It's tough to give fresh insights here that haven't already been expressed
by many others through the years when it comes to the landmark The Andy
Griffith Show. A show that marked its debut in 1960 and enjoyed an
incredible run on prime-time television, it is perhaps matched only by it's
ability to continue to draw fans old and new in syndication, year after
year, decade after decade- does anyone think Friends will be shown in reruns
45 years from now? Showing up during the tumultous 60's, it and a few other
sitcoms that are truly worthy of classic status became that way because they
did a number of things very, very well. Even during that era many sitcoms
came and went rather quickly, even with scant variety of programming
available for the average viewer. The comedy shows which tended to have a
span of several seasons were the ones which that centered on a main
character who was engaging and endearing in his/her role, and then built a
strong supporting cast around the star. Looking back, the 60's were an
innovative and incredible period for sitcom television, and The Andy Griffith Show is
about as good an example of this as can be found.
Affable, humble, humorous, fair and a myraid of other commendable qualities,
Andy Taylor quietly ruled rural Mayberry-Anytown, USA- with an unassuming
wisdom even Buddha might envy. It can be legitimately argued that this was
an ensemble show, but Griffith was the tower of strength at it's center. His
portrayal of a simple man who in truth wasn't simple of mind at all wears
the badge of sheriff as comfortably as one would their favorite slippers. In
Andy we see caring father and forgiving friend, fair mediator, moral example, a
peaceful soul that could also be perceived as one you'd probably not want to
cross. One look at Andy Taylor and you just know this man sleeps peacefully
each night. He's doing a job that he truly loves and it shows.
As good as Griffith was in his role, it can honestly be said that Don Knotts
took the role of comic sidekick to a new level. Though nervous, preening,
awkward, bumbling and augumentive, Deputy Barney Fife had a heart as big as
a house to compensate for any of his personality shortcomings. Winning
several deserved Emmy awards for best supporting actor, this was the last
season we had Knotts on the show on a weekly basis, as he decided to leave
the series for fear of being typecast. His worries were well founded- the rest of Knotts' career has been spent playing one variation on the Barney character after another.
That the show eroded after this fifth season is fair to say as well.
Jim Nabors had taken his Gomer Pyle character off to a spinoff series of his
own after season four. Funny as Nabors' goofy down-home grease monkey
character was, Barney was the true slapstick comedic relief, with Knotts
taking physical comedy to a level all his own. Gomer was somewhat
replaceable with almost equally goofy and likable cousin Goober (George
Lindsey), but there was no replacing Barney Fife. If Griffith was king,
Knotts was the clown prince that allowed the show to effortlessly shift
gears between amusing and hilarious year after year.To lose both Knotts and
Nabors in the course of two seasons was alot to ask of a sitcom that
made superb use of several cast members. While the show has plenty of good
episodes after season five- in fact, it was number one in the ratings when Griffith himself left-
this was the last season we had Andy and Barney
to enjoy in each weekly episode. Because of this Andy Griffith fans are bound to be
clamouring for this release.
So, what does season five have to offer both the casual and devoted Andy
Griffith Show fans? Well, plenty actually. At this point the show had managed to introduce several wacky revolving characters that were made the focus of an episode or two each season, and season five is typical of that- in small dollops here are backwoods madman Ernest T. Bass (director Howard Morris), the extreme Hillbilly family The Darlings (headed by Denver Pyle), and lovable town drunk Otis (Hal Smith). Most of the season's episodes focus on one of a handful of strong characters- son Opie (Ron Howard), Barney and Aunt Bea (Frances Bavier), with Andy's love interest Helen Crump (Anita Corsaut), Barney's girl Thelma Lou (Betty Lynn) and Floyd the Barber (Howard McNear) sprinkled into the mix. A few episodes are also used to showcase new character Goober. As with any series there are a few clunkers along the way, but overall season five boasts some solid, funny plotlines- among them Opie having a crush on his teacher (and dad's girl) Helen; Goober manning the courthouse phone and 'accidentally' building a car inside the jail; Otis suing the town; the Darlings choosing Opie as a future beau for their youngest; Ernest T. Bass falling for Helen; Aunt Bea inventing an imaginary suitor; Andy thinking of moving on and leaving Barney to run for Sheriff; and Barney needing to gain weight in order to pass a physical in order to remain deputy. Below is a complete list of the season's episodes:
Aunt Bee's Romance
Opie Loves Helen
The Education of Ernest T. Bass
Man in the Middle
Goodbye, Sheriff Taylor
The Darling Baby
Andy and Helen Have Their Day
Otis Sues the County
Three Wishes for Opie
Barney Fife, Realtor
Goober Takes a Car Apart
The Rehabilitation of Otis
The Lucky Letter
Goober and the Art of Love
Barney Runs for Sheriff
If I Had a Quarter Million
TV or Not TV
Guest in the House
The Case of the Punch in the Nose
Aunt Bee's Invisible Beau
The Arrest of the Fun Girls
The Luck of Newton Monroe
Opie and the Carnival
Presentation here is 1.33:1 fullscreen black and white. Given the fact that this is a series of shows originally aired over forty years ago it's quite acceptable. There is some noticible softness here, but all in all the transfer looks quite solid with a minimum of damage or heavy grain. It's probably the best I've seen these episodes look.
Noteworthy here is the fact that season five was the last one filmed in black and white, so it will be interesting to see how the remaining seasons transfer to DVD when rendered in color.
The sound track here is Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. While it's nothing spectacular it seems pretty clean and easy to understand, and more than adequate given the material.
There are no extras given here.
The simple fact that this is the last season with Don Knotts as a regular cast member makes this set worth buying, and it's a must for The Andy Griffith Show fans. As content goes, there is a bit of unevenness in the quality of the shows overall but on the whole it's a good season with some really great episodes. Having this wonderful TV series available on DVD at all is something special, given the quality of the show and it's superb cast. Highly recommended.