The Andy Griffith Show: 50th Anniversary – The Best of Mayberry
Directed by Bob Sweeney et al
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Running Time: 429 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English
MSRP: $ 24.99
Release Date: December 21, 2010
Review Date: December 10, 2010
The Andy Griffith Show must hold some kind of record for a television series: eight seasons on the air, ranked no lower than seventh during any individual season, and ending its eight year run as the number one show on television. Talk about going out on top! And watching the episodes from its first five prime years that have been collected in this 50th Anniversary set, one is struck by how deserved its popularity and acclaim are. The show is a miraculous blend of witty comedy, homespun humor, and touching interpersonal relationships which never cross the line into bathos. Its cast is one of the finest ever assembled for a television series with all of the actors etching indelible portraits of their individual characters. The programs have been in eternal syndication for decades, and yet no matter how many times one sees them, they never fail to raise a smile or bring a tear to the eye at appropriate moments.
Seventeen episodes have been selected for this anniversary tribute set, and if two or three aren’t among the all-time best episodes in the history of the show, they all certainly have earned high rankings in the hearts of Andy Griffith Show fans for many, many years. Yes, Aunt Bee’s (Frances Bavier) “kerosene cucumbers” are still losing the blue ribbon to Clara Johnson’s (Hope Summers) all spice-enriched pickles. Opie (Ron Howard) still brings home eye-opening stories about the wondrous Mr. McBeevee and takes on the job of nursing some orphaned songbirds. Gomer (Jim Nabors) continues to make his citizen’s arrest and complains about how “spidery” it looks underneath the old bandstand. Barney (Don Knotts) finds some fun girls for him and Andy (Andy Griffith) when they are on the outs with Thelma Lou (Betty Lynn) and Helen (Anita Corsaut). The Darlings (the Dillards) still come to town playing their own custom bluegrass with Andy always the prime focus of Charlene’s (Margaret Ann Peterson) attentions. Barney still buys the old clunker for his first car and wreaks havoc on the town with a World War I motorcycle he begins using for highway patrols. These and more make the disc a go-to sampler for the best that Mayberry has to offer.
Of course, were I choosing the episodes, I could have done without so much of the Darlings (even if the second one introduced Howard Morris' memorable Ernest T. Bass) and instead substituted Opie’s bid for a track medal (“A Medal for Opie”). I might have omitted the overrunning of the sheriff’s office with dogs and in its place substituted a couple of Aunt Bee-oriented stories: “The Bed Jacket” or “Andy’s English Valet.” And the episode with Barney’s off-key singing in the choir (since later episodes show him to be able to sing harmony perfectly) might have given way in favor of Barney’s five year anniversary episode where new physical requirements put his job in jeopardy. But these are personal choices. The episodes selected for inclusion in this set are certainly among the highlights of the 249 available episodes of the series during its eight year run. Clearly the wisest decision made in choosing these episodes was in the lack of any of the shows from the program’s final three seasons filmed in color. With several key cast replacements that didn’t measure up to the original company, those shows have never contained the brimming mirth and lovable lunacy of the five black and white seasons.
Here are the episodes included in this set of three discs:
1 – The Christmas Story
2 – The Pickle Story
3 – Barney and the Choir
4 – Mr. McBeevee
5 – Convicts at Large
6 – Man in a Hurry
7 – Class Reunion
8 – The Darlings Are Coming
9 – Barney’s First Car
10 – Dogs, Dogs, Dogs
11 – Mountain Wedding
12 – Opie the Birdman
13 – The Sermon for Today
14 – Citizen’s Arrest
15 – Fun Girls
16 – Barney’s Sidecar
17 – Goober and the Art of Love
The programs have been framed at their original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Quality varies between episodes with some of them looking super sharp and loaded with detail with nicely applied contrast and appealing grayscale renderings. Others seem like older transfers or taken from less than ideal source material. Most are clean transfers with just occasional glimpses at dust specks, debris, or slight aliasing. Each episode has been divided into either 5 or 6 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack is decoded by Dolby Prologic into the center channel. Dialogue is nicely recorded for the most part (occasional ADR is very noticeable in spots) while music and sound effects are folded neatly into the mono mix. There is occasional light hiss to be heard with some of the episodes, but it’s never really intrusive.
“Danny Meets Andy Griffith” is the 1959 episode of The Danny Thomas Show which introduced Andy Taylor, his son Opie, and other assorted characters of Mayberry. Frances Bavier plays a different character, Henrietta Perkins, and Frank Cady plays the town drunk instead of Hal Smith. But it’s a reasonably accurate prologue to the look and tone already being established for the series. It’s 27 ¼ minutes long in 4:3.
Many of the episodes feature the original main titles with sponsor credits and concluding commercials featuring cast members preceding the closing credits.
Each program is introduced with a text page of background information about the program and its impact on the entire series. There is a menu button that allows the viewer to read all of the program intros at once if he chooses.
“1962 Opening Night” features Andy Griffith doing a 3 ¾-minute monologue, this time telling the story of Christopher Columbus in his patented hillbilly style.
“Celebrating Fifty Years of Mayberry” is an essay on the show’s legacy spread over several text pages which the viewer can page through.
“1963 Opening Night” was obviously a CBS introduction to their new and returning comedy line-up with stars of the various shows talking a bit about their shows. Andy Griffith and Don Knotts do 2 minutes of shtick with CBS’ galaxy of comedy stars standing behind them (Danny Thomas, Phil Silvers, Lucille Ball, Jack Benny).
“The ‘Fishin’ Hole’ Montage” features Andy Griffith singing his show’s theme song to a montage of clips and stills from the show’s black and white years. It runs 2 ¼ minutes.
Return to Mayberry is the 1986 TV-movie which reunited many of the original stars of the series showing us the (then) current lives of some favorite characters many years after the original show aired. Andy, Barney, Helen, Thelma Lou, Opie, Gomer, Goober, Otis, Howard, the Darlings (with Briscoe and Charlene), and Ernest T. all make appearances. Picture quality is good (though there is a fair amount of aliasing with the image), and the sound is Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo which is nicely above average. It runs 95 ¼ minutes in 4:3.
There are promo trailers for the CBS comedies, I Love Lucy, and the first season of Petticoat Junction.
4.5/5 (not an average)
A one-of-a-kind television show gets the anniversary tribute treatment as The Andy Griffith Show celebrates its 50th birthday. The episodes are all prime comedy moments from the history of the series and are guaranteed to make you smile if not laugh out loud. The bonus material is welcome if not generous enough for the show’s milestone. Highly recommended!