Any time I write about “The Andy Griffith Show,” as I did earlier this month about ME-TV’s Mayberry May programming and the fate of Andy Taylor’s late wife, I hear from readers with more questions about the beloved show. And that was the case this time as well.
K.W. wrote in to ask, “Did Andy ever tell Opie he loved him on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ ”?
The answer is an emphatic Yes. In fact, a specific scene in one episode focused on that very question, said Jim Clark, the “Presiding Goober Emeritus” of the Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watcher’s Club, the biggest fan club for the series. He is the author of several books about the show, including reference guides and even a cookbook that was reissued earlier this year, and an all-around expert on all things Mayberry.
“Andy says the actual words to Opie in ‘Opie’s Rival,’ the third-season episode in which Opie is concerned that Andy’s spending more time with girlfriend Peggy means that Andy doesn’t love him anymore,” Clark said. “Andy sets the record straight, saying to Opie, ‘I love you more than anything or anybody in the whole world. And nothin’ or nobody can ever change that.’ ”
And D.M. wrote in to ask, “Why, in some episodes of ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’ did they use what appeared to be wooden props such as the squad car and building background when the courthouse door was open?”
“In a word, ‘budget’,” Clark replied when I forwarded him that question. “Especially for scenes filmed on the soundstage at Desilu Studios during the first season (1960-61), a famously fake-looking canvas backdrop was used for the view out of the courthouse when the door was open. Lettering on a building across the street was just a generic jumble of letters amounting to gibberish. The lettering was on a backdrop that was already available from equally generic use on other productions.”
Also, he said, during that first season, “the Mayberry squad car used on the soundstage and sometimes seen in the same view from the courthouse was a flimsy painted prop like something that might be used for a low-budget stage play.
“The cheapness and fakery of the backdrop and prop squad car probably weren’t as obvious with the resolution quality of television at the time the episodes first aired. Audiences of the time were also accustomed to a similar standard of quality of sets in other shows. But some of these inferior set components can stick out like sore thumbs after decades of close observation in reruns, as well as on video that can be paused — and all the more so when seen in today’s high definition.”
TV producers in the 1960s not only weren’t thinking about high definition, they had no idea how big TV sets would get in the future. Another example of this is how stunt work has changed. Rewatching some classic “Star Trek” episodes from the 1960s, digitally remastered in high definition on a big TV, it’s obvious when the stunt actors take over for William Shatner and others, and rewatching the 1960s “Lost in Space” on Blu-ray, you can easily see the wires that are used to simulate weightlessness in space. In such cases, the producers didn’t expect some day the shows would be shown in 1080p resolution on a 50-inch (or bigger) screen. Even on the big screen, think how fake some of the backdrops are in, say, early James Bond films during some driving scenes.
However, from the second season forward on “The Andy Griffith Show,” Clark said, the show’s budget improved and the props improved. “By then, the producers, sponsor and CBS knew they had a hit show worth investing in for the long haul,” he said. “Custom backdrops were made to match the layout of Mayberry as seen in the location shots of the town exteriors that were filmed at the Forty Acres lot in Culver City. Still, even in the later years, especially in the final three seasons (the color episodes), there are some scenes that are supposed to be outdoors that are maybe a bit too obviously filmed on a soundstage with fake trees and boulders, etc. That’s just Hollywood.”
ME-TV’s monthlong celebration concludes Sunday afternoon, May 31, with a broadcast of the rarely-seen 1986 TV-movie “Return to Mayberry,” which reunited the cast and caught us up on what the characters had been up to since we last saw them. In all, 16 actors returned from the original series. It was the last time the cast appeared in character. ME-TV is channel 12-2 over-the-air for antenna users, and channel 1245 on Spectrum cable.