Movie: In the last 60 years of television there have been few series that truly earned the title "classic" and have stood the test of time. You can count such series on one hand although there have been a lot of series that seemed quite good in their contemporary setting. Perhaps the best series to me, on many levels mind you, was The Andy Griffith Show, for a host of reasons. The Andy Griffith Show was one of those down home comedies to spring forth in 1960 when television was in Black & White and the country was looking for a simpler time having emerged relatively unscathed from the worrisome 1950's. American's were seeing urban sprawl overtake many areas of the country and the country had not yet lost its innocence to Vietnam, Watergate, or the growing civil rights movement. In short, the time was perfect for a show that focused on the small town exploits of a sheriff in Mayberry, NC and his extended family of friends and neighbors as they went about their everyday lives. Andy Griffith played a widower raising a small son, Opie (Ron Howard), with the help of his aunt, Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier), while handling the minimal disturbances in the town with the help of his deputy, Barney Fife (Don Knotts). It's difficult to understand how pervasive the show is in our culture since each of these main characters has become something of an archetype over the years, spawning numerous copycats and setting the stage for so many other shows that came after it (I'd be surprised if I ran into any adult in this country that hadn't watched this show in syndication or when it first came out given how frequently it's on cable these days).
Andy's philosophy was simple; the people he polices are his friends and neighbors so he always attempted to do right by them as he kept law and order in Mayberry. As an elected official (both sheriff and Justice of the Peace), he had to be responsive to their needs while maintaining the function of his sworn offices which he managed to do so with the kind of common sense so often missing in these modern times. He balanced his life out by raising Opie as best he can, a difficult task considering the way young boys have a way of getting into trouble (even good boys like Opie seem to find their way into trouble it seemed), and attending the usual social events like church, dances and the rest of American circa "the good old days". The Fourth Season differed from the previous three seasons; Third, Second, and First with the continuing evolution of the secondary characters who took larger roles. In no case was this more prevalent than in the various Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors) stories, even ending the season with the comedic genius joining the Marine Corp for his spin off series, Gomer Pyle, USMC. Here's a look at the DVD set for The Andy Griffith Show: Complete
Fourth Season, noting that it was perhaps the best rounded season of the entire series with very few episodes that could be called throwaway due to the way they were written and acted.
With a few episodes centering on the Darling Clan (Briscoe Declares For Aunt Bee, Divorce-Mountain Style), one showcasing the very proper British Gentlemen's Gentleman Malcolm Merriweather (The Return Of Malcolm Merriweather), and the hilarious Ernest T. Bass (Ernest T. Bass Joins The Army, My Fair Ernest T. Bass) as solid entries this season, the clear winners in terms of screen time after Andy himself were Opie (Ron Howard), Barney (Don Knotts), and Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors). Opie was in most episodes but the star of shows such as Opie, The Birdman; Opie's Ill-Gotten Gain, Opie And His Merry Men, Andy And Opie's Pal, and A Deal Is A Deal where he learned to take responsibility for his actions, right from wrong, and a host of other moral lessons. Barney was once again the center of attention much of the time with The Haunted House, A Black Day For Mayberry, Up In Barney's Room, Citizen's Arrest, Barney And The Cave Rescue, Barney's Sidecar, The Song Festers, The Shoplifters, A Deal Is A Deal, Fun Girls, The Rumor, Barney And Thelma Lou, PHFFTT and Back To Nature being especially centered on the brilliant comedian. Gomer, a bit player in Season Three, was notably conspicuous in The Haunted House, Gomer The House Guest, A Date For Gomer, Citizen's Arrest, The Song Festers, Andy Saves Gomer, A Deal Is A Deal, Barney And Thelma Lou, PHFFTT; Back To Nature, and of course the spin off brilliance of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C..
Others were given some stand alone episodes as well but the above characters took the spot light as often as not and even the weakest episodes of the season were pretty darned amusing. Howard McNear's stroke kept him off the show and there wasn't a lot of work for Aneta Corsaut (who played teacher and love interest Helen Crump) but the introduction of George Lindsay's character (Goober Pyle) was a sight for sore eyes. He later became a larger part of the show after taking over Gomer's filling station role but this was the season he came into view. The episodes revolving around Andy's conflicts with the Mayor were mostly sidestepped this time too in a concerted effort by the show's producers to focus on the individual characters as they dealt with the troubles facing them. This worked in large part due to the ensemble nature of the secondary cast but also Andy Griffith's ability to blend in as needed and not hog the spotlight as other star driven shows have been notable for. In short, this season was the best of the bunch for me in overall quality of episodes with the following season running a close second.
Television seasons such as The Andy Griffith Show: Complete
Fourth Season are rare birds indeed. Let's face it; most shows seem to chase the ratings at all costs, with writers and producers forgetting that being true to the characters is far more important. While I still wish there had been better extras (Andy Griffith was on television last week and he looked about a million years old so any hope of extras is likely vanishing soon), the sheer quality of the acting, the writing, the production, and the gentle nature in which small-town life was presented here were all good reasons to rate this one as Highly Recommended but the bottom line was that the humor was so positive and plentiful that even the moral lessons went down easily for me. Fans will appreciate the care going into this one and I can't tell you how much I think the show itself is worth watching.
Here's a breakdown of the episodes of the fourth season in order on the DVD with their original air dates from CBS:
Episode 1: Opie, The Birdman: (September 30, 1963):
Episode 2: The Haunted House: (October 7, 1963):
Episode 3: Ernest T. Bass Joins The Army: (October 14, 1963):
Episode 4: The Sermon For Today: (October 21, 1963):
Episode 5: Briscoe Declares For Aunt Bee: (October 28, 1963):
Episode 6: Gomer The House Guest: (November 4, 1963):
Episode 7: A Black Day For Mayberry: (November 11, 1963):
Episode 8: Opie's Ill-Gotten Gain: (November 18, 1963):
Episode 9: A Date For Gomer: (November 25, 1963):
Episode 10: Up In Barney's Room: (December 2, 1963):
Episode 11: Citizen's Arrest: (December 16, 1963):
Episode 12: Opie And His Merry Men: (December 30, 1963):
Episode 13: Barney And The Cave Rescue: (January 6, 1964):
Episode 14: Andy And Opie's Pal: (January 13, 1964):
Episode 15: Aunt Bee The Crusader: (January 20, 1964):
Episode 16: Barney's Sidecar: (January 27, 1964):
Episode 17: My Fair Ernest T. Bass: (February 3, 1964):
Episode 18: Prisoner Of Love: (February 10, 1964):
Episode 19: Hot Rod Otis: (February 7, 1964):
Episode 20: The Song Festers: (February 24, 1964):
Episode 21: The Shoplifters: (March 2, 1964):
Episode 22: Andy's Vacation: (March 9, 1964):
Episode 23: Andy Saves Gomer: (March 16, 1964):
Episode 24: Bargain Day: (March 23, 1964):
Episode 25: Divorce-Mountain Style: (March 30, 1964):
Episode 26: A Deal Is A Deal: (April 6, 1964):
Episode 27: Fun Girls: (April 13, 1964):
Episode 28: The Return Of Malcolm Merriweather: (April 20, 1964):
Episode 29: The Rumor: (April 27, 1964):
Episode 30: Barney And Thelma Lou, PHFFTT: (May 4, 1964):
Episode 31: Back To Nature: (May 11, 1964):
Episode 32: Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.: (May 18, 1964):
Picture: The Andy Griffith Show Season 4 was presented in its original 1.33:1 ratio full frame Black & White. The content being from a network television show airing well over forty years ago, you have to expect the limitations of the visuals on the DVDs. Compared to the second season DVD set, this one looked about the same, using five discs to spread out the 32 episodes nicely. I saw no compression artifacts this time, nor did I see the rainbows some of the first season displayed, or the edits that a few of the third season shows appeared to have. I'm not going to lie to you and suggest I know for a fact that every second of every episode was present here but the running times were very consistent and there were no blatant cuts (slavering fans might be able to point something out but decades of syndicated edits have pretty much brainwashed this viewer into thinking the added 5 or more minutes over those versions made for a pretty sweet deal) noticed. I did think that the compression rate used was a little high since two DVD players needed to be stopped a couple of times to get them back on track (primarily on disc two and three IIRC) when the picture started to degrade but it wasn't a recurring factor and the scenes looked fine when watched a second time.
Sound: The audio was presented with the original monaural track. It wasn't perfect but I've never heard the show sounding that way and venture a guess that it never did (the limitations of network television recording back when this was made were numerous), yet the Dolby Digital used to help clean up the various noises managed to improve the material a fair amount. For those who care, there was a Closed Caption symbol on the box so I presume it has the usual closed captioning (I don't have the equipment to test that out but Paramount is pretty good about such things if listed).
Extras: There were no extras on the DVDs this time. It was my understanding that the commercials by the cast for the show's sponsors ended with the Third Season although I was pretty young when these episodes came out so I could be wrong. At least the liner notes were still present.
Final Thoughts: The Andy Griffith Show Season 4 continued the magic that the previous three seasons; Three, Two, and One, had started and for that, I was particularly thankful. I hadn't seen a number of these episodes in syndication so the experience of watching them was all the more appealing to me. The charm and grace of the folksy humor, the pure Americana, and the wishful life offered up here was something difficult to impart on someone that hasn't watched the show before but I think most people I've met have enjoyed the show over the last four decades and the DVD set was a nice change over the syndicated cuts made to provide more space for commercials. With nice technical values, quality material, and 5 discs worth of entertainment you won't be embarrassed to watch with anyone alive, The Andy Griffith Show Season 4 earned the rating of Highly Recommended on the merits missing in some much television airing today.