I was perusing news stories on Google News when I saw that Andy Griffith had died. And while I was reading, my 8-year-old daughter, Sunny, walked into the room, having just woken up.
Knowing how big an Andy Griffith fan she is — and knowing that I had about five minutes before I needed to leave for work — I scrolled down the Google News site so Sunny wouldn’t see the Andy Griffith story. There’d be time to break the news later, I figured. When I could be around longer to help her through it.
As I’ve mentioned previously, Sunny transitioned from kid shows like “SpongeBob Squarepants” and “iCarly” to old sitcoms a while ago. And “The Andy Griffith Show” has been one of her favorites.
The quintissential syndicated program, “The Andy Griffith Show” became synonymous with TV shows from yesteryear when I was a kid. And because it was syndicated so long — and so obiquitously — several generations grew up with the show. While in many ways it was dated — for one thing, it was mostly in black and white — in other ways it was quite realistic.
While today’s cop shows feature hot models using technology that doesn’t even exist to solve crimes, Griffith’s Mayberry, North Carolina, sheriff — with his oversized ears and goofy, imperfect smile — spent little time chasing bank robbers, and shooting a gun was a rarity. In college, I once had a criminal justice professor tell us that “The Andy Griffith Show” was the most realistic cop show out there, along with “Barney Miller,” because most of a cop’s duties are mundane, like filling out paperwork.
Griffith himself, playing Sheriff Andy Taylor, was the comsumate straight man, a man of reason and compassion, who remained loyal to deputy Barney Fife (beautifully played by Don Knotts) even though Fife is an obvious screw-up. And, of course, there’s his son Opie, also nicely played by a young Ron Howard, who would go on to star in “Happy Days” before becoming a big-time movie director.
Griffith, from North Carolina himself, seemed like a genuinely friendly guy in real life, making scores of people think, I want a dad like that. While he’d go on to do other work — “Matlock” was a big success — for most he’d be identified with as the homespun, southern, apple pie-eating Andy Taylor, who seemed to sleep in his snug sheriff’s uniform.
Later, while as work, I thought again about Griffith, and I sent my wife a text, saying, “Andy Griffith, R.I.P.” But it was too late. She was reading a Yahoo News story when Sunny spotted a headline about Andy Griffth.
She took it pretty hard.
Alas, she has a swimming date this afternoon, so that will help. But when she gets back, watching “The Andy Griffith Show” won’t be the same. But at least it’ll still be there.
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