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Thursday, April 12, 2012

What Mayberry Taught Me About Telling Stories

I grew up on Gilligan's Island, Andy Griffith, and The Dick Van Dyke Show.  Of the three, my least favorite at the time was Andy Griffith.  I much more identified with Dick Van Dyke who was simultaneously suave and goofy.  And Laura Petri in capris!  Rrrow!  Ditto for Gilligan's Island, I liked the fantasy of innocent, good-hearted, but disaster-prone Gilligan always messing up the latest fool-proof plan the Professor hatched to get them off the island.  (Moral: As soon as someone comes up with a fool-proof plan, nature comes up with a bigger and better fool.)  And Mary Anne in short-shorts!  Rrrow!  By contrast, Andy Griffith seemed slow and draggy, and his girlfriend - Ellen Crump, for pity's sake - why would anybody date someone named Crump?  And she was a school-teacher!  She was like a friend of your mother's.  I'd much rather watch Bewitched.  Samantha Stevens in capris!  Rrow!  Or I Dream of Genie.  Barbara Eden in a genie costume!  Double-Rrow!
But of all the shows I watched as a kid, the only one I can still tolerate is Andy Griffith, and over the years, I've come to love it more and more.  There was always a secret sadness to the Andy Griffith show - the soundtrack was often strangely plaintive for a situation comedy.  And Andy Griffith had one basic story - with some variations - but there was one story it told over and over again.  As I've watched reruns over the years, I've come to realize what a wise and hopeful story it is.
It starts with a sourpus.  Not someone's who's bad, but someone who believes he's bad.  There's goodness inside him, but it's like he's constipated in the goodness department.  Then Andy and his friends find a way to let him release his inner goodness without hurting his pride - sparing people's pride is another major motif in the show - and then the former sourpus realizes he's a good person after all, and it hurts him to even think of doing something selfish and unkind.  At the end of the show, everyone's a little better off, the former sour pus most of all.  Lord help me, it's hokey and obvious, but maybe the truth was hokey and obvious all along.  Maybe the secret of life's just a matter of sparing the other fellow's pride and trusting in his goodness.  And trusting in your own goodness.  I just love that show and I watch it whenever I can.
Then there's The Beverly Hillbillies.  Ellie Mae in blue jeans.  Rrow, rrow, rrow!

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