The Andy Griffith Show is one of those rare cultural phenomena that have spanned generations and left an indelible mark on American pop culture. Deputy Barney Fife consistently ranks among the top tier of American television characters on all polls, placing at number five in The Chicago Tribune’s list of the top 25 of all time. (I would enthusiastically dispute that either Eddie Haskell or Ed Norton belong on that list above him.) Not only are the characters still beloved and recognizable more than fifty years on from their debut on the small screen, but the whole fictional world of Mayberry has transcended that medium to become a part of the national mythology — a kind of idyllic (and idealized) portrait of the last days of small town life in post-war America.
In the history of sitcoms, there have been three great formative epochs, possibly four, defined by shows that broke new ground comedically and developed formulas that inspired and informed not only other TV shows of their time, but also the national consciousness.
- The Andy Griffith Show
- All in the Family, or The Norman Lear Era
- The Office, or The Post-Seinfeld Era
Norman Lear wrote in his autobiography that the social and political consciousness of All in the Family was a direct reaction against the implied conservatism of programs like The Andy Griffith Show, a view which fans familiar with the entire run of the series could find some reason to dispute. He would succeed over the next 15 years to change the face and nature of television comedy as a result.
The influence of The Andy Griffith Show on Seinfeld is indisputable. Larry David confessed himself to be a great fan of the show, and although never acknowledged it can be seen that a large number of Seinfeld episodes drew major story and plot details from episodes of The Andy Griffith Show. A direct show by show analysis is in order. I have not been able to find such a thing on the internet. I may take the time to do that someday for this blog.
Anyway, when I ran across this bit of clickbait today, I had to read the article. And sure enough, The Andy Griffith Show has permeated the national consciousness to such a strong degree that generations later Andy, Barney, Opie, and even Otis have all found their way into the world of rap and hip-hop music, all the way through recent years. It’s a credit the to the enduring and universal appeal, and even the love that people have, of a truly exceptional program.