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

tags2Well, it took almost six months, but we’ve finally reached the summit. The cream of the crop. The best of the best. Out of 159 episodes covering the first five seasons of The Andy Griffith Show these are…in my humble opinion…the ten best. Your mileage may vary, but I don’t think I’d be venturing too far out on a limb to guess that amongst hardcore Griffith fans these ten would rank near the top of most every list. To any fellow TAGS loyalists I thank you for sticking with me thru this project and I hope I have echoed your high opinion & good feelings about the show. And for anyone who has perused these entries even though they aren’t that familiar with TAGS…well, it’s not too late. Contrary to what y’all might assume I haven’t relied completely on my memory in writing about the show. Every episode of every season is available on Netflix and I have gone back and re-watched many episodes while I have been working on all of this. It has been an immense pleasure for me, and I would enthusiastically encourage anyone to follow suit. So many television programs today wallow in what my brother The Owl calls “the spirit of the age”…dark, ungodly, arrogant, cynical, & sinful. The Andy Griffith Show is a throwback to a simpler time. It never tried to be somber social commentary or rip its subject matter from the headlines. Though it aired during tags15a rather tumultuous decade the powers-that-be never allowed that gloom & doom into their storylines, and that’s just dandy with this guy. I’ve said it a thousand times and I’ll keep on saying it for the rest of my life…I wish a place like Mayberry actually existed. If it were a real place I would’ve fled there many years ago. Regrettably…to my knowledge…there is no such town in our real world, which is why watching TAGS is such a welcome respite. Thank you Andy Griffith for creating such an oasis. You did good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

10     Andy on Trial (S2E29)

Andy gives a speeding ticket a wealthy publisher but lets him go on the condition that he pay the fine within two weeks. After that time passes and the fine hasn’t been a1paid Andy travels to wherever the guy’s office is (Mt. Pilot?? Raleigh??) to arrest him. Angry over being hassled for a $15 ticket the spiteful businessman enlists the help of a lovely reporter, who goes to Mayberry posing as a college student to get dirt on the sheriff. A smitten Barney unknowingly obliges, trying to make himself look good by talking about how Andy doesn’t run a tight ship. A hearing is scheduled by whatever state authority Andy has to answer to and a stunned Barney is called as a witness. Realizing that he has been duped, Barney…in quite the dramatic scene for an episode of TAGS…passionately defends Andy, explaining just what he means to the entire town. I love this episode, mostly because of that scene of Barney sticking up for his friend. Barney, as we all know, sees himself as a by-the-book law & order man, but in this situation it seems like he has a sudden revelation that Andy’s casual, approachable, outside-the-box methods are actually a better methodology…atleast in a place like Mayberry.

 

 

9       Convicts-at-Large (S3E11)

While on a fishing trip Barney & Floyd are taken hostage by three female escaped convicts. They take refuge in Charlie O’Malley’s cabin just outside of Mayberry. Floyd a2& one of the escapees go to town for some food, and Andy thinks they’re having a party up at the cabin…until he runs into O’Malley and figures out what’s going on. Andy & O’Malley head to the woods to rescue the incompetent deputy & the equally inept barber. The scenes between the convicts and Floyd & Barney (who is hilariously referred to as Al multiple times) are comedy genius. Fantastic writing and great performances. One of the lady convicts famously portrayed another TAGS character…one of the notorious Fun Girls, while another would return the following season playing Barney’s voice coach Eleanora Poultice. After this episode Howard McNear, who played Floyd the barber, wouldn’t return to TAGS for over a year due to suffering a stroke in real life.

 

 

8       Mr. McBeevee   (S3E1)

Andy’s misguided lack of faith in Opie roars its ugly head once more when the sheriff thinks a friend that Opie has described is imaginary. The boy says that this man a3“walks in the treetops, wears a silver hat, has twelve extra hands, blows smoke from his ears, and jingles when he walks”. Of course the audience is in on the fact that Mr. McBeevee is a telephone repairman and Opie’s depiction makes total sense, but Andy doesn’t know that. When Mr. McBeevee gives Opie a quarter Andy thinks the boy might have stolen it. At the end of the episode Andy runs into Mr. McBeevee and realizes how wrong he has been. I love Opie/Andy-centric episodes.

 

 

7       The Inspector (S1E26)

Andy is expecting a friendly state police inspector who he normally takes fishing, but is instead taken aback when a strict taskmaster arrives instead. The new inspector a4is equally stunned by the lackadaisical way things are done in Mayberry and cites Andy for multiple violations in his assessment of the jailhouse. Andy doesn’t take the situation seriously which further enrages the inspector, who calls his supervisor to come to Mayberry and fire Andy. In the meantime, moonshiner Luke Ranier has gone nuts and is indiscriminately shooting at people. When Andy & Barney head to Luke’s place to handle the issue the uptight inspector flips out calling for backup. The supervisor arrives just in time to witness Andy neutralize Luke without even drawing his own weapon. Great stuff from Barney & Otis in this episode, as well as the second appearance of actor Jack Prince, who would return to portray a different character…Rafe Hollister…a few times. Andy’s practical approach versus doing things by the book is a recurring TAGS premise and is always entertaining.

 

 

6       Alcohol and Old Lace (S1E17)

Who doesn’t love sweet little old ladies?? In this episode we meet the Morrison sisters, who appear to be two pleasant spinsters innocently growing flowers in theira5 greenhouse. They also clandestinely tip off Andy & Barney about moonshiners in Mayberry, leading our favorite cops to believe they’ve finally succeeded in eliminating illegal booze from the town. However, as it turns out, the dainty senior citizens are hiding a secret…a still of their own. They’ve amusingly convinced themselves that they are only selling “elixir” to help folks celebrate special occasions, but people like Otis shrewdly invent new holidays for the gullible sisters. Oddly enough it is Opie who leads Andy & Barney to discover the covert operation. Overly eager Barney is all too happy to take an axe and “POW POW POW” the still, although Andy generously decides not to arrest Clarabelle & Jennifer Morrison. The aforementioned Jack Prince makes his first TAGS appearance playing farmer Ben Sewell, and this is the first time we see Barney inadvertently become intoxicated, a really funny gag repeated a few times. The title of the episode is a riff on a 1944 Frank Capra film called Arsenic & Old Lace, which is based on a 1939 play that features two homicidal old maids. Since we often see Otis snockered out of his mind throughout the remainder of the series the lawlessness obviously continues after the Morrison sisters are caught.

 

 

5       Aunt Bea the Warden (S2E23)

With the courthouse full of moonshiners Andy comes up with the unique idea of having a drunken Otis serve his weekly sentence at the Taylor house. Unfortunately for a6our favorite lush Aunt Bea is a harsh taskmaster and has no intention of letting Otis just chill out & do nothing. She puts him to work doing various chores, which displeases & quickly exhausts the slothful souse. He tries multiple times to escape, but Aunt Bea is too smart. Part of the magic of TAGS is the different combinations of characters that drive the story in various episodes. This is why the later color seasons don’t work as well, because Howard Sprague, Goober Pyle, & Emmett Clark aren’t nearly as fun as Barney Fife, Gomer Pyle, Mayors Pike & Stoner, and The Darlings. Aunt Bea & Otis are hilarious adversaries, and this is a really well done episode.

 

 

4       The Bed Jacket (S3E12)

Aunt Bea’s birthday is coming up and unbeknownst to Andy she really wants a bed jacket she spotted in a store window (a bed jacket is a short, lightweight, cape-like a7piece of clothing worn to cover the chest, shoulders, & arms and was popular back in the 1930’s). She gets excited when she sees Andy in the store and thinks he’s buying her the bed jacket, but he’s actually been sent there by the mayor to purchase the item for Mrs. Stoner. When Andy’s gift turns out to be some canning jars and a salt & pepper shaker set Aunt Bea is obviously disappointed. After Clara Edwards inadvertently reveals to Andy what Aunt Bea really wanted he convinces Mayor Stoner to give him the bed jacket in exchange for his beloved fishing pole, which the mayor had been trying to buy from him earlier. This episode has always reminded me of O. Henry’s famous short story The Gift of the Magi because of Andy’s sacrifice to make Aunt Bea happy. It is subtly sentimental without being mawkish.

 

 

3       The Pickle Story (S2E11)

Aunt Bea is usually portrayed as a great cook, but in this episode we learn her weakness…pickles. Whereas Clara Edwards has won multiple awards for her homemade a8pickles, Aunt Bea’s pickles taste like kerosene. Andy, Barney, & Opie don’t want to hurt her feelings so they’ve never been honest about the horrible pickles, but after she cooks up a big batch they just can’t stomach eating them anymore and clandestinely replace them with store bought pickles. Regrettably their timing is really bad though, as the county fair is coming up and Aunt Bea decides to enter her pickles into competition. Andy, Barney, & Opie race to consume eight quarts of store bought pickles so she’ll have to make a new batch because they’re all about honesty & equality. Aunt Bea’s pickles are so terrible that when a fly lands on one it dies lol!! This is THE quintessential TAGS episode, and always ranks among most peoples’ favorites. The one thing that has always bothered me is that it is mentioned that Aunt Bea has lost the pickle competition at the fair 11 years straight to Clara Edwards. However, this is the second season of the show, and in the first episode of Season 1 Aunt Bea returns to Mayberry after being out of town for several years. Continuity is a bit of an issue with TAGS, and this is the most egregious example, which is unfortunate for such a beloved story.

 

 

2       Opie the Birdman      (S4E1)

After Opie accidentally kills a mother bird with his new sling shot Andy makes him realize that his mistake has left three baby birds without a mother, a message that a9certainly resonates with the young boy. He decides to take care of the little birdies himself, feeding & caring for them on a daily basis. Of course the time comes when they are ready to escape the cage and fly out into the world, at which time Andy opines that though the cage is empty the trees now seem nice & full. This is a very sweet story full of the poignant father/son moments that are always a TAGS highlight. Lots of sitcoms do “very special episodes” that are a departure from their standard comedic recipe, and oftentimes it is easy to roll our eyes & be dismissive of such efforts, but TAGS had a way of telling these kinds of tales with great writing, solid performances, & just enough humor (usually from Barney) so that we happily accept it into the canon of the series. This is probably the best acting that Ron Howard has ever done.

 

 

1       Barney’s First Car      (S3E27)

This is it. This is my very favorite TAGS episode ever!! If it’s on I stop whatever I am doing and watch. Barney makes the decision to take his entire life savings ($300) out of a10the bank and purchase a vehicle. He runs across an ad in the paper for a car that seems to be perfect and makes the call. Mrs. Lesh, the widow of the owner, brings the car to Andy’s house to complete the transaction. She tells Barney that her late husband’s name was also Bernard and that the car has only been driven to church on Sundays. Despite Andy’s misgivings Barney can’t hand the cash over to Mrs. Lesh fast enough. It is only after she leaves…indicating that she is going to stop by the church down the street to pray before her son picks her up to take her home to Mount Pilot…that we find out that the sweet little old lady is actually the tough leader of a chop shop that sells junk cars to chumps like Barney. We then see Barney hilariously gather Andy, Aunt Bea, Opie, Gomer, & Thelma Lou for the inaugural Sunday drive in his new machine. It is during this pleasurable journey that things go awry very quickly, with the car literally falling apart right before our very eyes. After a thorough examination of the car by Gomer it becomes obvious that Barney fell victim to a scam, so Andy & Barney decide to take the clunker back to where it came from. Despite breaking down again along the way Andy & Barney end up where they were headed and confront the old lady, who almost manages to fool Barney again. This episode is perfect in every way. Each scene is flawless. The organ music accompanying Mrs. Lesh is spot on. Barney meticulously organizing the Sunday drive is hysterical. The look on Thelma Lou’s face as the steering column pops out is stupendous. Barney despondently sitting in the broken down car while Aunt Bea helps Andy & Gomer push it is a nice touch. Mrs. Lesh is portrayed by Ellen Corby, who would go on to play Grandma on The Waltons, and character actor Allan Melvin makes his 4th of eight TAGS appearances playing one of the henchmen. Can you believe that Barney’s life savings was $300…and that he is able to purchase a car with that?? My how times have changed.

TAGS Episode Guide: Ranking (Not Quite) Every Episode of One of America’s Most Beloved TV Shows…The Top 25 – Part 1

tags15I have made the decision to break down the Top 25 into two parts. I strive always to make these little productions of mine eminently tags16readable but am all too aware that I occasionally get…carried away. At any rate, as we enter the hallowed ground of what I consider to be the very best episodes of TAGS my heart is filled with joy…because these stories were created in the first place, because decades after they stopped being made we can still enjoy them, because I have this forum that allows me to relive the memories and share my thoughts with the masses. As always, if you need to catch up with previous entries you may do so here, here, here, here, & here. Thanks for reading, and please stay tuned for the Top 10.

 

 

 

 

 

25     The Bank Job   (S3E13)

Barney becomes amusingly obsessed with the idea that the bank is lacking in security & ripe pickings for a robbery. In order to prove his point he goes undercover as a mb1cleaning lady and somehow manages to get himself locked in the bank vault. We are introduced to Gomer Pyle, who is recruited to torch open the vault to save Barney. The resourceful deputy escapes all by himself though, by busting thru the wall of the adjacent beauty salon. After all of that hullabaloo someone tries to rob the bank for real, and of course Barney (inadvertently) saves the day.

 

 

24     Citizen’s Arrest           (S4E11)

Immediately after Barney cites Gomer for an illegal u-turn the dimwitted deputy does the same exact thing, prompting Gomer to make a citizen’s arrest. Andy tries to mb2calm down the ensuing brouhaha by having Barney write himself a ticket, but he refuses to pay the fine, opting instead to lock himself in jail and eventually resign. When Gomer finds out from Opie how serious the situation has become he calls in a fake robbery hoping Barney will leap into action. The ruse works until Barney tickets Gomer again, this time for the false alarm. As Barney & Andy are leaving the filling station Barney once again makes a u-turn, eliciting a hilarious reaction by Gomer. At the end of the episode Andy puts Barney’s latest resignation in a file with previous ones, an amusing tip of the cap to what was a recurring joke within the show. Continuity isn’t a TAGS strength, and Barney’s length of service as a deputy changes multiple times. Here it is said that he’s had the job for ten years. Barney’s middle name also changes a few times.

 

 

23     The Manhunt (S1E2)

In only its second ever episode TAGS gives us a remarkable example of why it is so good. When an escaped convict is believed to be somewhere in the vicinity of mb3Mayberry the state police arrive. However, they look down on Andy & Barney and refuse their assistance in apprehending the criminal. Andy & Barney decide to do their own investigation and, despite a hiccup or two, eventually lead the arrogant state cops right to the perp. There are really funny moments with Andy & Barney, as well as Opie, Otis Campbell (his first appearance), & Emma Watson (her first appearance). We also briefly meet Mayor Pike, see Barney’s mother for the first & last time, and find out that Barney carries only one bullet because he has a tendency to accidentally fire his gun at the floor. Andy being the smartest guy in the room despite others seeing him as merely the country bumpkin sheriff of a one horse town is a bedrock of the show.

 

 

22/21  Andy’s English Valet (S3E26) & The Return of Malcolm Merriweather (S4E28)

mb4aMany people of my generation may remember actor Bernard Fox as eccentric Dr. Bombay on Bewitched. However, my fondness for him stems from his memorable TAGS appearances as quirky Englishman Malcolm Merriweather. In Season 2 Malcolm is passing thru Mayberry on his bicycle and is employed to do some housework for Andy to pay off a fine he receives for causing an accident. It seems like a great plan at first since Aunt Bea is out of town taking care of her ill sister, but Malcolm ends up driving Andy nuts. In Season 4 Malcolm returns to Mayberry and Andy thinks it’d be a fine idea for him to help out around the house again to ease Aunt mb4bBea’s burden. However, Aunt Bea, whose ego is almost as fragile as Barney’s, isn’t on board with that and Malcolm selflessly finds a way to get himself fired. Malcolm Merriweather would return one more time in Season 6 to hilariously tussle with Ernest T. Bass.

 

 

 

20     Barney Gets His Man (S1E30)

Barney decides to ticket a pedestrian for littering, unaware that he is a dangerous escaped convict. Spooked by the sudden appearance of the state police the criminal mb5tries to run, but Barney inadvertently captures him, becoming a hero in the process. However, when word gets back that the perp has escaped again Barney becomes petrified that the guy is headed back to Mayberry for revenge. During yet another manhunt Andy decides to restore Barney’s confidence by covertly helping him re-capture the escapee. A car chase…rare in Mayberry…opens the episode.

 

 

19     The Loaded Goat (S3E18)

Some things could only happen in a small town. When farmer Cy Hudgins runs a few errands he decides to bring his goat Jimmy along. After being tied to a post just mb6outside the courthouse Jimmy gets loose and is drawn to the sound of Barney playing the harmonica, but Barney runs him off. There is an underpass being built nearby, and frequent explosions are heard throughout the episode. Jimmy finds the building where the dynamite is being stored and eats some of it. Everyone freaks out because all the sudden this goat is an incendiary device that could cause a catastrophe at any minute. In the midst of everything Otis shows up and antagonizes the animal, which is h-i-l-a-r-i-o-u-s. Eventually Andy comes up with the idea of luring Jimmy out of town by having Barney play the harmonica. Tremendous stuff from Barney, Andy, & Otis. It is hinted that Wally from the filling station might be Mayor Pike’s brother, a storyline element that was never followed up on. I’m not an explosives expert, but I’d be willing to bet the central premise…the idea that the goat might explode…is probably far-fetched, but I can live with that.

 

 

18/17     The Guitar Player (S1E3) & The Guitar Player Returns (S1E31)

mb7aJames Best is beloved by many for his portrayal of slightly unethical, cluelessly inept Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard. Way before that though he guest starred on a couple of outstanding Season 1 episodes of TAGS. In his first appearance Best portrays Jim Lindsey, a local musician who doesn’t understand how talented he really is. When Bobby Fleet & His Band with a Beat (a fantastic name) passes thru Mayberry Andy finds a way to get the band & Jim all in one place for an impromptu audition. After Jim is offered a spot in the band they all take off for their next gig. Jim returns to Mayberry seven months later (in real time anyway) a big star. He’s had a falling out with the band and become a solo act. Soon enough though suspicions are raised when Jim isn’t paying his bills. It turns out that he’s broke and is too proud to go crawling back to Bobby Fleet. As always Andy steps in to fix the problem. A couple of mb7binteresting notes. Fleet made three appearances in Mayberry (one more than Jim Lindsay ironically enough) and was portrayed by three different actors. Also, this episode marks the final appearance of Ellie Walker, who disappeared afterward, never to be heard from or spoken about again. I suppose my love for these two episodes owe an awful lot to my affection for James Best & The Dukes of Hazzard, and I’m alright with that.

 

 

16     Barney’s Uniform        (S5E8)

Barney tickets another litterbug, this time an employee at the grocery store. The guy doesn’t appreciate the ticket and tells Barney that he is going to beat him up the mb8next time he’s not on duty. As a solution Barney decides to wear his uniform all the time, which Andy finds strange. Character actor Allan Melvin makes his 7th of eight TAGS appearances, this time playing the store clerk with a nasty attitude. As always Andy comes to the rescue by recruiting the local martial arts instructor to pose as Barney to scare off the bad guy. Barney always makes us laugh, but he also evokes a certain pathos, therefore he is extended some latitude that other cowards might not be given.

 

 

15     The Cow Thief (S3E5)

Cow theft is another quintessential small town problem that just endears Mayberry to us even more. After a rash of such robberies remains a mystery high strungmb9 Mayor Stoner brings in an investigator from the state capitol. Barney is at first alarmed & offended by the mayor’s actions, but ends up trying to kiss up to the investigator. Meanwhile, Andy becomes suspicious of local troublemaker Luke Jensen and decides to set a trap to catch him in the act. It turns out that Luke is putting shoes on the cows when leading them away. Andy figures out what the big city investigator couldn’t, a common theme throughout the series. There is a rather poignant moment when Barney decides to stand by Andy and ignore the mayor’s admonitions…a wise choice indeed.

 

 

14/13    Barney and the Choir (S2E20) & The Song Festers (S4E20)

mb10aI feel like these two episodes are often confused due to similar…and in some ways contradictory…storylines. In Season 2 Barney volunteers to sing in the town choir when they find themselves in need of a tenor. The problem is that Barney couldn’t carry a tune in a pickup truck. Choirmaster John Masters (an underutilized secondary character) enlists Andy’s help to force Barney out of the group, but everything they try hilariously backfires until Andy…as always…finds a unique way to solve the problem without hurting Barney’s feelings. I’d love for my church choir to do a rousing rendition of Welcome Sweet Springtime, aka good ol’ 14A. A couple of seasons latermb10b Barney is still in the choir, but despite being tone deaf he’s been tapped to perform a solo. That is until John Masters overhears Gomer Pyle singing to himself and gives him the solo. When Gomer finds out that Barney is heartbroken about losing the solo he fakes laryngitis, but the ruse is discovered and Barney, Gomer, & Andy end up singing the song Santa Lucia together as a trio.

 

 

12     The Haunted House           (S4E2)

Opie & a pal accidentally lose a baseball in a local house that is allegedly haunted. When Andy gives Barney the task of retrieving the ball the anxious deputy tricks mb11Gomer into going with him. Barney & Gomer together are comedy gold, but of course they are ineffective at getting the job done, so Andy decides that the three of them will head back to the old Rimshaw place to take a look around. Once there weird things happen, totally freaking out Barney & Gomer. It is eventually revealed that a local moonshiner is running a still out of the house, with the knowledge of our favorite drunkard Otis Campbell. Andy discovers the still at the end of the episode. To my recollection this is the only time TAGS ever did a quasi-Halloween-ish story, and it is said to have become the inspiration for one of Don Knotts’ better known films…1966’s The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.

 

 

11     Man in a Hurry (S3E16)

Businessman Malcolm Tucker’s car breaks down as he is passing thru Mayberry on his way to a big meeting in Charlotte. Unfortunately for him it’s Sunday, and Wally mb12doesn’t work on Sundays. Gomer is at the filling station, but contrary to his alleged mechanical prowess a year later, here he is said to only know how to pump gas & inflate tires. Mr. Tucker becomes really frustrated and doesn’t understand Mayberry at all. He can’t even make a phone call on the party line because the Mendelbright sisters have it tied up all day. Andy graciously invites the exasperated businessman home for supper, and slowly the hospitality of the Taylors, Barney, & Gomer and the laidback pace of the town erode his defenses, helping him to relax just a bit. When Gomer brings his car back with a repaired fuel line (who fixed it…Gomer?? Goober?? Wally??) Mr. Tucker decides to stick around by pretending there is something else wrong with the vehicle. This is an episode that perfectly sums up what Mayberry is and who its citizens are. It makes one want desperately, especially thru the prism of our modern broken society, to find such a community and settle down there forever. Sadly we understand that to be an impossible dream, which is why we still watch TAGS a half century after it stopped production.

TAGS Episode Guide: Ranking (Not Quite) Every Episode of One of America’s Most Beloved TV Shows…Part 5

tags2Annnnd we’re back. I apologize for the nearly three month hiatus. I suppose I got caught up in focusing on football & the holidays and just kind of put this project on the backburner. If you need to catch up go to Part 4 and you’ll find links to Parts 1-3. At any rate, I ran some numbers. I was curious about the relative popularity/success of each of the first five seasons of The Andy Griffith Show, atleast thru the prism of these rankings.

*It turns out that Season 3 is the tops, with an average ranking of 67.13, including nine episodes in the Top 25 (four of those in the Top 10). The best three episodes in that season have an average ranking of 4.33, while my least favorite three episodes average a 141.33 ranking.

*The first season is next, with an average ranking of 74.06, including six Top 25 episodes (two in the Top 10). My favorite three episodes in Season 1 score an average ranking of 10.33, while the worst three average a 148 ranking.

*Third place…by a very narrow margin…goes to Season 4 with an average ranking of 74.81, including five episodes in the Top 25 (one in the Top 10). The best three episodes in that season have an average ranking of 9, while the bottom three episodes average a ranking of 150.66.

*Next is Season 2, with an average ranking of 83.13, including four Top 25 episodes (three in the Top 10). My favorite three episodes in that season average a ranking of 6, while the three least favorite episodes average out to a ranking of 153.66. Season 2 seems to be really inconsistent.

*And driving the proverbial caboose is Season 5, with an average ranking of 99.84. It only has one Top 25 episode and none in the Top 10. The best three episodes have an average ranking of 29, and the worst have an average ranking of 153.

andygriffithTAGS produced about 32 episodes per season (only 31 were made in season 2, and the final three seasons…which we aren’t dealing with here…produced only 30 each year), and I discovered a couple of interesting things. First of all, two season openers rank in my Top 10, and three other episodes which were either the 2nd or 3rd episodes of their respective seasons rank in my Top 25. I guess the folks in Mayberry came back from their summer vacation on top of their game. Also, three episodes that were the 11th show of the season rank in my Top 25 (two of those in the Top 10). I have no idea what kind of significance should be assigned to that, but I find it fascinating.

 

 

 

 

50     High Noon in Mayberry (S3E17)

Andy receives a vague letter from a man who he sent to prison, saying that he’s out of jail & coming to Mayberry. As usual Barney completely overreacts, enlisting mayberry1Gomer & Otis to help him guard Andy 24/7. As it turns out, the ex-con isn’t out for revenge…he actually wants to thank Andy for helping turn his life around. The triple threat combo of Barney, Gomer, & Otis is really funny.

 

49     Andy’s Vacation        (S4E22)

Andy is stressed out and decides to take a staycation at home. Unfortunately the good people of Mayberry won’t stop pesteringmayberry2 him, so he goes camping. But that doesn’t work either, as Barney & Gomer continually hunt Andy down seeking help with problems that arise. And then Andy meets up with & captures an escaped convict, basically rendering his vacation useless. I’ve said it before and I have to reiterate…Barney is funny, Gomer is funny, but Barney & Gomer together are comedy gold.

 

48     The Keeper of the Flame (S2E14)

Opie & his pals start a secret society and he is made “Keeper of the Flame”, which means he is in charge of the candle used at each meeting. When the barn the boys mayberry3have been gathering in burns down Opie is accused of starting the fire. Andy is prepared to pay the farmer damages, but Barney hilariously discovers…by accidentally getting snockered…that the farmer has been making moonshine and inadvertently burned down his own barn. Interesting trivia – the actor portraying the farmer wrote the lyrics to The Fishin’ Hole, which is the title of the TAGS theme song. Yes, there are lyrics!!

 

47     Andy Saves Gomer            (S4E23)

When Gomer falls asleep at the filling station a barrel of oily rags catches fire. Andy drops by and puts out the blaze, and Gomer mayberry4blows the whole thing up into Andy saving his life. Gomer dedicates his life to repaying his debt to Andy but ends up driving the entire Taylor family crazy. Of course the sheriff is smarter than anybody else in Mayberry and eventually discovers a way to convince Gomer that they are even. This episode features the return of Floyd the Barber, who hadn’t been seen in about a year after actor Howard McNear had suffered a stroke. Keen fans can pretty easily spot the differences in the character before & after the unfortunate health crisis.

 

46     Crime-Free Mayberry (S2E7)

Mayberry’s sterling reputation is always a doubled-edged sword. Criminals assuming the small town is an easy score is a recurring theme mayberry5over the years. In this instance Mayberry has been recognized & rewarded for having the lowest crime rate in the country. Two crooks posing as an FBI agent & a reporter show up looking to take advantage of the situation and rob the bank. There is some really funny stuff with Barney & Otis, and Andy is able to outsmart the bad guys as usual.

 

45     Andy and Opie’s Pal (S4E14)

When Andy befriends Opie’s pal Trey it doesn’t sit well with the younger Taylor, who becomes mayberry6jealous & petulant…definitely not a good look for the cute little tyke. The sheriff then decides to use Barney to teach the boy a lesson. Episodes that focus on the father/son relationship between Andy & Opie are some of my favorites.

 

44     Opie and the Bully (S2E1)

Andy must decide what to do when he discovers a bully is repeatedly taking Opie’s lunch money. Opie is too embarrassed mayberry7to tell him about it and Barney wants to intervene, but the sheriff believes it’d be better for Opie to handle it himself. Of course he gives the boy a nudge in the right direction by relating a story about being bullied when he was a kid. Opie eventually stands up to the bully, getting a black eye in the process, but ultimately ending the ongoing battle.

 

43     Aunt Bea’s Medicine Man  (S3E24)

A traveling “medicine” man peddling miracle elixir grabs Aunt Bea’s attention. mayberry8Of course he’s not really selling any kind of miracle…he’s getting folks snockered on hooch. Aunt Bea gooned out of her mind and singing her sweet little heart out while tickling the ivories is one of the funniest things one will ever see on TAGS. She even gets her lady friends from church smashed and Andy tosses them all in jail!! The sheriff figures out the scam pretty quickly and eventually arrests the shyster, but not before hilarity ensues.

 

42     The Bookie Barber (S2E28)

A stranger wanders in and entices Floyd with the idea of having a two chair barber shop. Since he’s been busier than usual lately Floyd jumps on the idea. However, we mayberry9soon find out that the new barber is a bookie using Floyd’s establishment as a front for his gambling operation. Andy puts bits & pieces together and realizes what is going on, but he has to go out of town and assures Barney that they’ll take care of the problem when he gets back to Mayberry. Of course the well-intentioned but ham-fisted deputy decides to take matters into his own hands…by going into the shop incognito as a little old lady. Fortunately Andy arrives just in time to save Barney’s bacon. Barney dresses in drag multiple times over the years and it’s always hilarious.

 

41     Opie’s Charity (S1E8)

Andy is disappointed in Opie for giving so little to a charity drive…until he learns the reason. It turns out that the youngster is saving mayberry10money to buy a needy friend a coat. In an amusing subplot Andy runs into a man everyone thinks is dead but it turns out that he just left his wife because she’s an irritating nag. Andy underestimating Opie happens multiple times thru the series, and it’s always heartwarming to see the sheriff humbled when he realizes he’s wrong. We’ve all been there, right??

 

40     The Sermon for Today                 (S4E4)

Mayberry wouldn’t seem to be a town in need of a sermon about relaxing & enjoying life, butmayberry11 when a visiting preacher delivers that message it turns out that it is indeed a lesson the townsfolk need to learn. An effort to put the minister’s words into effect takes a wrong turn, evolving into everyone rushing around trying to put together a band concert. Fans of the soap opera General Hospital might recognize the preacher, portrayed by actor David Lewis, who played wealthy patriarch Edward Quartermaine on GH from 1978-93.

 

39     If I Had a Quarter Million Dollars          (S5E22)

Barney finds $250,000 from a recent bank robbery. Andy calls the FBI, who indicates that they’ll send an agent to retrieve the money. Of course Barney is Barney and mayberry12he decides to launch an investigation and try to draw out the thief. So you have a potential appearance by a thief and an FBI agent coming to town, with dimwitted & overzealous Barney in the middle of the action. We know where this is headed, right??

 

38     Wedding Bells for Aunt Bea (S2E26)

After busybody Clara convinces Aunt Bea that Andy can’t move on with his life and get remarried until Bea finds a husband mayberry13our favorite old maid reluctantly responds to the flirtations of slovenly dry cleaner Fred Goss. For some reason finding Aunt Bea & Andy spouses is an obsession in TAGS, and in this episode Andy is talking about Aunt Bea getting hitched to Mr. Goss really soon after they begin dating. Of course Aunt Bea isn’t interested in Goss at all, a fact that Andy eventually realizes. Fred Goss is a quirky minor character, the kind that really fleshes out our fond impression of Mayberry. Also worth noting is the second & last ever mention of Opie’s deceased mother, and the fact that we learn that Otis has his own key to the courthouse.

 

37     TV or Not TV               (S5E23)

Andy gains some widespread notoriety after a magazine article about him, entitled Sheriff Without a Gun, is published. Three strangers come to town saying they are mayberry14Hollywood producers interested in doing a television show based on Andy, which gets Barney all excited. Not all is as it seems though, and Andy eventually discovers that the threesome are thieves who think Mayberry’s bank is an easy target (an assumption others made during TAGS’ run). The Sheriff Without a Gun story would be the launching point for a four episode arc in Season 6 in which the Taylors visit Hollywood where a movie based on the magazine article is being made. An interesting fact: Gavin MacCleod, who would go on to fame in the 70’s & 80’s as Murray Slaughter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Captain Stubing on The Love Boat, made two TAGS appearances. The first was in this episode as one of the crooks, and the second was in one of the Hollywood episodes as the actor portraying Andy in the Sheriff Without a Gun film.

 

36     Opie’s Rival (S3E10)

I’ve gone on record with my opinion that county nurse Peggy McMillan, who appeared in four episodes, is one of my favorites amongst Andy’s girlfriends. Here, in whatmayberry15 would be her final appearance, Opie becomes jealous of all the time Andy is spending with Peggy and makes efforts to torpedo the relationship. Of course deep down Opie is a good kid and ultimately tells Andy the truth. Andy doesn’t get angry but has a very empathetic conversation with the boy. I read somewhere that the powers-that-be dropped Peggy because they believed the actor and/or character was too glamorous, which would explain why the dowdy & decidedly unappealing Helen Crump eventually settled in as Andy’s permanent significant other.

 

35     The Beauty Contest (S1E16)

Founder’s Day is a big deal in Mayberry. The townsfolk celebrate it more during the run of the show than Christmas!! In this case Andy is tapped to judge a pageant as mayberry16part of the celebration and feels pressured to make multiple people…from Mayor Pike to his own son Opie…happy by picking their particular candidate. His girlfriend…Ellie Walker…is even entered in the competition. Though Andy stresses out about the situation he eventually makes the right decision, choosing an elderly lady who did a lot of work organizing the event. Episodes like this showcase the quirky but loveable community that has made Mayberry one of the most beloved of all fictional towns.

 

34     Barney’s Physical     (S5E2)

The state sets up new rules concerning the physical requirements to be a law enforcement officer. Barney is too short & thin, and thus believes he is about to lose his mayberry17job. However, Aunt Bea decides that she can fatten him up a bit and Andy comes up with a uniquely funny way to stretch him out to the proper height. Alas, at zero hour Barney hasn’t gained enough weight…until Andy figures out a hilarious loophole. The length of Barney’s law enforcement career varies throughout the series, but in this episode he is said to have been the deputy for five years (meaning he was brand new to the job when the show began).

 

33     Andy Saves Barney’s Morale (S1E20)

I feel like the title of this episode could have been used about a dozen times in the first five seasons since Andy propping up mayberry18Barney’s fragile ego is a recurring theme. In this instance Andy leaves the deputy in charge while he goes out of town for the day (Andy sure does take a lot of day trips). Upon returning Andy is pleased to find the streets of Mayberry even quieter than usual…until he discovers that it is because Barney has arrested practically the entire town, including Mayor Pike and Aunt Bea, for various lame reasons. After Andy dismisses every case Barney becomes a laughingstock and decides to quit (also a recurring theme), but Andy uses reverse psychology to get citizens to rally around the despondent deputy so he’ll get back on the job.

 

32     Opie and His Merry Men    (S4E12)

While playing Robin Hood in the woods just outside of town Opie and his pals befriend a hobo and begin stealing food from their houses to feed the poor guy. As it mayberry19turns out the man is a slothful con artist taking advantage of the children’s naiveté, using their innocent understanding of Robin Hood to encourage them to steal and paint Andy as a villainous sheriff. Andy has to trick the bum into revealing his deception in order to convince the boys of the truth.

 

31     Those Gossipin’ Men (S1E15)

When Barney cuts himself cleaning his gun Aunt Bea, Clara, & Emma Watson start gossiping and somehow the story mayberry20spreads thru town that Barney got shot. Andy teases the ladies about gossip so they decide to teach him the lesson that mean are as guilty of it as women. She sneakily gets Andy to believe in & proliferate the idea that a downtrodden shoe salesmen visiting Mayberry is a talent scout for a TV show. Multiple townsfolk show up at the poor guy’s hotel room to “order shoes” and clandestinely audition. It is only as the man is leaving that Andy realizes that he really is a shoe salesman and that the joke is on him. This episode is a shining example of what makes Mayberry such a treasured place, full of peculiar characters and wholesome charm.

 

30     Barney and the Governor  (S3E15)

While in full law & order mode Barney tickets a limo that parks in a No Parking zone. It turns out that it’s the governor’s vehicle, so Barney becomes convinced he’s mayberry21about to lose his job, especially when the governor himself tells Andy & a stressed out Mayor Stoner that he’s coming to Mayberry. In reality the governor just wants to praise Barney for upholding the law, but in true TAGS fashion the blundering deputy doesn’t know that. Things are further complicated when both Barney & the mayor inadvertently become intoxicated before the governor’s visit. The uptight Mayor Stoner is a great addition, and it’s a shame he was only around during Season 3. Drunk Barney is always a fun gag. One thing I have never understood about this episode is why the governor’s chauffer (portrayed by Ron Howard’s father Rance) was driving thru Mayberry without the governor in the first place.

 

29     Ellie Saves a Female (S1E27)

After local tomboy Frankie Flint comes into Walker’s Drug Store and looks longingly at some cosmetics Ellie becomes hellbent & determined to give her some products mayberry22for a makeover. Andy tries to talk her out of it knowing the idea won’t go over at all with her brusque father, but Ellie won’t give up even after an initial rejection by Mr. Flint. She enlists Barney’s help in covertly bringing Frankie back to town to get all dolled up. When Andy takes the young lady back home after she’s been beautified the farmer doesn’t even recognize her. Andy proceeds to use his infamous Jedi mind tricks to convince the man that it’d be more practical for his daughter to use her female charms to attract a husband. All’s well that ends well.

 

28     Barney and the Cave Rescue    (S4E13)

Andy, Helen, Barney, & Thelma Lou go on a picnic. Barney is bummed out after being teased all over town for mistakenlymayberry23 trying to arrest the bank president for breaking into the bank, so he decides to sulk with Thelma Lou by his side while Andy & Helen go exploring in a nearby cave. When Andy & Helen become trapped inside the cave Barney rallies the townsfolk for a search & rescue mission. Things don’t go exactly as planned, but Andy finds a way to make Barney look like a hero anyway.

 

27     The Horse Trader (S1E14)

The town council assigns Andy & Barney the task of selling an old worn out Civil War cannon, but they can’t even give it mayberry24away. When an antiques dealer rolls thru town Andy sees a great opportunity and…embellishes…the history of the cannon. Ellie & Barney are horrified by Andy’s dishonesty, and when Opie emulates his father’s tactics to score a pair of roller skates the sheriff sees the error of his ways. The father/son interaction is perfect as always, and both Barney & Ellie have some funny moments.

 

26     Gomer the House Guest             (S4E6)

Gomer gets fired from Wally’s Filling Station because he likes to talk too much instead of actually working (we’ve all known mayberry25people like that). The bigger issue is that he lived in a room attached to the station so now he’s homeless. Andy graciously offers to let Gomer stay at the Taylor house until he can find something more permanent, but that turns out to be a hysterical mistake. Gomer is used to living alone, which means he stays up late & does noisy chores at odd hours, and since he’s no longer at the station customers pop by late at night wanting him to diagnose what’s wrong with their vehicle. Andy, Aunt Bea, & Opie grow weary and don’t get enough sleep so they begin to turn on each other. Sheriff Taylor finally becomes fed up and decides to talk to Wally, convincing him that Gomer’s personality helps the station be successful. Wally rehires Gomer & all is well. There’s no Barney, and the continuity is a bit off since Gomer had previously been shown to know nothing about automobiles except how to pump gas, but those are minor flaws in an otherwise excellent episode.

Superfluous 7 Most Awesome Fictional Dads

Tomorrow is Father’s Day. If you are blessed enough to still have your own father around please take some time out of your day to call or visit and tell him you love him. I daddon’t have any children myself (that I know of), but I’d like to think that I would have been a pretty good father just by following the examples of my own Dad and his father, my Papaw Jim. At any rate, I thought today might be a good time to take a look at some fun examples of fatherhood as presented to us thru the prism of literature, movies, & television. So it is with deep admiration & respect to all good fathers out there that I present…..

 

from the home office in Worth County, Iowa, which contains the cities of Manly & Fertile…Worth County, where Manly men meet Fertile women…..

 

The (Supersized) Superfluous 7 Most Awesome Fictional Dads:

 

 

 

7 Sam Baldwin (Sleepless in Seattle) & Danny Tanner (Full House)
sbTwo widower Dads. 1989’s Sleepless in Seattle ranks 45th of my 100 Favorite Movies, and even though it is a rom-com there are no shortage of scenes showing Tom dtHanks’ Sam interacting with his young son. The sting of the death of the wife/mother is addressed and it is touching how father & son are getting thru the loss together. Okay sure…Sam loses points for his kid hopping onto a plane for a cross country trek to The Big Apple by himself, but all is forgiven when he chases after the boy and lovingly embraces him after he finds him at the Empire State Building. Bob Saget’s Danny Tanner may be the most unrealistically sweet father in TV history and he too loses points for needing his brother-in-law Uncle Jessie and best friend Joey to move in and help raise three young girls, but who the heck wouldn’t want such a nice guy for a Dad??

 

 

6 Daniel Hillard (Mrs. Doubtfire) & Mike Brady (The Brady Bunch)
doubtfireA divorcee & and the patriarch of one of entertainment’s first blended families. All that needs to be said about Robin Williams’ eponymous character in 1993’s Mrs. bradyDoubtfire (43rd on my list) is that the dude is willing to dress up like an old woman in order to spend time with his children. That’s devotion. I like the fact that Mrs. Doubtfire addresses divorce realistically. The parents don’t magically get back together, but they do find a way to focus on the children and do what is best for them. One thing that always struck me about The Brady Bunch was how the boys called Carol Brady Mom (she was their stepmother) and the girls called Mr. Brady Dad (he was their stepfather). Blending families is rarely that easy in the real world, but in the 60’s, 70’s, & 80’s the powers-that-be understood that folks watch television to escape from reality…a fact that seems to have been all but forgotten these days. I was dumbfounded when as an adult I learned that Robert Reed was a) gay and b) hated his role as Mr. Brady.

 

5 Bob Cratchit (A Christmas Carol)
Cratchit is mostly known as grumpy old miser Ebenezer Scrooge’s underpaid & overworked clerk in Dickens’ tale, but he is also shown to be a dedicated husband and father to six children. One cratchitof those children is Tiny Tim who is what we might call a “special needs child” in modern parlance. It is never explicitly stated what Tiny Tim suffers from, although it is likely to have been rickets, kidney disease, or tuberculosis. The problem is that Bob only makes about $2 per week and can barely afford to feed his family let alone pay for the medical care his son needs. Despite these struggles Bob Cratchit keeps a smile on his face and forges ahead, doing what must be done to provide a decent & happy life for his children. He reminds me just a bit of my own father, who had a demanding job that paid the bills but certainly never allowed us to be wealthy, and also had to spend a disproportionate amount of time, energy, & resources on me because of my disability.

 

 

 

4 Clark Griswold (The Vacation Series) & Howard Cunningham…aka “Mr. C.” (Happy Days)
cgYes Clark Griswold is a dufus. And yes he had a weird flirtation with a nameless babe in a convertible. But when you watch the Vacation movies one thing that is very clear mrcis that Clark loves his children and is devoted to his family. That’s nice to see, especially these days. Howard Cunningham forgot that his eldest son Chuck even existed, but otherwise he is the quintessential sitcom Dad. He was always around to give sage advice to Richie & Joanie, put up with Richie’s goofy friends Ralph Malph & Potsie, and even became a father figure to Fonzie. And let’s not overlook the fact that Mr. C was a business owner as well. Role models rock.

 

 

3 Cliff Huxtable (The Cosby Show) & Vito Corleone (The Godfather)
Cliff HuxtableSpeaking of role models, I have commented previously about the interesting way that the Huxtable family was presented on The Cosby Show. No housing projects or blue corleonecollar jobs for this upwardly mobile & well educated black family. Mom was an attorney and Dad was a doctor. As a father Heathcliff was patient & funny, and even when he became exasperated by the trials & tribulations of raising five children he exhibited an enviable level of composure & mercy. Now I know that mob boss Don Corleone seems like an odd choice (especially paired alongside Dr. Huxtable), but though his…imperfections…are far different from those of the aforementioned Clark Griswold I think there is a lot of similarity in the love & devotion they show their family. When eldest son Santino is gunned down and Vito sees the body in the funeral parlor he completely breaks down, distraught over “what they did to my boy”. He is clearly unhappy about Michael becoming involved in “the business” because he had higher hopes for his youngest son. Don Vito opines that “a man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man”, and I think he’s pretty spot on.

 

 

2 Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird)
What can I say about Atticus Finch that hasn’t already been echoed by a plethora of fans of both the Pulitzer Prize winning novel and the Academy Award nominated film?? Atticus is kind,  atticus-and-kidspatient, wise, intelligent, honorable, & decent. He has been hailed as a hero by some…maybe the only time in history that lawyer & hero have intersected. His two children, Scout & Jem, love and respect the man to the moon & back. The entire town of Maycomb, AL admires him. Author Harper Lee based Atticus on her own father, and I have to say that if he was half the man that Atticus is shown to be then Ms. Lee was a lucky girl indeed. Gregory Peck brought Atticus to life in the 1962 movie, and his portrayal is a nearly perfect reflection of the man we see in the book. However I would strongly urge anyone who has seen the film but not read the book to go out right now and buy the book!! As good as the movie is the book is 10x better. And if you have not partaken of either then you need to do so ASAP. The subject matter is far from pleasant, but it is presented in such an accessible way by Harper Lee that anyone who enjoys reading even just a little bit will breeze right through it in a few days. Heck I think I might just have to read the book again myself.

 

 

1 Andy Taylor (The Andy Griffith Show)
No one knows exactly what Heaven is like, but I’d like to think that somewhere up there a TV room exists where The Andy Griffith Show plays on an endless…dare I say eternal…loop. Sheriff atTaylor is a widower with one child, 6 year old Opie. Opie’s mother is never named and barely mentioned. We only know that she died when Opie was a baby. The relationship between Andy & Opie is probably one of the purest, most accurate, & honest father/son interactions we have ever seen in television, books, or movies. I say that because Andy isn’t always saccharine sweet with Opie and he doesn’t treat his son like he’s a perfect angel. Opie gets into mischief occasionally, and when that happens his father exhibits slight anger & disappointment. However Andy isn’t mean. He is always fair with Opie and desires for his son to learn from mistakes. There are times when Andy jumps to the wrong conclusion and discovers that though Opie may have technically done the wrong thing he did it for the right reasons. Sure Aunt Bea moves in to do the cooking & cleaning and to manage the household, but Andy never dodges his responsibility to raise his son. He spends time with Opie, whether it is fishing at Myers Lake, chillin’ on the front porch, or just hanging out at the courthouse on a slow day in Mayberry (which is pretty much every day in Mayberry…a huge part of its charm). He disciplines Opie, but he also talks to him, providing valuable lessons about honor, integrity, love, respect, friendship, accountability, & courage. As a matter of fact Sheriff Taylor seemingly teaches those lessons to the entire town of Mayberry. He doesn’t scream, shout, show off, or crave the spotlight…he just leads by example and does what’s right.

Top 5′s (Thanks For The Inspiration Facebook)

Ok…so…the rage on Facebook these days seems to be listing one’s Top 5 this and that. However, because I am a nonconformist, and in an effort to bring new readers to The Manofesto so they may have the privilege of discovering my brilliance, I am just going to do all my Top 5’s here at the same time. This also affords me an opportunity to pontificate on my choices, and if there’s one talent in the universe I have (atleast one that I can discuss publicly) it is most certainly pontification.

Movies – I’m not going into that right now. I’m doing a whole series on my Top 100 Favorite Movies, so you’ll just have to read that.

Books – The Bible, The Sherlock Holmes Canon, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn/Tom Sawyer, Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Animal Farm. I could go on all day. I’m a bookworm. Love to read. I like classic literature, biographies, nonfiction…..it’s all good. I did not include the works of Shakespeare because I think Shakespeare is better experienced in a live performance. I also did not include The Lord of the Rings trilogy or The Godfather because, while the books are outstanding, they are the rare case where the movie actually outshines the book. I’ve tossed around the idea of doing a Top 100 Books series, but I take reading much more seriously than I do movies so it would take much more critical thought and consideration, more effort than I’m willing to put forth at the moment. Besides, there is The Bookshelf feature here at The Manofesto.

Sports Teams – Pittsburgh Steelers, West Virginia Mountaineers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh Penguins. I’ve been a diehard Steelers and Pirates fan since before I even started kindergarten. I grew up in northcentral WV, which is Mountaineer country. Marshall University is my alma mater. I include the Penguins only to get to five. I’m not really much of a hockey fan.

Singers/Musicians/Groups – Frank Sinatra, Van Halen, The Eagles, REO Speedwagon, Boston. I could very easily list atleast a dozen more. I’ve seen all of these five in concert with the exception of Sinatra. I was born probably a decade too late to really appreciate his brilliance while he was still doing live shows. My musical tastes are very eclectic and vary widely depending upon my mood.

Candy – If chocolate is involved it’s all good. No need to narrow it down to a Top 5. However, let me take this opportunity to express my deep affection for some candy bars that aren’t produced anymore or are very difficult to find, making my love for them all the more heartbreaking in a “you always want what you can’t have” kind of way. The first is Bar None, a chocolate bar produced by Hershey’s in the mid 80’s. It was a chocolate wafer, some chocolate ganache-like filling, and peanuts all covered in chocolate. At some point they re-did it so it was two smaller bars in the package instead of one bigger bar. The original was outstanding, the revision still very tasty. Bar None was discontinued in the mid 90’s and I’d pay just about any amount of money for a case of those babies. Mallo Cups are shaped and packaged like Reese’s Cups, only instead of peanut butter the chocolate encases soft creamy marshmallow filling. Mallo Cups are still around, but they are far from ubiquitous. I actually took the step of ordering a case online directly from the company a few years ago, but it’s rather pricey. And finally I want to give some attention to Chunky bars. Chunky is a trapezoid shaped hunk of chocolate with peanuts and raisins. Very unique. And it comes in a shiny silver foil wrapper. Chunkys are still around, but they are even harder to find than Mallo Cups. I used to stumble across Chunky at my local video store, but renting movies is an archaic 20th century task, so I haven’t had one in ages.

Fast Food Joints – Wendy’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Rally’s, Hardee’s. You’ll notice the absence of McDonald’s. That’s because when examining their menu every single item is done better at other places, with the exception of french fries. McDonald’s fries can’t be beat. Anyway, I love love love Wendy’s and eat there way too much. We didn’t have a BK in my area until I was in high school so I felt deprived and put it up on a pedestal of expectation. Then in college my fraternity house was right beside a BK and I have a lot of great memories. Ditto for Taco Bell…..it has a nostalgic place in my heart dating back to the fantastic college years. We had a Rally’s here when I was a kid but it disappeared when I was in high school and I miss it. In & Out and Sonic are two places I‘ve heard great things about but haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing.

Beers – Killian’s Irish Red, Dos Equis, Rolling Rock, Heineken, Corona. I’m kind of a beer snob, eschewing blue collar brews like Budweiser and Miller Lite for the most part. But at the same time I don’t really drink a lot of beer and haven’t been exposed to much of what is out there.

Cereals – Rice Krispies, Honey Bunches of Oats, Raisin Bran, Corn Flakes, Wheaties. I’m not exactly Mr. Excitement when it comes to cereal. I like it basic and old fashioned. Not too sweet, not too cute.

All Time Athletes – Michael Jordan, Terry Bradshaw, “Dr. J” Julius Erving, Dale Earnhardt, Willie Stargell. I’m not a huge NBA guy. The closest team in proximity to my home is in Cleveland, and until recently they were an afterthought. So for me the NBA has always been more about individuals that I enjoyed watching, and in my book there were none better than Jordan and Dr. J. I cheered for the Sixers when Erving was with them and I was a Bulls fan during Jordan’s reign. That’s the closest times I’ve ever come to having a favorite NBA team. Earnhardt was one of the toughest competitors I’ve ever seen and his tragic death was very upsetting. Bradshaw and Stargell were the faces of the Steelers and Pirates during the glory years of the late 70’s, my formative as a sports fan. I limited this to athletes who I’ve actually had the privilege of seeing perform in my lifetime, which is why you don’t see people like Jim Brown or Babe Ruth.

TV Shows – Cheers, Seinfeld, Dallas, The Andy Griffith Show, Taxi. Another case where I could list many many more. I watched a lot of television as a kid. Probably too much. But atleast I can say with confidence that the shows that were on back then were really really good, unlike today where so much is pedestrian and uninspired.