Tag Archives: the andy Griffith show

[January 16, 1962] Accidents (un)happen (The Twilight Zone, Season 3, Episodes 13-16)

by Gideon Marcus

It is common practice in statistics to average out data over time in a rolling fashion.  This gives you smoother lines, free of the jagged spikes of noisy data.  For the last several months, The Twilight Zone has shown a definite tendency toward the lower end of the quality scale, at least in comparison with its brilliant earlier seasons. 

But, I’m happy to report that the last month (ending January 5, anyway) showed a distinct and sustained improvement.  I’ll let the Young Traveler do most of the talking this time around since I find I don’t have much to improve upon her insights!

(Once upon a time, written by Richard Matheson and featuring the great Buster Keaton as a janitor who is propelled from the late 19th Century into the world of today…)

by Lorelei Marcus

Going into these four weeks, I was really dreading what was to come. Prior experience had given me doubts about the quality of these most recent Twilight Zone episodes. Thankfully, this time around, you will not have to hear me rant about how awful these past few episodes were!

To start us off, we had a charming little episode about a man from 1892. He goes to the present (1962) and finds a large scientist who just so happens to be obsessed with that earlier time period. I won’t say much more about the plot since I highly recommend you see the episode yourself. It did give us a lot of laughs, and was partly shot in the old, silent movie style. This was definitely a breath of fresh air from the usual grim twilight zone themes.

(Five Characters in Search of an Exit, adapted by Rod Serling from a story by Marvin Petal, whose title is literally descriptive…)

This second episode did return to a darker feel, but this time it was done fairly well. The episode started out with a small group of oddly specific but different people. A soldier, clown, ballerina, hobo and piper stuck in a completely metal prison, but with an open top. Despite guessing the answer at pretty much the beginning of the episode, it still managed to reveal just little enough information to keep it interesting.  At one point I wondered if this was a metaphor for depression, that feeling of being trapped with no exit, accepting the hopelessness of escape, and eventually giving up entirely.  Just to keep you on your toes, I won’t tell you the ending. I do recommend you watch this episode yourself. Even though me and my father predicted many things that happened, it never felt like the episode went on for too long, which frankly, is a real treat these days.

(A Quality of Mercy, adapted by Rod Serling from an idea by Sam Rolfe, in which an American platoon Lieutenant must weigh the virtues of assaulting a beleaguered Japanese position on the eve of V-J day…)

Unfortunately, this batch was not quite four for four. At least this episode was forgettable enough that I could pretend it didn’t happen at all! Alas no, I must do a review on it for you readers, so here I go. As I said before, the episode itself was entirely mediocre, but I did like the message and the effects. “Everyone is human, even if they are the enemy” is a great lesson that I think to be very true. The makeup was fairly impressive at making one of the actors look asian, and the Japanese accents weren’t completely atrocious. I would recommend spending your 20 minutes in a more productive manner, but I will not stop you from watching this episode.

by Gideon Marcus

My problem with this episode was absence of crisis.  Rather than allowing the Lieutenant to learn from his jaunt through the Twilight Zone, and then let the audience judge the wisdom of his actions, instead decisions are made for the protagonist, and the whole plot sort of meanders along without influence by the show’s participants.  More tightly written, and with actual consequences, this could have been a great one.  C’est la TV.

(Intermission, in which the Traveler family detours away from The Twilight Zone by way of The Twilight Zone…)

by Lorelei Marcus

Before we watched this fourth episode, my dad got caught up in the game show, The Price Is Right, where people were bidding on this cool looking soda fountain! When it ended we changed the channel and started watching. The episode had a much different feel this time, being more of a comedy sitcom rather than the usual Twilight Zone format. The twist seemed to be that one of the cast members was a talking horse! Oh wait a minute, we weren’t watching Twilight Zone, we were watching Mr. Ed! Oops.

So Mr. Ed finishes and we go to watch Twilight Zone. Perhaps, we thought, we would be able to catch the end of it, enough to make a review on. We were pretty sure we’d found the right show; it certainly was more true to Twilight Zone in that it had a lot of scientific themes. Still, it was very different, mainly in the fact that it was entirely cast with puppets!  Oops, again! Turns out we were watching Supercar, not Twilight Zone

That’s when we realized were still on the wrong network. So we turn to CBS, and find…The Andy Griffith show. Good enough. I like this show. 

Still, what happened to Twilight Zone? We start getting ready for bed, only then remembering that this was Monday, and Twilight Zone airs on Friday. OOPS. Darned winter break. Made us forget entirely what day of the week it was!

(Nothing in the Dark, by George Clayton Johnson, featuring a return of Mr. Death and the woman whose profound fear of him has kept her alive – so far…)

Well, the Friday after that wild goose chase, we did end up watching the last Twilight Zone episode. This episode was a lot more reminiscent of older Twilight Zone shows, which was really nice to see after all the lousy newer ones. Like the second episode, it had a good theme (“Things in darkness are the same as they are in the light, and should not be feared”) which I really appreciated. The episode was just long enough to tell a full satisfying story, and it was never too predictable. The acting was slightly off, but it was intentionally so, hinting at certain hidden truths, but not all out saying them. Over all it was a well rounded episode that I thoroughly enjoyed.

My episode scores, in order, are 4, 3, 2, and 3.5. This comes out to an average of 3 stars out of 5. I very much enjoyed most of these episodes and recommend you watch the first, third, and fourth ones. With such a good lineup, it’s starting to look a little more promising in terms of episode quality. Hopefully it will continue to be this way for the next few weeks!

This is the Young Traveler, signing off.

[August 10, 1961] A Fair Deal for the Fairer Sex (Women, politics, and The Andy Griffith Show)

by Gideon Marcus

A woman on the City Council?  Say it ain’t so!

It’s not news that there just aren’t a lot of women in politics these days.  Universal suffrage is now 40 years old, but women comprise just 18 out of 437 members of the House of Representatives and 2 of 100 Senators – about 4% and 2%, respectively.  For most of us, that’s not an alarming statistic.  That’s just the way it’s always been.  But for some of us (including this columnist), equal representation can’t come soon enough.  After all, when women make up half the population but only 4% of the government, that’s a crisis of almost Revolutionary proportions.

I’m not the only one taking a stand, but sometimes support for the cause comes from the unlikeliest of places.

I watch a lot of television, maybe too much.  There’s plenty of dross in this “vast wasteland” behind the screen of the idiot box, but there’s also gold.  To wit: The Twilight Zone, Route 66, and, surprisingly, The Andy Griffith Show.

I didn’t expect much when I started watching this strange little slice-of-life program set somewhere in the southern Appalachians.  It’s a broad comedy on the face of it, with Sheriff Andy Griffith’s drawl and wide smile and Deputy Barney Fife’s pretentious bumbling, but after a few episodes, it became clear that the comedic elements are a sugar coating for deep thoughtfulness.

The other night, I happened to catch a summer rerun from early in the series, back when Griffth’s stuttering yokelish portrayal was at its least subtle.  It opens on a picnic where Elinor Walker, the town’s new pharmacist (and Andy’s recently acquired sweetheart) articulates her disappointment that there are no women running for city council.  Andy slights her concern, noting that the position is called “Councilman,” and it’d be silly if a woman held that title.

Ellie, no timid soul, is emboldened rather than discouraged by Griffith’s disparagement.  In short order, she acquires the 100 petition signatures needed to put her on the ballot, the first provided by none other than Griffith’s own Deputy Fife (speaking of unlikely support)!  The affronted men of Mayberry, North Carolina attempt to stop Ellie’s candidacy through supra-political means, refusing the women access to charge accounts at local businesses.  This tactic backfires when the women stop cooking, washing, ironing, and mending (and presumably work a little Lysistrata action in there, too).

The episode’s climax begins with a rally downtown.  The women (and a few supporting men) wave signs and shout “We want Ellie!”  Most of the men jeer.  Upset at the strife her running has caused, Ellie visits the Griffith home and tells him, “You won,” and that she will withdraw her candidacy because, “It’s just not worth it…when I decided to run I had no intention of starting a Civil War in Mayberry.”

Young Opie Griffith, steeped in his father’s latest comments, cheers, “We won, we beat them females!  We kept them in their place.  Us menfolks don’t want women running our town, do we, Pa?”

It’s a powerful moment that sharply drives home the effect of Andy’s ill-considered words.  Ashamed at the example he’s set, instead of accepting Ellie’s surrender, he heads to the rally in support.  Addressing the assembly, he notes significantly: “We men are against a woman running for council.”  The men cheer and applaud, but the sheriff continues, “The woman in this case being Ellie Walker.  Now we’re against her because she’s a woman.  But, now, when you try to think of any other reason, you kind of draw a blank.”

This proves the shot that deflates the balloon, the men acknowledging the point.  Ellie wins the election – how could she not with all the women and many of the men backing her? 

Now, if you’re from one of the more progressive parts of the nation that happens to have women in government, you might think the whole problem silly and overblown, the events of the episode a caricature.  But think about the 96% of the country without female representation.  Remember that, in Alabama, women aren’t even allowed to serve on a jury!  It’s not the situation in The Andy Griffith Show that’s implausible — it’s the happy ending.

So let’s applaud Andy Griffith for showcasing the bias against women in government, and then let’s keep working to overcome it, so that one day, some little girl who saw Ellie Walker win a seat on the Mayberry City Council might be inspired to run for Representative or Senator or, dare I say, even President of the United States. 

It’s an outcome worth the long fight, even if it takes half a century.