Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Goodbye, Sheriff Taylor!

I literally grew up with Andy Griffith. For most of my growing up years he was on network TV one night a week, and on local TV at least once a day. Everybody watched Andy Griffith. Everybody loved Sheriff Andy--and Barney, Goober, Floyd the Barber, Opie--the whole gang.

Everybody has their favorite episodes: like the one where Andy and Barney got rid of Aunt Bea's horrible pickles ("kerosine cucumbers"), and in doing so prompted her to make more. Or the one where Opie only gives a few pennies to a school charity because he's saving up to buy a gift for his girlfriend. Andy is embarrassed by Opie's "selfishness," but finds out later that Opie is saving up to buy his girlfriend a coat because her family is too poor to buy her one.

It would be hard for me to pick a favorite, but "The Christmas Story" would rank right up there. It's the one where grumpy old Ben Weaver, the richest man in Mayberry, has a guilty but harmless local man thrown in jail. Andy has to abide by the law, but he brings in Opie and Aunt Bea, and his current girlfriend Ellie, and the man's family, and they celebrate Christmas right there in the jail.

(What a great picture of God's grace!! His holiness demands that justice be done--but in his love he comes to us where we are, in the person of Jesus, to take on our punishment so we can still celebrate!)

Meanwhile, Ben Weaver sees the party going on in the jail and decides he wants in. So he tries over and over to get himself arrested. At first Andy won't arrest him, 'cause he's such a nice guy--but finally he figures out what Ben's doing and hauls him in. When Ben comes in, he's bearing gifts for everyone. The last time I watched this episode I cried like a baby.

Of course, Andy Griffith played a host of other roles, most notably Ben Matlock, the smart southern lawyer who always wore the same seersucker suit--which I saw, by the way, in a museum in Mount Airy. (I remember thinking, "Wow, he's shorter than I thought.")

But Sheriff Taylor of Mayberry is the character we love the most.

One of the things I've heard him say about this character--and I absolutely love this--is that in the beginning the show was designed to center on him.  The show was going to look a lot like Andy Griffith's stand-up comedy routines, which featured a lot of story-telling in a thick southern accent. If you watch the real early episodes, you can see this approach--and you'll notice that Andy's accent is a lot thicker. But it wasn't long before they realized that the real humor of the show was in the chemistry between Andy and Barney. It says something good about Andy Griffith that he was flexible (and humble) enough to make that switch.

Goodbye, Sheriff Taylor.

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