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The Andy Griffith Show: Season 1 Blu-ray Review

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#1 of 7 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted April 29 2014 - 07:06 PM

The Andy Griffith Show: Season 1 Blu-ray Review

The Andy Griffith Show was one of those show business anomalies that was a smash from the very beginning. Starting life as an episode of The Danny Thomas Show where cocksure show biz vet Danny Williams was stopped for running a stop sign in the sleepy little hamlet of Mayberry, North Carolina, the series focused on the life of Mayberry’s sheriff Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith) and the people in his orbit: his son, his aunt, his best friend, and the various residents and passersby of the small community. The show became a miraculous blend of witty comedy, homespun humor, and touching interpersonal relationships which never crossed the line into bathos. Its cast was 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.


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Studio: Paramount

Distributed By: N/A

Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Audio: English PCM 2.0

Subtitles: English SDH

Rating: Not Rated

Run Time: 13 Hr. 40 Min.

Package Includes: Blu-ray

keep case with leaves in a slipcover

Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

Region: All

Release Date: 05/06/2014

MSRP: $129.99




The Production Rating: 4.5/5

As with most first year shows, The Andy Griffith Show took much of its premiere year exploring aspects of the show which worked well and easing up on those parts which didn’t quite fit into its highly individualized mold. As a result, new characters who eventually became regulars in subsequent seasons were born while others who began with the show in its early episodes rather faded from view. The core cast, however, was set early on: Sheriff Andy (Griffith), easy going and good-natured who loved joshing and wasn’t concerned so much with rules and regulations as he was with basic humanity and finding the good in people. His polar opposite was his high-strung best friend (in early episodes, his cousin though this seemed to be dropped quite soon in the run) and deputy Barney Fife (Don Knotts) who was a stickler for rules and though often inept, masked his insecurities with massive amounts of bravado and faux expertise on all manner of subjects. Andy’s six-year old son Opie (Ronny Howard) was adorably precocious and sometimes a pleasurable handful for Andy and his son’s caretaker Aunt Bee Taylor (Frances Bavier). Over the course of the season, Andy got himself a girl friend, pharmacist Ellie Walker (Elinor Donahue), a feisty assertive young woman who really didn’t make a smooth match with Andy and who was dropped after the first season. Other regulars like Floyd the barber (Howard McNear), the town drunk Otis Campbell (Hal Smith), Bee’s friend Bertha Edwards (later renamed Clara and played by Hope Summers), Barney’s steady girl Thelma Lou (Betty Lynn), town skinflint Ben Weaver (Will Wright), and Mayor Pike (Dick Elliot) all surfaced at some point during the first season and stuck around for awhile.

Unquestionably, however, the key components to the success of the show’s first season involved Andy’s relationships with Opie and Barney. Andy’s handling of his young son all season gave the series a great deal of warmth and gentle humor as the two traversed the tricky road traveled by many fathers and sons. As far as its comic base, however, nothing matched the terrific chemistry that existed between Andy and Barney who played off each other with matchless ease. Three of the season’s strongest episodes all revolved around the over-eager deputy whose single-minded endeavors to prove his worth often put himself in the paths of either ridicule or extreme danger. “The Manhunt” finds Barney at the mercy of an escaped convict with the state police looking down on the attempts of the puny local sheriff’s department to aid in their search and capture scenario. When acting sheriff Barney arrests half the town for petty offenses and earns their scorn in “Andy Saves Barney’s Morale,” Andy must put things right to keep Barney from quitting. “Barney Gets His Man,” late in the season, once again finds Andy running interference for the inept Barney helping him to come out of a potentially embarrassing encounter with a vicious crook with plaudits and acclaim.

During the first season, Andy Griffith exaggerated his southern twang for comic effect (years later, Griffith remarked he found it impossible to watch the early episodes because of his overly pronounced hillbilly brogue), something he’d tone down in the years to come. He’s still the model of decency and graciousness throughout the year even with occasional missteps where his chauvinism or mild jealousy causes trouble with his girl. The season is also ripe with music as Griffith takes every opportunity to pick up his guitar and pluck out a few tunes. Frances Bavier and Don Knotts also tried a bit of southern accent early on but both dropped it quickly and used their natural speaking voices. The first season has fewer classic episodes than subsequent seasons of the show would boast, but its “Christmas Story” episode certainly became a fan favorite and “Andy and the Gentleman Crook,” “The Inspector,” “Stranger in Town,” and “Bringing Up Opie” contained generous amounts of humor and heart.

Here are the thirty-two episodes contained on four discs in this first season Blu-ray set. Apart from “Christmas Story,” every other episode is offered in two versions: the current syndicated model and the full broadcast version with original sponsor materials attached. These latter versions are most enjoyable with various members of the cast joining Andy in character for a coda to the episode hawking either Post cereals or Sanka coffee, the show’s two sponsors for its first year.

1 – The New Housekeeper
2 – The Manhunt
3 – Guitar Player
4 – Ellie Comes to Town
5 – Irresistible Andy
6 – Runaway Kid
7 – Andy the Matchmaker
8 – Opie’s Charity
9 – A Feud Is a Feud
10 – Ellie for Council
11 – Christmas Story
12 – Stranger in Town
13 – Mayberry Goes Hollywood
14 – The Horse Trader
15 – Those Gossipin’ Men
16 – The Beauty Contest
17 – Alcohol and Old lace
18 – Andy, the Marriage Counselor
19 – Mayberry on Record
20 – Andy Saves Barney’s Morale
21 – Andy and the Gentleman Crook
22 – Cyrano Andy
23 – Andy and Opie, Housekeepers
24 – The New Doctor
25 – A Plaque for Mayberry
26 – The Inspector
27 – Ellie Saves a Female
28 – Andy Forecloses
29 – Quiet Sam
30 – Barney Gets His Man
31 – The Guitar Player Returns
32 – Bringing Up Opie



Video Rating: 4.5/5  3D Rating: NA

The program’s original 4:3 aspect ratio is faithfully reproduced in these 1080p transfers using the AVC codec. At their best (which is frequently), the imagery is wonderfully sharp and very detailed with superb grayscale boasting rich black levels and crisp whites. Contrast is generally excellent throughout. Of course, the sponsor-based bookends for the episodes have not been remastered so those are less sharp and have a fair number of specks and debris. And even within the episodes, there are occasional problems with line and pattern twitter which may momentarily distract along with the occasional soft shot. Each episode has been divided into 4 chapters.



Audio Rating: 4/5

The PCM 2.0 (1.5 Mbps) mono sound mix has been nicely cleaned up for the episodes proper through you’ll certainly hear soft hiss and some distortion in the sponsor-based bookends if you choose to watch those versions of the episodes. Otherwise, dialogue is always very clear and is never compromised by the lively, lilting background music and the occasional sound effects.



Special Features Rating: 3/5

“Danny Meets Andy Griffith” (27:20, HD): the 1960 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.

The Howards’ On-Set Home Movies (8:36, HD): Ronny Howard’s father Rance was on set every day with his son and took these color home movies which appear to be behind-the-scenes shots made during season three. (The producers are retaking the opening shots of Andy and Opie to reflect Opie as somewhat older and some later shots appear to be of the episode where Barney buys his first car).

Return to Mayberry (1:35:26, HD): 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, Howard, the Darlings (with Briscoe and Charlene), and Ernest T. Bass all make appearances. Picture quality is quite good, and the sound is PCM 2.0 mono.

Person to Person (13:05, SD): Edward R. Murrow visits in 1957 with Andy and his wife Barbara while Andy does publicity for A Face in the Crowd.



Overall Rating: 4.5/5

The Andy Griffith Show was the fourth most popular series during the 1960-1961 television season, its first season on the air: the highest rated comedy series in the country which was reflected in that year’s Emmy nominations for Outstanding Humor Program. This season, Don Knotts actually won his first of five Emmys for playing Barney Fife. The first season is a good but not great one for the show with the next four years notching an incredible string of classic episodes unique in their canny mixture of hilarity and warmth. Fans will enjoy finally getting the complete versions of these episodes with the commercial bumpers which contained a few more jokes and which naturally aren’t seen in syndicated versions of the series now running on local stations. Highly recommended!


Reviewed By: Matt Hough


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#2 of 7 OFFLINE   smithbrad

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Posted April 29 2014 - 07:52 PM

Great review. While I'm going ahead and getting all three of the CBS BR's being released scheduled on May 6th, this is a favorite show of mine and one I could get the first five seasons of on BR, if released. Glad it appears to be a top-notch release.

 

I actually like season one as much as the others. To me Ellie was the best for Andy because she was more of an equal in their relationship. As you said "feisty and assertive". Helen was fine in the later years but to me she was just there for stability. I recall liking Peggy as well for similar reasons as Ellie, but she didn't last long.

 

I saw an interview with Elinor Donahue much later in life and from what I recall she wasn't dropped from the show, but asked to be released. As the first season progressed more and more attention went to Don Knott's, for obvious reasons. To make room for more Barney meant cutting back on Ellie. Feeling a bit insecure with this and various other things she said she felt less wanted and asked to be released. They granted her request, even though she really wasn't sure she wanted it. That's the gist of what I remember from the interview.

 

While I miss Ellie after season one, it was probably for the best since it allowed the Barney character to continue to grow and become a major star of the show.


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#3 of 7 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted April 30 2014 - 04:06 AM

You're right that Elinor Donahue asked to be let go, and she was dropped (sorry if you thought I was suggesting she was fired; she certainly wasn't) because the writers realized they couldn't really write any stories for her. From reading The Andy Griffith Show by Richard Kelly, it was clear that Andy (the man) and Andy (the character) weren't fully comfortable with a more aggressive female which is why Peggy (Joanna Moore) didn't last long either and why Anita's more sedate Helen did.


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#4 of 7 OFFLINE   texboil

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Posted April 30 2014 - 05:27 AM

I was surprised to see this title at my local Target (Madison, WI) last night, a full week before its release date. The price was $79.99. Even odder is if you go to Target's web site, they claim the title is for purchase online only and is not sold in stores. But for anyone interested, it might be worth a call to your neighborhood bullseye to see if they have it in stock.



#5 of 7 OFFLINE   smithbrad

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Posted April 30 2014 - 10:09 AM

You're right that Elinor Donahue asked to be let go, and she was dropped (sorry if you thought I was suggesting she was fired; she certainly wasn't) because the writers realized they couldn't really write any stories for her. From reading The Andy Griffith Show by Richard Kelly, it was clear that Andy (the man) and Andy (the character) weren't fully comfortable with a more aggressive female which is why Peggy (Joanna Moore) didn't last long either and why Anita's more sedate Helen did.

 

I'm sure you are right, it was probably best for the show. Maybe that is why I still like season one equally well because we have a few episodes with Andy that are a bit different then what was to come, and I always liked Elinor Donahue. When I think of Ellie's character I usually think of the episode when Andy was under the impression she was trying "catch" in, and Andy does his best to try and find other suitors for Ellie. He tells each one that they have a unique characteristic that she likes. In the last scene, I believe, is when Ellie comes in and they are all trying to emphasis their talents (even Andy).  Looking forward to the release.


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#6 of 7 OFFLINE   Dennis Nicholls

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Posted April 30 2014 - 01:24 PM

Andy could act when he wanted to.  I really liked his portrayal as the Lyndon Johnson character in Washington Behind Closed Doors in the late 1970s.


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#7 of 7 OFFLINE   Rob_Ray

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Posted April 30 2014 - 02:03 PM

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Andy could act when he wanted to.  I really liked his portrayal as the Lyndon Johnson character in Washington Behind Closed Doors in the late 1970s.

Anyone who has ever seen A FACE IN THE CROWD would never doubt Andy Griffith's acting abilities.  It's a far cry from Andy Taylor.


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