TAGS Episode Guide: Ranking (Not Quite) Every Episode of One of America’s Most Beloved TV Shows…Part 2

Welcome back!! If you haven’t done so already please go check out Part 1.

 

All caught up?? Good.

 

otisBefore we continue allow me to offer a few random thoughts about TAGS. First of all, amongst widower Andy’s claralady friends during the run of the show my least favorite is the one he ended up marrying…school teacher Helen Crump. I much prefer druggist Ellie Walker, and would have liked to have seen more of nurses Peggy McMillan & Mary Simpson. Secondly, hardcore fans of the show are likely to notice multiple continuity errors (for example Bertha Johnson became Clara Johnson then Clara Edwards for no apparent reason). Back then the powers-that-be had no idea that we’d still be watching the show a half century later and asking silly questions about why certain things make no sense because something different was said a season or two before. They were just trying to make a fun TV show (they succeeded). Amongst prominent supporting characters I rather enjoy The Darlings, don’t much care for darlingsErnest T. Bass, and love almost any episode with andy_girlfriendstown drunk Otis Campbell. I understand that replacement deputy Warren Ferguson wasn’t well-received, but I wish he would have gotten a proper exit and others given a shot to wear the deputy uniform rather than leave Andy without any help for nearly 3 years.

 

Okay okay okay…I’ll stop babbling and get on with the countdown. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

130   The Lucky Letter       (S5E19)

Barney thinks he is suffering bad luck after throwing away a chain letter instead of forwarding it on. Andy tries to convince him that’s a bunch of tags12poppycock. Barney-centric episodes are almost always solidly funny.

 

 

129   The Great Filling Station Robbery                (S3E22)

Andy & Barney investigate a string of thefts at Wally’s Filling Station to find out whether or not a young employee is responsible. As always Barney is an inept yet comical crime solver, but even Andy doesn’t get the credit for getting to the bottom of this mystery. The accused man himself clears his name. Funny stuff from Barney & Gomer.

 

 

128   Banjo-Playing Deputy                  (S5E32)

The final two episodes of Season 5 take place at a carnival that is visiting Mayberry. Here we see Andy shut down a “risqué” harem dancer show that is tags13part of that carnival. He feels guilty when the show’s inept banjo player is left unemployed and hires the young man to do some stuff around the courthouse. There is some thought given to making him a temporary deputy, but it doesn’t materialize. In reality Jerry Van Dyke was offered a permanent role on TAGS and would have been a worthy replacement for Don Knotts, but he chose a starring role in My Mother the Car, a show that lasted only one season. What a huge missed opportunity for both TAGS and Van Dyke. Imagine the fun he would’ve brought to Mayberry those last few years!! This is also…sadly…the last episode of the show broadcast in black & white, and we all know how I feel about that.

 

 

127   The Farmer Takes a Wife   (S2E13)

A boorish farmer comes to Mayberry looking for a wife. To stop him from obnoxiously hitting on every farmerwoman that walks down the street Andy & Barney decide to help him out by cleaning him up and teaching him some manners. Unfortunately for Barney the farmer takes a shine to Thelma Lou. The farmer is portrayed by Alan Hale Jr., who a couple of years later would go on to star as The Skipper on Gilligan’s Island. He even calls Barney “Little Buddy”.

 

 

126   Prisoner of Love                  (S4E18)

A sexy female jewel thief attempts to seduce Andy & Barney in order to escape from the jail. This is a very sensual prisonerepisode (with the exception of an amusing scene involving the always funny Otis Campbell), and a rarity in that Andy falls under the same spell as Barney instead of being the sensible voice of reason. The actress who portrays the prisoner is probably better known for playing the green skinned Orion slave girl on a classic episode of Star Trek.

 

 

125   Andy Discovers America (S3E23)

Andy’s misinterpreted advice to Opie about the boy’s history homework gets him in hot water with new schoolteacher Helen Crump. Why Andy would find the overly emotional Miss Crump even remotely attractive remains a huge mystery. Good Lord is she terrifying. Most men would have run in the other direction after the initial meeting. Barney’s “explanation” of The Emancipation Proclamation is funny stuff, as is Andy’s folksy reverse psychology on Opie & his classmates about the importance of learning history.

 

 

124   Andy Forecloses       (S1E28)

Andy tries to help a financially challenged family keep their home despite being ordered to give them an eviction notice by their landlord, town malcontent Ben Weaver. This is the same family who Mr. Weaver had thrown in jail on Christmas Eve just a few months earlier, except they’re going by different names. Aunt Bea & Andy organize a rummage sale at the courthouse to raise the money the family owes, but in the end crusty ol’ Ben relents and allows the family to keep their house.

 

 

123   Ellie for Council                   (S1E10)

Ellie starts a battle of the sexes when she decides to run for a seat on the town council. Thru the prism of modern viewership & altered societal norms ellieit is hard to gauge whether this episode reflects the prejudices of an era or is a commentary on old-fashioned ideas during a time of social change. Either way it is reliably amusing, and I always liked Ellie Walker. It’s a shame the character didn’t stick around longer.

 

 

122   A Date for Gomer       (S4E9)

Thelma Lou convinces Barney to get a date for her very shy cousin to the annual Chamber of Commerce gomer2Dance. He gets Gomer to agree to the date, but at the dance Gomer suddenly disappears. It turns out he left to get the young lady a corsage. Barney & Thelma Lou and Andy & Helen find Gomer and his date dancing up a storm back at Thelma Lou’s house. A largely forgettable episode but worth it to see Gomer Pyle dancing. H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S.

 

 

121   A Wife for Andy                    (S3E29)

Barney tries to set up Andy with just about every eligible bachelorette in Mayberry, but Andy is sweet on Helen Crump. Of course anytime Barney tries to organize something it’s tremendously amusing. Interesting trivia: one of the single ladies that comes to Andy’s house is portrayed by an actress that had a more longstanding gig…as the voice of Judy Jetson on The Jetsons.

 

 

120   Aunt Bea’s Invisible Beau           (S5E27)

Clara plants the seed in Aunt Bea’s head that her presence is preventing Andy from gettin’ hitched, so Aunt Bea says she is dating the “butter & egg man”…but it turns out that he is married. Andy discovers the ruse and reassures Aunt Bea that she isn’t an unwanted third wheel. The same basic plotline was used a few years earlier during the second season.

 

 

119   Dogs, Dogs, Dogs     (S3E30)

Opie brings a pack of stray dogs into the courthouse just as a state official is visiting. Fortunately the suit is a dog lover. Eventually Barney & Andy find dogshomes for all the dogs, but then their true owner surfaces. All’s well that ends well. I’m a sucker for anything involving dogs, and there is some cute interaction between Opie & Barney.

 

 

118   The County Nurse     (S2E24)

County nurse Mary Simpson enlists Andy’s help in convincing hardheaded farmer Rafe Hollister to get his tetanus vaccination. Mary appeared on TAGS twice played by two different actresses. I prefer the other one. Rafe Hollister makes three appearances in Mayberry and would have been a solid addition to the main cast.

 

 

117   Barney’s Bloodhound                  (S5E6)

Barney attempts to train a stray dog to be a crime fighting bloodhound, and as usual when our favorite deputy is involved things don’t go as planned. When Barney inadvertently gets kidnapped at Meyers Lake by an escaped convict the mutt obeys the criminal more than Barney. Of course Andy saves the day because that’s kind of his thing.

 

 

116/115/114       Barney Mends A Broken Heart (S3E6) – The Fun Girls (S4E27) – The Arrest of the Fun Girls (S5E28)

fungirls1The Fun Girls are Skippy & Daphne, two blonde bimbos from Mount Pilot who like to party. They take a shine to Barney (who Skippy constantly refers to as Bernie) & Andy (who is always greeted by Daphne with a gravelly “Hello Doll”) and wreak havoc on their lives on a few occasions in Seasons 3, 4, & 5. In their first appearance Andy & Peggy have an argument and Barney unsuccessfully tries to fix Andy up with oddball Lydia Crosswaite, who has the personality of a rice cake (strangest line of the entire series: “I hate the outdoors. When I go out into the sun I get the herpes.”). Barney then tricks Andy into heading to a Mt. Pilot hot spot where they meet up with The Fun Girls. Unfortunately Daphne’s old boyfriend shows up and punches Andy in the face. The next day Andy & Peggy make up and all is well. Andy is kind of a jerk in this episode, becoming jealous of Mary’s male friend for no reason. A year later The Fun Girls pass thru Mayberry and hit on Andy & Barney, causing Helen & Thelma Lou to become jealous. This episode is notable for being the first appearance of Goober, and it is the only one with both Goober and Gomer Pyle. A year after that The Fun Girls fungirls2are back in Mayberry and get arrested. Andy & Barney try to hide their presence at the jail from Helen & Thelma Lou…to no avail. I really don’t see anything attractive about The Fun Girls, and there certainly isn’t a whole lot of amusement in the melodramatic distrust of Helen & Thelma Lou, but watching Barney rope Andy into uncomfortable situations and seeing them try to wiggle themselves out of trouble with their girlfriends is comic gold.

 

 

113   The New Doctor                   (S1E24)

Persuaded by Barney just a bit, Andy feels threatened by the new town doctor’s friendship with Ellie…so much so that he proposes. As it turns out the doc is engaged himself. Andy & Ellie mutually agree to take their relationship slow, which is good since a few months later Ellie disappears from Mayberry, never to be heard from again.

 

 

 

112   Opie’s Newspaper    (S5E26)

Opie & one of his buddies decide to publish their own little newspaper…a very enterprising idea for two young boys. Unfortunately they fill the thing opieup with town gossip that they overhear while going around spying on people. Not surprisingly several folks become quite upset and it’s up to Andy to set things straight. There is a bit of unintentional foreshadowing here, as in the 1986 TV reunion movie Return to Mayberry Opie Taylor is indeed the editor of the town newspaper.

 

 

 

111   Mayberry Goes Hollywood                   (S1E13)

Mayberry is chosen as the backdrop for an upcoming movie so the whole town gets carried away with all the glamour. But when the Hollywood producer returns to town with his crew he is horrified at how phony everything & everyone has become, explaining that Mayberry was chosen as a location because of its idyllic charm and simple way of life. This is the first appearance of Howard McNear as Floyd Lawson after the character had been played by a different actor in the previous episode. Here he is referred to as Floyd Colby, though his surname was changed back to Lawson thereafter. This isn’t the only time people in Mayberry get a little goofy & overzealous. Sometimes it’s odd, but on occasion it’s rather funny.

 

 

110   Deputy Otis       (S2E31)

Much to Barney’s chagrin Andy makes Otis a temporary deputy to fool his visiting brother & sister-in-law, who are under the mistaken impression otis2that Otis has been in law enforcement for awhile. As it turns out the brother that Otis wants to impress is also a drunkard. I really enjoy Otis-centric episodes.

 

 

109   Ernest T. Bass Joins the Army            (S4E3)

Ernest T. Bass wants to join the Army simply to get a uniform and impress women, but when he’s rejected (because he’s a nut) he goes on one of his rock throwing rampages. Character actor Allan Melvin, who is probably best known as Sam the butcher on The Brady Bunch, makes one of his eight TAGS appearances, this time as an Army recruiter. Did I mention that I’ve never quite understood the popularity of the Ernest T. Bass character??

 

 

108   Goober and the Art of Love                 (S5E20)

Andy & Barney try to find a girl for Goober so he doesn’t have to tag along on their dates. Unfortunately Goober is even more inept with women than gooberhe is in other aspects of life. Barney tries to be his love guru, but of course that’s the blind leading the blind. This is the second appearance of Thelma Lou’s friend Lydia Crosswaite, an amusing Debbie Downer who Goober is sweet on. One thing I always notice about this episode is how Andy & Barney wear their suits and their girlfriends have on nice dresses…just to go to the movies. Oh how times have changed.

 

 

107   Barney on the Rebound              (S2E5)

Barney is immediately smitten with a beautiful newcomer to Mayberry. After an argument he & a jealous Thelma Lou break up and he gets involved with the new girl. Unfortunately for Deputy Fife things aren’t what they seem. The young lady’s “father” is portrayed by Jackie Coogan, who would begin another gig a few years later…as Uncle Fester on The Addams Family.

 

 

106   The Rehabilitation of Otis (S5E18)

When Otis gets so snockered that he rides a cow thru town believing it to be a horse…twice…Barney tries using pop psychology to rehabilitate him.otis3 Otis gets ticked off and decides he’ll do his drinking & jail time in Mt. Pilot from now on. Andy & Barney go and beg him to come back to Mayberry. I’m not sure there’s a whole lot that makes sense here, but it’s always enjoyable when Otis gets drunk. It’s odd that this is the one & only time that the powers-that-be decided that Otis had a serious problem and tried to help him. If he were on TV today he’d be in a 12 step program by the end of his first appearance.

 

 

105   The Merchant of Mayberry (S2E22)

Bert Miller is a downtrodden traveling salesman who’s tired of traveling, so Andy helps him stay in business by allowing him to set up a temporary storefront in town. Predictably this doesn’t please crusty department store owner Ben Weaver. The actor portraying Bert is better known as the original voice for animated Winnie the Pooh. The cantankerous character of Ben Weaver made a half dozen appearances on TAGS played by three different actors. This is the third & final appearance of the actor who originated the role. He passed on a short time after the episode aired.

 

 

104   Barney’s Replacement       (S2E2)

Barney becomes convinced that an attorney who’s been sent to Mayberry for law enforcement training is there to replace him, so he quits and starts selling vacuum cleaners. Barney resigns his position in a huff multiple times throughout his run, but he always comes back. It is said that after Season 1 Andy Griffith realized that Barney was the real comedic centerpiece of the show and the sheriff should be more of a straight man. This is a great example of that shift.

 

 

103   Irresistible Andy                  (S1E5)

After Andy asks Ellie to the church picnic/dance he overthinks the situation, talking himself into the notion that she is trying to rope him into ellie2marriage. In an effort to divert her attention Andy talks some other men in Mayberry into hitting on Ellie. The plan backfires terribly and Ellie becomes quite upset with Andy before he charms his way out of her doghouse. Anyone who thinks this twosome lacked chemistry…romantic & comedic…is crazy. This episode marks the debut of Barney’s infamous suit…”the ol’ salt & pepper”.

 

 

102   Opie’s Hobo Friend   (S2E6)

After Opie & Andy run onto a friendly drifter while going fishing Barney arrests the man for being a vagrant. hoboAndy’s a nice guy though so he lets the man go, after which he bonds with Opie. Unfortunately he is a bad influence on the boy, making things like ditching school, dodging responsibility, & stealing food seem like fun. Andy has a chat with the man, who manages to make Opie realize that maybe his lifestyle isn’t the best way to get along before catching a train out of town. The drifter is portrayed by Buddy Ebsen, who a year later would begin a decade long run as Jed Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies. This is a particularly well-written, borderline dramatic episode.

 

 

101   Quiet Sam                   (S1E29)

Barney is suspicious of farmer Sam Becker so he coaxes Andy into checking out the situation. It turns out that Mr. Becker’s wife is very very pregnant and that’s why the man had seemed a bit on edge. Andy gets stuck at the Becker farm during a rainstorm and ends up delivering the baby. Barney’s overactive imagination & misguided reactions to situations are classic bedrock elements of the show.

 

 

 

 

This seems like a good place for another break. Stay tuned.

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