authority figure to the citizens of Mayberry and his young son Opie (Happy Days‘ Ron Howard). Luckily the single dad has the help of Aunt Bea (Frances Bavier) to take care of his house and feed Opie. “The New Housekeeper” does show Aunt Bea’s arrival wasn’t a great time for Opie. He’s dealt with a lot of change including the death of his mother. He can’t deal with it anymore. Can Aunt Bea win him over? Andy’s ability to keep the peace in the small sleepy town is a task because of Deputy Barney Fife (Three’s Company‘s Don Knotts). “The Manhunt” really shows what sort of law enforcement official “Mad Dog” Fife. The guys get involved when a fugitive is in Mayberry.
What makes the first season of the show extra special can be found in “Ellie Comes to Town.” Ellie Walker (Elinor Donahue) helps out at the pharmacy owned by her sick uncle. She quickly becomes Andy’s new girlfriend. “Irresistible Andy” has him fearing she’s expecting a wedding ring on her second episode. Is she moving too fast for the slow southern nature? Donahue had just wrapped up six seasons as Betty on Father Knows Best. Now she’s ready to spread her wings and be a true young woman in Mayberry. While she was signed up for three seasons, Donahue asked for her contract to be ended after one year. She’s such a great fit for Andy. “Andy the Matchmaker” lets her and Andy stage a robbery in order to give Barney a confidence building moment. She even runs for city government during “Ellie for Council.” It’s hard to believe she was only in one season having watched the reruns for decades.
“Andy Saves Barney’s Morale” is a classic. Barney ends up arresting most of the town. The truth is they all deserved to be locked up. The show isn’t a complete comedy. “Ellie Saves a Female” is poignant tale of her outreach to a farmer’s daughter. The farmer doesn’t want her to meddle with family business. “Barney Gets His Man” is a bust that goes really bad. Is Barney a marked man. “Bringing Up Opie” ends the season on a strained note. Aunt Bea decides hanging out in the sheriff’s office isn’t good for Opie. How can he grow up being surrounded by harden criminals like Otis the Drunk and Ernest T. Bass? Opie rebels against this rule by running away. How far can he get? How can Andy fix his family?
The Andy Griffith Show: Season 1 established the series as a endearing classic. Even though Mayberry was merely a backlot in Hollywood, Andy made it seem like a taste of North Carolina. The various characters are imbued with heart at the core of their most comical moments. Sure Barney is a goofball, but he means well in his actions. Andy made sure that the comedy that came from Mayberry wasn’t merely ridicule of the South. The Andy Griffith Show made people proud to call North Carolina home.
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The 1080p transfers makes it feel like your visiting Mayberry for the first time. The resolution brings out the detail in Barney’s face. The audio is Dolby Digital Mono. The mix and levels are strong. The episodes are subtitled.
Original Sponsors Material is provided on quite a few episodes. This allows you to see what Opie threw in the water.
“Danny Meets Andy Griffith” from The Danny Thomas Show (27:20) is the backdoor pilot from season seven. Danny Thomas becomes the first person busted in Mayberry. Danny tries to act city slicker to Andy’s good ol’ sheriff. The high resolution picture makes it obvious that the cars are missing windshields. The episode also features plugs from Maxwell House.
The Howards’ On-set Home Movies (8:36) are color peaks at the set including the iconic opening walk to the fishing hole. There’s even color footage of downtown Mayberry with Aunt Bea. Ron Howard skateboards down the street. Clint Howard (Gentle Ben) makes a cameo.
Person to Person Interview with Andy Griffith (13:05) is from June 1957. Edward R. Murrow talks of Andy acting on Broadway. He also gets praised for A Face in the Crowd. Andy and his wife show off their Manhattan apartment. Murrow and Andy are both from North Carolina. Andy invites Murrow to his place on Manteo island. That’s where Andy passed away.
Return to Mayberry: Television movie (95:26) brings back the cast for one last visit to the old town. Goober and Gomer return along with Ernest T. Bass. This was a big TV event when it ran in 1986.
The Andy Griffith Show: Season 1 makes visiting Mayberry thoroughly enjoyable. There’s so much more to see after decades of the standard definition views. Devoted fans will pick up on fresh details. It is nice that the reunion movie is in the first season so we won’t have to wait until Season 8 to see what happened.
CBS DVD presents The Andy Griffith Show: Season 1. Starring: Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, Ron Howard and Elinor Donahue. Boxset Contents: 32 episodes on 4 Blu-ray Discs. Released: May 5, 2014.
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