100 Memorable TV Characters…The Top 25

Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn’t have in your home.  –  David Frost

 

 

 

I am easily distracted and have a short attention span. In years past I could easily finish a 500 page book within a week, and not that long ago I would have completed a fun & frivolous project like this in 3 or 4 days, but the older I get the less I seem to be able to focus and the more time it takes me to complete a task. Perhaps I’m just bored with life in general. I don’t know. Anyway, y’all didn’t stop by for me to lay on the couch and have you analyze my neuroses. If you need to get caught up with how we arrived at this point please click here. Today we reach the summit and discuss the Top 25 most memorable television characters of all time (in my humble opinion). I don’t think there are too many surprises in store, but I could be wrong. I still believe that there are writers out there creating great characters in all forms of entertainment, but sadly I think nowadays those writers and thus their characters frequently embrace a gloomier, more solemn & complex vibe. There’s nothing wrong with complexity, but for pete’s sake most of us are just trying to relax, laugh a little, and escape from the tedium of the daily grind, not join a crusade about serious worldly issues. Hollywood has become far too enamored with promoting various agendas and has forgotten how to chill out & have fun. That’s my viewpoint anyway. Your mileage may vary and that’s alright. For now though let’s recognize & give kudos to times when those left coasters got it right. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

25     Alex P. Keaton (Family Ties)

Okay okay okay…I suppose Family Ties did have a quasi-political premise. It was the 80’s and Ronald Reagan had cast his spell on a huge portion of the country, which didn’t sit well with aging 60’s radicals. And so we got a sitcom about middle-aged former hippies raising a family in Columbus, OH, with their eldest son being a right leaning yuppie Republican. However, despite that general theme the show itself didn’t deviate much from standard nuclear family fare, except that it was funny and extremely well-written & performed. Alex Keaton isn’t your typical teenager. He wears a suit to school, carries a Richard Nixon lunchbox, reads the Wall Street Journal, and actually enjoys studying economics. While Alex is depicted as somewhat uptight and often disagrees with his parents’ opinions he is never shown to be a bad guy or antagonistic, and he’s actually rather comical. He loves his family and they love him. There is a reasonably fair-minded presentation of differing worldviews, which has become all too rare just a few decades later.

 

 

24     Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Star Trek)

Dammit Manoverse…he’s a doctor, not a writer!! Admittedly my love for Bones McCoy began with the half dozen Star Trek movies produced in the 1980’s because that was my first exposure to Trek, but rest assured that he’s the same cantankerous curmudgeon even in the original series…just a few decades younger. He’s the voice of reason that tempers the reactionary passion of his captain and injects humanity into the detached analysis of the ship’s science officer. He’s also really funny and has some of the best one liners.

 

 

23     Luke Spencer (General Hospital)

Lucas Lorenzo Spencer emerged as one of the more provocatively popular leading men in soap history a few decades ago, a real accomplishment for a character that was intended to disappear after a few months. Instead, Luke’s stay in Port Charles lasted…off & on…for nearly four decades. He famously falls for beautiful young Laura Webber and rapes her at a college disco, a deed that would normally brand a character as a villain. However, Laura loves him, so Luke is redeemed and becomes a good guy. Luke & Laura’s wedding in 1982 had 30 million television viewers, which still has to be some sort of record. Over the years Luke evolved into a beloved scoundrel, always ready for an escapade or hatching a scheme to proliferate his bank account. He is the quintessential soap hero, constantly engaged in battle with the dastardly Cassadine clan while exhibiting fierce loyalty to his family, especially son Lucky, Aunt Ruby, & sister Bobbie. Luke & Laura both die and return to life a couple of times as soap characters tend to do, and eventually end their marriage. Luke moves on with bitchy socialite Tracey Quartermaine, which is arguably a more enjoyable pairing. He is a restless soul and always finds himself in hot water, but somehow makes it thru. Alcoholism becomes an issue, as well as horrible childhood memories that had been repressed for decades, both of which add layers of complexity to Luke but weren’t well-received plot points by GH fans who prefer their fun-loving scalawag instead of a depressed, broken, suicidal old man. Luke left Port Charles a few years ago and is presumably living a life of adventure somewhere in Europe.

 

 

22     Shaggy Rogers (Scooby-Doo)

Actually his given first name is Norville. Of course he is Scooby’s owner/master (or whatever title you prefer), and the two are inseparable. Shaggy is the prototypical slacker, an animated homage to Bohemian beatnik Maynard G. Krebbs from the early 60’s sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Unlike his friends, who bravely seek to solve mysteries they encounter, Shaggy is a chicken who runs at the first sign of trouble. He mostly prefers to hang out with his dog and take it easy. Oddly enough they both seem to always have the munchies, though I have no idea what that’s all about. Well-known radio personality Casey Kasem voiced Shaggy for four decades.

 

 

21     Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created the world’s foremost consulting detective in 1887, writing four novels & 56 short stories about Holmes and his trusty wingman Dr. Watson over the course of four decades. Since then Holmes has had a long life in films, television, radio, stage plays, & any other entertainment outlet imaginable. At one time Guinness had Holmes listed as the most portrayed fictional character in history, though I believe Santa Claus & Dracula are right there with him. At any rate, though (surprisingly) I have never seen Benedict Cumberbatch’s well-regarded interpretation of the treasured detective in BBC’s series Sherlock, I do fondly recall the late Jeremy Brett’s depiction in an 80’s series that ran here in America on PBS. There were 41 episodes of Sherlock Holmes, each rather faithfully adapting one of Conan Doyle’s stories. I’m sure that all 60 would have been produced had it not been for the untimely death of Brett at the age of 61. Most rankings & polls out there rate Brett’s version of Holmes as one of the 2 or 3 best, and I wholeheartedly concur.

 

 

20     Mork from Ork (Mork & Mindy)

Robin Williams was a force of nature (and cocaine)…a legendary comedian who evolved into one of the most significant actors of a generation. His acting career was launched on a 1978 episode of Happy Days in which he portrays a goofy alien from outer space who wants to take Richie Cunningham back to his home planet as a human specimen. Mork got his own spinoff in which he lands in Colorado and befriends the young & beautiful Mindy, even telling her the truth about his identity. Mork lives in Mindy’s basement for four seasons, with the two eventually falling in love, getting married, & having a “baby” (hilariously played by legendary comedian Jonathan Winters). The show itself was never great, but it was a showcase for Williams’ peerless talent and an indication of great things to come.

 

 

19     Les Nessman (WKRP in Cincinnati)

Persnickety newsman Les Nessman is probably the most overlooked part of WKRP’s greatness. Johnny Fever & Venus Flytrap are cooler, receptionist Jennifer Marlowe is sexier, & clueless boss Mr. Carlson gets a lot of laughs, but Les is the comedic gem of the ensemble. Unlike his laid-back colleagues Les is super serious about his job, approaching it as if he is an important journalist breaking momentous news on a major media outlet, whereas in reality he’s the newsman for a smallish radio station at which rock n’ roll pays the bills and news is not essential at all. Despite his erudite demeanor & professorial appearance Les is a total dufus and completely incompetent. His only area of expertise seems to be husbandry, for which he has won a Silver Sow Award and multiple Buckeye Newshawk Awards, accomplishments for which he is quite proud. He amusingly likes to imagine that his cubicle is an office, putting tape on the floor where walls would be and demanding that his co-workers knock on the imaginary door. Les Nessman’s shining moment is the 1978 Thanksgiving episode Turkeys Away, during which he gives dire news updates on a promotional gimmick initiated by Mr. Carlson that goes horribly yet hysterically awry.

 

 

18     Cliff Clavin (Cheers)

Actor John Ratzenberger originally auditioned for the role of Norm Peterson, but when he didn’t get the part he asked the producers if they had a bar know-it-all in the cast, and thus the part of blowhard mailman Cliff was created. Cliff is a middle-aged momma’s boy who is terrible with women, and like the rest of his cohorts he’s a loveable loser that would come across as sad & pathetic in reality, but somehow works as a sitcom character. The funny thing is that we’ve all known people like Cliff that are mostly full of bull and try our patience when we’re in their presence for any length of time, but despite their faults we kind of like having them around.

 

 

17     Chandler, Monica. Ross, Rachel, Joey, & Phoebe (Friends)

In retrospect Friends was better than most of us realized at the time. Oh sure it was popular, ranking as a Top 5 hit in nine of its ten seasons, and the cast became superstars, but if you watch it now in syndication almost fifteen years after the final episode aired what you realize is what a well-written & performed show it was. I can’t single out any one character from the ensemble because I feel like each was a vital part of the program’s success. Monica Geller is an OCD fussbudget, a chef by trade who acts as the de facto glue that holds the group together. Monica’s brother Ross is a neurotic paleontologist whose ex-wife became a lesbian. Ross’ best friend is Chandler Bing, a sarcastic business executive. Chandler lives across the hall from Monica with Joey Tribbiani, a dimwitted yet kindhearted struggling actor who is a bit of a ladies’ man. Monica’s childhood friend Rachel Green, a self-absorbed rich girl who left her fiancé at the altar, shows up and becomes Monica’s roommate in the inaugural episode. Rounding out the group is hippy dippy massage therapist & quirky songwriter Phoebe Buffay. They mostly assemble in Monica & Rachel’s apartment, Chandler & Joey’s place, or at the local Central Perk coffeehouse. Ross’ unrequited love for Rachel and their subsequent on again/off again relationship is a principal focus of the show thru the years, and in later seasons Chandler & Monica become involved & get married. I’m not sure it’s fair to say that any of them are accurate illustrations of real 20/30-somethings, but some of their issues do ring true and did so at a time in my life where I really appreciated that connection.

 

 

16         Fred Sanford (Sanford & Son)

For some reason Fred, an elderly black junk dealer from south central Los Angeles, always reminded me of my paternal grandfather, a retired Italian-American coal miner from West Virginia. Perhaps it is because my Papaw was a fan of the show. Fred is a widower who lives with his middle-aged son Lamont and runs his business out of his home. Fred is a feisty old dude, never hesitating to mix it up with sister-in-law Esther, next door neighbor Julio, or Lamont’s best buddy Rollo. Though he & Lamont appear to be close he is quick to belittle his son, often calling him a big dummy. Fred is oftentimes shown to be bigoted, which is played for laughs but probably wouldn’t fly with the modern day PC Police, and he is rather lazy as well as a bit of a manipulator. By far Fred’s most enduring legacy is when he would find himself in a tight spot or on the verge of having one of his harebrained schemes exposed, at which time he’d fake a heart attack and proclaim “This is the big one! You hear that, Elizabeth?? I’m coming to join you honey!!”.

 

 

15     Louie DePalma (Taxi)

Danny DeVito has had a moderately successful film career, appearing in movies like Romancing the Stone, Ruthless People, Throw Momma from the Train, Twins, Batman Returns, & Deck the Halls, but his first taste of fame came via 80’s sitcom Taxi. Louie is the dispatcher at the Sunshine Cab Company and acts as if he’s the boss, although in retrospect I’m not sure if he had any kind of authority or just likes to pretend that he does. He is a misogynistic & unscrupulous schemer who shows zero respect for any of his colleagues and is rarely at a loss for words, usually of the demeaning & insulting variety. His diminutive size coupled with an arrogant, abrasive attitude are indicative of a classic Napoleon complex. However, despite his faults Louie oftentimes does the right thing, and, in contrast to his coarse exterior, deep down there’s a big ol’ soft heart that makes an appearance on occasion.

 

 

14     Ari Gold (Entourage)

I have no idea if life in Hollywood is as…colorful…as it is depicted on Entourage, but if there really is an agent like Ari Gold I’m not sure if an actor should sign with him without hesitation or run away as fast as possible. He is ill-mannered, foul-mouthed, arrogant, belligerent, & somewhat deceitful, but is also shown to be really good at his job and truly concerned about his clients, especially rising star Vincent Chase. In contrast to Vince & his buddies, who enjoy basking in the party lifestyle like a bunch of wealthy & carefree delinquents, Ari is a faithful husband & father whose biggest fault just might be hardcore dedication to his career. Ari is one of those rare characters that demands attention, stealing every scene in which he appears.

 

 

13     Dr. Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory)

Far be it for me to fall into the “prisoner of the moment” trap, but after a decade on the air I don’t think it is an overreaction to consider Sheldon one of the best characters in television history. While TBBT writers have done a good job of remaining faithful to the ensemble dynamic of the show and still give a fair amount of screen time & storyline to everyone, it is undeniable that Sheldon is the breakout character, especially since the 9 year old version of him is already starring in a spinoff even as the original show remains one of the highest rated programs on television. I watched the first episode of Young Sheldon, but it just didn’t pique my interest. In TBBT thirtysomething Sheldon is a theoretical physicist, a genius with an eidetic memory and a total lack of social skills or emotional intelligence. He is egotistical, peculiar, somewhat irrational, & oftentimes childish. He & his pals are classic geeks who love comic books, technology, & sci-fi but know next to nothing about sports, pop culture, contemporary music, or current events. His mother is a devout Christian, and Sheldon’s devotion to science causes him to view her faith with derision, a foible that has troubled me a bit on occasion. Sheldon is an extremely well-written character whose physical comedy is an underrated portion of what has been an award winning performance.

 

 

12     Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane (The Dukes of Hazzard)

Is he a bad guy?? Not really. Is he corrupt?? I suppose, but not in the traditional sense. It’s more accurate to say that Rosco is a weak-minded follower who is easily led astray by his greedy brother-in-law Boss Hogg. It is initially revealed that Rosco had served with integrity for 20 years, but got screwed out of his pension just as he was on the verge of retirement (Dukes was a show ahead of its time). He joins in Boss’ schemes in order to get back the money he lost. All traces of bitterness soon fade away though, as Rosco evolves into a simpleminded, inept, & comical lawman. His constant companion is a lethargic basset hound named Flash, and despite his own foolishness he consistently calls deputies Enos & Cletus dipsticks. He enjoys “hot pursuit”, but it usually doesn’t work out well as he oftentimes seems to “scuff his vehicle”. Rosco genuinely cares about Boss Hogg but is also intimidated & taken advantage of by him, rarely getting more than a small fraction of whatever windfall the duo earns from their deceitful plots. He doesn’t seem to have any genuine beef with the Dukes but is regularly ordered to chase them by Boss Hogg, though they rarely get caught & easily escape when they do end up in jail. Much like Hogg, Sheriff Rosco is portrayed as far more sinister in the 2005 big screen adaptation, which is another strike against that film.

 

 

11     Gomer Pyle (The Andy Griffith Show and Gomer Pyle USMC)

Television viewers have a love/hate relationship with spinoffs. Sometimes they work, but oftentimes they fall way short of expectations. Gomer Pyle USMC lands somewhere in the middle, which isn’t intended to be negative…it’s just that it’s almost impossible to measure up to TAGS. Gomer appears in Seasons 3 & 4 of TAGS and was introduced because the actor who portrayed Floyd the Barber had a stroke and was off the show for awhile. Like most residents of Mayberry Gomer is an unsophisticated bumpkin with a friendly & gentle disposition. He works at Wally’s Filling Station and is alternately shown to know nothing about automobiles or to be an expert mechanic (TAGS had issues with continuity). He is always willing to help out when needed and is deputized by the police on several occasions, though he proves to be a totally incompetent lawman. On a few occasions Jim Nabors is able to show off his real life singing talent. Any episode of TAGS with Gomer is even more of a delight than usual, which is probably why he was given a spinoff. That show lasted for five seasons and features Gomer as he enlists in the Marine Corps and clashes with hard-nosed drill instructor Sergeant Carter. It’s a classic fish-out-of-water story, with a bit of an Odd Couple vibe thrown into the mix. I like the TAGS version of Gomer much more than I like him in the spinoff, but that probably has more to do with the overall quality of the two shows rather than the character. When Gomer leaves Mayberry the void is filled by his cousin Goober, but I’ve never enjoyed Goober as much as Gomer.

 

 

 

Television is like a library. There are a lot of library books in it, and you have to pick and choose what you take out of it.  –  David L. Wolper

 

 

 

10     Rev. Jim Ignatowski (Taxi)

The third member of the Taxi cast to make the cut is a spaced-out relic from the 60’s who might be the most entertaining dopehead not named Cheech or Chong. Iggy grew up wealthy, but his Mom died when he was very young and his father was a busy doctor, so he was mostly raised by servants. He was extremely intelligent and attended Harvard, but in a comical twist on the whole Adam & Eve/forbidden fruit concept is goaded by his girlfriend into eating a marijuana laced brownie, which leads to him permanently becoming an eccentric & absentminded burnout. Jim’s random tangents that have nothing to do with the topic of conversation are hysterical, especially when he completely forgets whatever point he thought he wanted to make. Occasional glimpses of his former intellect & deep thinking skills sneak thru the fog and he says something profound, which of course takes everyone by surprise. Iggy once opined “You know the really great thing about television? If something important happens, anywhere in the world, night or day… you can always change the channel”, which kind of sums up how I feel about TV nowadays. In an early Season 2 episode titled “Reverend Jim: A Space Odyssey” the cabbies get Jim a job, but first they must take him to the DMV so he can pass the driver’s test and get his license. It is quintessential Iggy, and quite possibly one of the best sitcom moments of all time.

 

 

9       George Costanza (Seinfeld)

For some reason I really identified with George. He is Jerry’s best friend since junior high school, and becomes pals with Jerry’s other quirky cohorts. Jerry opines that George could have been normal, but isn’t mostly because of his crazy parents. He is a self-described “short, stocky, bald man” who is alternately bombastic & self-loathing. He always looks for the easiest way to do something, or even avoids doing it altogether. He’s awkward, impulsive, insecure, narcissistic, high-strung, occasionally devious, & not good at all with women. He has several relationships throughout the series, but always manages to screw it up. I am reminded of the 1999 film Office Space, in which the main protagonist states that “it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care”, except in George’s case he actually is lazy, though not necessarily stupid. Jerry Seinfeld made a brilliant choice when he decided to play straight man and let his co-stars be the wacky oddballs with most of the comedic moments.

 

 

8       Dr. Frasier Crane (Cheers and Frasier)

Frasier Crane has the distinction of being one of the two longest running live action characters in television history, appearing in nine seasons of Cheers and, of course, all eleven seasons of the eponymous spinoff Frasier, for a total of twenty years on the air. He’d probably deserve a spot on this list for that alone, but there is so much more to love. Dr. Crane first appears in the third season of Cheers as the new beau of waitress Diane Chambers. The two are kindred spirits…pretentious intellectuals that don’t really fit into the working class pub dynamic. Alas, Diane can’t fight her attraction to bar owner Sam Malone and eventually leaves Frasier at the altar. Even after Diane departs Cheers at the end of the fifth season Frasier sticks around and becomes a regular part of the group, eventually marrying then divorcing aloof fellow psychiatrist Lilith and fathering a son with her named Frederick. When Cheers concludes Frasier moves back to his hometown of Seattle to help his brother Niles care for their father Martin, a police officer forced to retire after being shot in the line of duty. In Seattle Frasier hosts a radio talk show, so there is interaction with eccentric callers & quirky work colleagues in addition to the familial relationships. Frasier is a bit more masculine than his brother, but is just as much of a pompous elitist. He is passionate about theater, fine art, literature, & gourmet food, but because of his time in Boston is considerate toward his blue collar father’s lifestyle & hobbies, though he by no means shares those proclivities. It almost seems as if he might be bipolar because he can transition from eloquently helping a caller on his radio show in a soothing & melodious tone into an indignant fit of rage just minutes later, something that happens in nearly every episode. Despite being an alleged expert in helping other people solve their issues Frasier does not understand his own complexities and doesn’t have a great track record with the ladies. In addition to the doomed engagement to Diane & divorce from Lilith he dates a plethora of women in Seattle, but nothing ever seems to work out.

 

 

7       The Dynamic Duo (Batman)

Nearly every incarnation of Batman stays true to his gloomy origins as an orphaned billionaire who becomes a crime fighting vigilante after his parents are murdered in the gritty, violent, & sinister milieu of Gotham City. Robin is originally a young boy in a family of acrobats who witnesses his parents die in an accident arranged by a mobster, and is afterwards taken in by Bruce Wayne who becomes his legal guardian. But all of that melancholy stuff is set aside in the 1966 action sitcom that aired for three seasons on ABC. Dick Grayson (aka Robin) is still the “youthful ward” (now a teenager) of billionaire Bruce Wayne (aka Batman), and the two team up to fight crime in Gotham City, but the atmosphere is bright, the dialogue is cleverly corny, the villains are hardly intimidating, & the end result is delightfully absurd. Adam West’s interpretation of Bruce Wayne/Batman is funny because the character takes every situation so seriously, delivering his lines in a solemn & melodramatic tone. This incarnation of Robin is enthusiastic & peppy, but not annoyingly so. The entire show is cheeky & whimsical, a definite departure from the norm and a risky choice that paid off. Joel Schumacher’s 1997 film Batman & Robin starring George Clooney as The Caped Crusader attempted to borrow the cheesy vibe, but it fell flat because…well, let’s face it…Clooney isn’t Adam West.

 

 

6       Archie & Edith Bunker (All in the Family)

Contrary to popular belief the idea of Hollywood idealists using their entertainment platform to promote an agenda and talk down to the masses about issues that common folks in flyover country are allegedly ignorant about isn’t a brand new concept conceived in the 21st century…it’s just that they used to be much better at it. Norman Lear did a lot of it in the 1970’s and did it quite well, creating shows like Sanford & Son, One Day at a Time, Maude, Good Times, & The Jeffersons. By far his greatest creation was All in the Family, centering on a working class family in Queens, NY. The head of the household is Archie Bunker, an ill-tempered, opinionated, & narrow-minded loading dock foreman. He is an equal opportunity contrarian who insults just about every minority, religion, & nationality. He is especially dismissive of his ultra-liberal son-in-law, who he calls Meathead. However, despite his gruff exterior, deep down Archie is a loving & decent man who cares about his family and friends, though he often becomes impatient with wife Edith, who he calls Dingbat. Edith is rather ditzy, but she’s usually quite jovial & compassionate, the sort of person who might get on one’s nerves but you just can’t help but like. She’s a bit of a throwback…a submissive & dedicated wife, mother, and grandmother that would be scoffed at by modern day feminists. The Bunkers are extreme caricatures certainly created to make a point. Archie is intended as a mean-spirited dig at conservative values, while Edith’s kindhearted yet naïve subservience is meant as negative commentary on the traditional but allegedly outdated idea of the stay-at-home housewife. But an odd & unexpected thing happened…the audience actually liked & identified with them. Fans understood that conservatives aren’t really evil racists and easily dismissed many of Archie’s more exaggerated traits while realizing that some of his views had merit. They were able to chuckle at Edith’s comical zaniness while recognizing that being a traditional housewife isn’t a horrible thing. People saw thru the self-righteous poppycock of Meathead and agreed with Archie’s assessment of him. Decades later folks who are now much more aware of media bias can clearly see how Lear attempted to manipulate the conversation…and how he failed miserably.

 

 

5       Arthur Fonzarelli (Happy Days)

Fonzie was never intended to be a significant part of the Happy Days cast. He is introduced as a local mechanic who Ritchie & Potsie occasionally bump into at Arnold’s Drive-In. He didn’t even wear a leather jacket at first because the powers-that-be were concerned about him looking too much like a hoodlum (which is old school slang for what we’d now call a gang member). But Fonzie is too awesome to be held down by The Man, and eventually became a central part of the show. He’s all about being cool and chillin’ with the ladies. He has the ability to make a jukebox work with the pounding of his fist, and women flock to him with the snap of a finger. Richie, Potsie, & Ralph Malph all look to Fonzie for advice about various issues, and the Cunninghams treat him like a member of the family. In the beginning he is a high school dropout, but eventually completes his education, and at various points owns a garage, is part owner of Arnold’s, & even becomes a high school teacher. Fonzie’s oddest contribution to pop culture is the 1977 fifth season opener in which, after helping a couple of Hollywood producers passing thru Milwaukee deal with mechanical issues, he finds himself in Tinseltown for a movie audition. While there he is challenged by an obnoxious jerk to a water skiing duel (a laughable idea at best). During the competition Fonzie literally leaps over a tiger shark in the water. Though Happy Days would continue for six more seasons that episode was cited by some as a moment indicative of a decline in quality, therefore popularizing the term “jumping the shark”. Fonzie became so popular that some wanted to rename the show Fonzie’s Happy Days, but actor Henry Winkler adamantly refused and insisted that Ron Howard continue to receive top billing. I believe that, even to this day, more than thirty years after Happy Days went off the air, one can still see Fonzie’s leather jacket on display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC, which is a pretty cool legacy.

 

 

4       Captain Kirk & Mister Spock (Star Trek)

This may be the strangest variation on the Odd Couple formula ever seen on television. James Tiberius Kirk hails from Iowa and is Starfleet’s youngest & best yet most rebellious officer. While a student at Starfleet Academy he is the only person to ever overcome a training exercise called the Kobayashi Maru, a moral dilemma and no-win scenario that Kirk defeats by reprogramming the computer. Though his solution is what most would consider cheating he is actually commended for original thinking. That one story sets the stage for everything we see afterward from Captain Kirk. He is brash, passionate, bold, dedicated, & extremely smart. He thinks outside the box and doesn’t back down from a fight. The yin to Kirk’s yang is his science officer Mr. Spock, a half alien whose mother is human while his father is Vulcan. Spock exhibits many Vulcan traits, primarily the predisposition to rely on logic & reason and leave emotion out of their thought process. It is this ability that enables Spock to balance Kirk’s intensity and inclination to jump in with both feet. Spock can present all the options to Kirk along with every possible outcome. Conversely, since Spock is essentially a computer with legs it is Kirk that oftentimes explains concepts like feelings, humor, & emotions to him, helping him to make sense out of the foolish & illogical things that human beings tend to do. The two men don’t always understand each other, but have immense respect & admiration for one another and might have been television’s first bromance.

 

 

3       JR Ewing (Dallas)

Entertainment used to be very clear about the differences between heroes & villains. In old westerns the good guys would literally wear white cowboy hats, while the bad guys would wear black hats (an idea some would undoubtedly consider racist nowadays). However, somewhere along the line the concept of the anti-hero became prevalent, wherein a character might not necessarily be evil but certainly has dubious ethics & selfish motives. JR Ewing is the eldest son of a wealthy oil baron who eventually takes over the family business. He loves his family, but tends to love his money just a little bit more. Dallas originally intended to focus on the Romeo & Juliet-esque romance of JR’s younger brother Bobby and his new wife Pam, the daughter of patriarch Jock Ewing’s most bitter enemy, but JR’s penchant for screwing over everyone…business rivals, his family, his wife…with a sly grin on his face made him the character everyone loved to hate. It was always a treat to see who JR was going to cheat, shake down, intimidate, & defeat next. He is always a few steps ahead of everyone else, especially the honorable & benevolent Bobby, as well as Cliff Barnes, Bobby’s inept brother-in-law and JR’s spirited but overmatched nemesis. Dallas reached its pinnacle at the end of Season 3 when it popularized the concept of the cliffhanger after an unknown assailant tried to murder JR Ewing. During the entire summer of 1980 America was abuzz with the question “Who shot JR??”, a mystery that was solved that November in what remains the third most watched television episode in history, bested only by the series finales of MASH & Cheers. I was a kid when Dallas was on the air, and one of my most cherished memories is what a kick my Dad got out of it whenever JR was revealed to be the dastardly mastermind behind a scheme that had vanquished Cliff, Bobby & Pam, JR’s wife Sue Ellen, or one of Ewing Oil’s many adversaries. Dad was genuinely entertained by JR Ewing in a way that few people seem to be by anything on television these days.

 

 

2       Cosmo Kramer (Seinfeld)

Seinfeld has four of its characters on this list…two of them in the Top 10. Kramer lives in an apartment across the hall from Jerry and has been described as a “hipster dufus”, although I’m not exactly sure what that means. He has a unique fashion sense, as well as peculiar tastes in things like food, sports, cigars, & women. He is neurotic in a way unseen on television before or since, fearing clowns & mice and having seizures whenever he hears the voice of Entertainment Tonight host Mary Hart.  In nearly every episode Kramer busts into Jerry’s apartment with a combination smile & look of perpetual amazement. He doesn’t seem to have a job and supports himself with get rich quick schemes & wacky entrepreneurial ideas, sports betting, publishing a coffee table book about coffee tables, & a brief but lucrative gig as an underwear model. To call him quirky or eccentric would be an epic understatement. His philosophies & perspectives aren’t by any means normal, yet they oftentimes make sense in a way one would have never imagined to be possible. Kramer really isn’t comparable to any other character in any form of entertainment. He is a unique creation, with credit given to Seinfeld’s stellar writing as well as actor Michael Richards’ flawless physical comedy.

 

 

1       Deputy Barney Fife (The Andy Griffith Show)

TAGS can easily be separated into two eras…its first five seasons and then its final three. While it’s true that those two time periods are most easily distinguished by the fact that Seasons 1-5 were broadcast in black & while before switching to color in the latter three years, a more significant difference is the departure of Barney Fife at the end of the fifth season. Barney is the excitable & ham-fisted deputy in Mayberry. Early on we are told that he is Andy Taylor’s cousin, but that relationship was only alluded to a couple of times and from then on the two are merely lifelong best friends & co-workers. Barney reminds me a bit of WKRP’s Les Nessman in the sense that he takes his job very seriously and is hilariously overzealous. There are also shades of Cheers’ Cliff Claven, with Barney’s incompetent attempts to present himself as a know-it-all when the truth is that he has no clue what he’s doing or talking about. Barney’s bravado is poorly disguised window dressing for tremendous neuroses and low self-esteem, and Andy selflessly goes above & beyond to save his deputy’s fragile ego on multiple occasions. Everyone likes Barney but few respect him, and respect is what he craves. He tends to overreact, while Andy is laid-back & steady. Barney is emotional, anxious, & easily taken advantage of by others, but despite his numerous shortcomings he is the heart of TAGS, and his absence during the program’s latter three seasons left a hole that was never quite filled. In Season 6 Floyd the Barber’s nephew Warren Ferguson becomes Mayberry’s new deputy, but he only lasted 11 episodes before the character was never heard from or spoken of again. Immediately following actor Don Knotts’ exit TAGS played with the idea of making a character who’d been introduced as a banjo player at a carnival the new deputy, but actor Jerry Van Dyke declined the opportunity. In hindsight the plan might have actually worked out for the show, but obviously that didn’t occur. Gomer Pyle’s cousin Goober was given the primary role as Andy’s sidekick, but I never really warmed up to Goober. As I’ve stated previously the final three seasons of TAGS were just dandy and it is still terrific TV, but it just isn’t the same, and I can’t think of any better example of a character’s exodus so significantly altering the fabric of a show.

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.

TAGS Episode Guide: Ranking (Not Quite) Every Episode of One of America’s Most Beloved TV Shows…Part 3

Welcome back. If you haven’t done so please go back and peruse Parts 1 and 2.

 

bestLooking back TAGS had an impressive lineup of guests & bit players that would go on to have nicholsonnotable careers. That list includes James Best (Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane on the Dukes of Hazzard), comedian Don Rickles, Jerry Van Dyke (Coach), Gavin MacCleod (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Love Boat), Barbara Eden (I Dream of Jeannie), Denver Pyle (Uncle Jesse on The Dukes of Hazzard), Bill Bixby (The Incredible Hulk), legendary movie stars Jack Nicholson & George Kennedy, Jack Albertson (Chico & The Man), Morgan Brittany (Dallas), Richard Bull (Nels Oleson on Little House on the Prairie), William Christopher (Father Mulcahey on MASH), Jackie Coogan (Uncle Fester on The Addams Family), Ellen Corby (The Waltons), Bob Denver (Gilligan’s Island, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis), Buddy Ebsen be(Jed Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies), Jamie Farr (Klinger on MASH), Ann Morgan Guilbert (The mccNanny, Grumpier Old Men), Pat Hingle (Batman), Alan Hale Jr. (The Skipper on Gilligan’s Island), Howard Hesseman (Dr. Johnny Fever on WKRP in Cincinnati), Larry Clovis (Hogan’s Heroes), Allan Melvin (Sam the Butcher on The Brady Bunch), actor/director Rob Reiner (Meathead on All in the Family), and Lee Van Cleef (The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly).

 

Now on with the countdown.

 

 

 

 

100   The New Housekeeper (S1E1)

Technically the concept for TAGS was introduced in a February 1960 episode of Make Room For Daddy, aka The Danny Thomas Show. However thishousekeeper is the first standalone episode of the show. The powers-that-be must’ve been on their game…the show premiered just 8 months after the pilot. We meet Sheriff Taylor and his son Opie as they are celebrating the wedding of their housekeeper Rose. Because Rose is moving out of town with her new husband Andy’s Aunt Bea comes back to Mayberry from Morgantown, WV (the real life hometown of Don Knotts) to take care of Andy & Opie. It is implied that Aunt Bea is from Mayberry but had spent a few years in West Virginia. Six year old Opie is very attached to Rose, who presumably took care of him since he was a baby, so he doesn’t quite warm up to Aunt Bea at first. However when Aunt Bea attempts to leave because she can see the boy is unhappy he begs her to stay. This is a great introduction to the core characters…Andy, Opie, Aunt Bea, & Barney…and it gets better from there.

 

 

 

99     The Rivals         (S3E28)

Opie has a crush on a classmate, but she just isn’t that into him. When Thelma Lou tries lift Opie’s spirits the boy starts crushing on her and Barney feels left out in the cold. Classic Barney, and great father/son stuff between Andy & Opie. A very sweet episode.

 

 

98     Aunt Bea’s Brief Encounter (S2E9)

Aunt Bea becomes enamored with Mr. Wheeler, an itinerant handyman who stops by to help her with some rosebushes. Upon finding out that the wheelerman lives in his truck Andy & Aunt Bea ask him to stay with them for a bit and do some work around the house, but he keeps weaseling out of doing any actual work. After a comment from the mailman about Mr. Wheeler’s soft hands Andy becomes suspicious and finds out the “handyman” is just a freeloader that takes advantage of kindhearted women like Aunt Bea. Andy manages to scare off the scoundrel and all is well.

 

 

97     Bringing Up Opie       (S1E32)

Concerned about negative influences on Opie’s behavior Aunt Bea talks Andy into restricting Opie’s visits to the jail. The boy quickly becomes bored in the afternoon hours after school and wanders off only to fall asleep in the back of a truck that drives off away from Mayberry. There are some heartwarming father/son moments between Andy & Opie, and that’s always a good thing.

 

 

96         Three’s a Crowd (S2E27)

Andy decides to court lovely county nurse Mary Simpson. However every time he is alone with her Barney shows up and obliviously interjects himself simpsoninto the situation. When Andy finally explains things to Barney (in a nicer way than anyone else in the world probably would) the overzealous deputy jumps to the conclusion that the sheriff is about to become engaged. Hilarity ensues. This is the second & final appearance of Nurse Mary. The actress is absolutely beautiful and it’s a shame she & the character disappeared without a trace just like a couple other ladies that Andy dated.

 

 

95     Divorce, Mountain Style    (S4E25)

Charlene Darling wanders down from the hills seeking to divorce her husband Dud. Of course with The Darlings nothing is ever simple or normal, so a barneyhorse1divorce in their world entails some sort of weird hillbilly ritual, which is really funny. In the midst of this craziness Charlene…who has been sweet on Andy since the moment she met him…decides she’s wants to marry the sheriff. Fortunately Andy & Barney find a way to “curse” the union and scare Charlene away. That curse involves Barney dressing in black and riding a horse at midnight…or something like that. It’s hysterically entertaining stuff. There’s no Opie or Aunt Bea in this episode, but that’s alright. Charlene is a real looker and might have been a good match for Andy, but that possibility was never seriously explored. Bob Denver portrays Dud, replacing the actor who’d played the character on two previous occasions. Denver had just spent four seasons playing beatnik Maynard G. Krebs on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, and a few months later would begin a three year tour as the titular character on Gilligan’s Island.

 

 

94     Goodbye, Sheriff Taylor    (S5E10)

When Andy goes to Raleigh to interview for a detective job he makes Barney acting Sheriff. Barney deputizes Otis & Goober, and chaos quickly ensues. At the end of the day Barney realizes that “sheriffin’” is far different than “deputyin’”, and Andy decides to stay in Mayberry. Ironically at the end of the season it would be Barney moving to Raleigh to become a detective.

 

 

93     The Manicurist (S2E16)

A young & beautiful manicurist sets up a space in Floyd’s barber shop. The men of Mayberry are a little wary of her presence at first, but quickly warm edenup to her, upsetting their wives in the process. The manicurist is portrayed by Barbara Eden, who would begin her belly-baring gig on I Dream of Jeannie a few years later. This episode marks the final appearance of Mayor Pike, as the actor passed on before the show aired. It is also the last of a half dozen appearances by town hypochondriac Emma Watson.

 

 

92     One-Punch Opie (S3E14)

Opie figures out that the new kid in town is a menace who isn’t worth the trouble. When Opie stands up to him the bully runs off like a coward. The mixture of comedy from Barney and classic father/son stuff from Andy & Opie is the kind of balancing act that makes TAGS great.

 

 

91     Bailey’s Bad Boy (S2E15)

Why is it that people think they can speed thru Mayberry?? And why does everyone who gets caught doing so have to make things so difficult on poor bixbyAndy?? In this case the perp is a spoiled young man from an affluent family who arrogantly thinks his Daddy will come to his rescue. After Andy takes him fishing and to Sunday dinner at his house the young punk begins to soften a bit, especially after observing the sheriff do some parenting with Opie. There is some really funny stuff in this episode from Otis, and of course the father/son relationship between Andy & Opie is one of the foundations of the whole series. The arrogant speeder is portrayed by Bill Bixby, who would go on to sustained success in three different shows… My Favorite Martian, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, & The Incredible Hulk.

 

 

90     Andy and Opie – Bachelors       (S3E4)

Aunt Bea goes out of town to visit a relative. While she’s away Andy’s girlfriend Peggy McMillan steps up to take care of he & Opie. Peggy is a nurse just like a previous Andy paramour…Mary Simpson. Maybe Andy likes sponge baths or something. Anyway, Floyd gets into Andy’s head, convincing him that Peggy is trying to push her way into the Taylor household and trick Andy into proposing. Andy really seems to be afraid of commitment…perhaps because others are always trying to shove him into one. There’s a really sweet scene with Andy playing guitar & singing on the front porch with Peggy while Opie listens. We never saw Helen Crump do that. Poor little Opie seems to crave a mother’s attention. Darn shame Andy made him wait so long and passed up such splendid candidates.

 

 

89     Andy and Barney in the Big City (S2E25)

This episode is a rarity in that it is set almost entirely outside of Mayberry. Andy & Barney travel to Raleigh to try to get more funds for their bigcitydepartment. Barney proceeds to get involved in tracking down a jewel thief at the hotel. Of course being Barney he pegs the wrong guy (the house detective in fact) for the crime, and it’s up to Andy to set things right. Classic Barney. Hardcore purists might have an issue with the lack of Mayberry-ness, but I’m okay with it since it doesn’t occur often.

 

 

88     The Luck of Newton Munroe      (S5E29)

A fast-talking traveling salesman comes to Mayberry. Unfortunately everything he sells turns out to be a hunk of junk. Andy takes pity on the young ricklesman and asks him to paint his house, with hilarious results. The salesman is portrayed by comedian Don Rickles, who guest starred on a ton of TV shows in the 60’s, as well as doing movies like Kelly’s Heroes and several “Beach” films starring Frankie Avalon & Annette Funicello, all while headlining shows in Vegas and hanging out with Frank Sinatra.

 

 

87     Class Reunion (S3E19)

Andy & Barney attend their 20 year high school reunion and Andy meets up with an old girlfriend. There is definite chemistry peggymccayandygbetween the two, but while Andy’s heart is in Mayberry his lady friend has left small town life in the rear view mirror, which proves to be an insurmountable obstacle. This episode aired in 1963, and it is indicated that Andy & Barney graduated in 1945, so the math doesn’t quite add up. Sharp eyed viewers of soap opera Days of Our Lives will recognize Andy’s gal pal as being portrayed by actress Peggy McCay. McCay has played matriarch Caroline Brady on DOOL for over three decades.

 

 

86     Barney Fife, Realtor (S5E16)

Barney takes on a second job as a real estate agent. He soon convinces Andy to look into purchasing a bigger house while concurrently selling his own. Opie hilariously spills the beans to prospective buyers about work that needs done on the Taylor homestead, because of course his Paw has taught him all about being honest. Similarly, the house that Andy is interested in has its own issues. At the end of the day everyone decides to stay put where they are, and Barney’s second career seems to end just as quickly as it began.

 

 

85     The Big House (S3E32)

Barney & Gomer are in charge of guarding two criminals while Andy is out catching the other two members of their gang. The twosome are inept on kennedyan individual basis, and together they are hysterically incompetent. The prisoners keep escaping, but Andy keeps bringing them back before they get too far. George Kennedy makes a brief appearance as a state police detective, four years before he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in Cool Hand Luke.

 

 

84     Briscoe Declares for Aunt Bea  (S4E5)

Briscoe Darling becomes enamored of Aunt Bea, but when she resists his advances he kidnaps her. Andy comes up with the idea of Aunt Bea trying to force Briscoe to clean up his act and become more civilized. The ploy works, as he gets mad at Aunt Bea and promptly ends the “relationship”. This is the only time we see the Briscoes without Charlene.

 

 

83     Andy and the New Mayor  (S3E3)

Less than a year after the final appearance of Mayor Pike there’s a new head official in Mayberry. Mayor Roy Stoner is uptight & demanding, and he mayor12clashes with Andy because of the sheriff’s easygoing way of handling situations. In this case the mayor becomes angry when Andy temporarily releases a prisoner so that he can go tend to his farm, with the promise that he’ll return in three days. When the man doesn’t return on time Mayor Stoner goes in search of him, with the kind of hilarious conclusion only TAGS can provide.

 

 

82            Barney and Thelma Lou, Phfftt    (S4E30)

While giving Thelma Lou a ride to Mount Pilot Gomer lets slip an offhand comment that Barney made about having Thelma Lou “in my hip pocket”. Naturally this upsets Thelma Lou, who then decides to use clueless Gomer to make our favorite deputy jealous. Gomer enlists Andy’s help to extract himself from the situation, and as usual Sheriff Taylor straightens out the chaos. No Opie or Aunt Bea in this episode, but that’s okay.

 

 

81            Andy’s Rich Girlfriend (S3E2)

Andy Taylor had a few girlfriends in the first few seasons of TAGS, but by far my favorite is nurse Peggy McMillan. She was portrayed by actress joanna_moore_13Joanna Moore, who would go on to become the wife of Ryan O’Neal and the mother of Tatum O’Neal. In this episode we are introduced to Peggy as she & Andy go on a double date with Barney & Thelma Lou. When Andy finds out Peggy comes from a wealthy family Barney gets in his head and convinces him that Peggy is out of his league. Andy begins avoiding Peggy which leads to an argument. Thankfully the two eventually kiss & make up. Perhaps the relationship might have worked out if other people would’ve stopped sticking their nose where it didn’t belong.

 

 

80     Barney’s Sidecar       (S4E16)

Sensing a need for more patrols to catch speeders Barney buys a motorcycle…complete with sidecar…at an army surplus auction. Barney really gets sidecarinto it, even donning goggles & a leather jacket, but the townsfolk in Mayberry just laugh at him. He also overdoes it with the speed trap, pulling boxtrucks over for going only 5mph over the limit (flexibility they’ve always been given to get over a nearby hill), and ticks off everybody in town with his overzealous enthusiasm with his new toy. Andy cleverly figures out a way to convince Barney that the bike is an historic artifact and gets him to donate it to a museum.

 

 

79     The Mayberry Band (S3E8)

The Mayberry town band wants to go to Raleigh for a statewide competition. The only problem is they’re horrible. Mayor Stoner refuses to let the group participate and embarrass Mayberry, but with a little help from Freddy Fleet & His Band with a Beat Andy is able to convince the Mayor to fund the trip. Freddy Fleet was known as Bobby Fleet on two previous TAGS appearances, and writers affiliated with the show later admitted that the continuity error was simply a mistake. The character was portrayed by three different actors, adding to the confusion.

 

78     The Clubmen (S2E10)

Andy’s fishing buddy from Raleigh invites the sheriff up to the capitol city to hobnob with snooty members of The Esquire Club. Andy gets permission to bring Barney along. Unfortunately Barney tries a little too hard to make himself seem sophisticated, in the process coming across as a buffoon. A few days later Andy is extended an invitation for membership, but he politely turns it down when Barney is rejected. There is a really funny scene at the beginning when Andy catches Barney napping in the courthouse and Barney tries to play it off. Don Knotts always did some of his best acting with his expressive face and bulging eyes.

 

 

77     The Shoplifters          (S4E21)

When Ben Weaver reports that things have been coming up missing from his store Barney decides to investigate. In one hilarious scene Mr. Weaver shoplifterand Barney mistakenly hunt each other down late at night in the store while the security guard sleeps thru almost the whole thing. When that idea doesn’t work Barney decides to go undercover as a store mannequin, with hilarious results. In the end Barney does end up catching the perp…with an assist from Andy. A different, much younger, actor portrays Mr. Weaver due to the death of the performer who’d played the character in three previous episodes. A better writer would’ve specified the character here to be Ben Weaver Jr., but continuity wasn’t a strong suit of the folks in charge of TAGS.

 

 

76     Andy and Opie, Housekeepers (S1E23)

Aunt Bea jumps on Andy & Opie for being slobs, and then she is called way to help out a sick relative in Mt. Pilot for a few days. Andy & Opie are determined to keep the house tidy in Aunt Bea’s absence but fail miserably. They hurry to clean it up before she returns, but then Andy decides that Aunt Bea might feel unneeded so they mess it up again. However while the boys are on their way to pick up Aunt Bea at the bus station Clara Edwards (called Bertha Edwards in what is her inaugural appearance) decides to pop in and clean the house for them. When the Taylors return they’re all surprised at how clean the living room is, but Opie has enough time to mess up his room again and Andy trashes the kitchen to spare Aunt Bea’s feelings. When Aunt Bea says the house looked like a pigpen when she got home Miss Edwards is hilariously offended. Opie is adorable in this episode.

 

 

 

 

 

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

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.

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

tags2Citizens of The Manoverse may recall that a few years ago I rated The Andy Griffith Show as my 2nd favorite television show of all time. It lost out to Seinfeld by a thread only because Seinfeld actually aired its first run in my lifetime, whereas TAGS was off the air years before I was even born. It was broadcast on CBS from October 1960 to April 1968 on Monday nights on CBS and featured the small town adventures of Sheriff Andy Taylor, his young son Opie, blundering deputy Barney Fife, & Andy’s Aunt Bea, along with various residents of idyllic Mayberry, NC. Though original episodes ended decades ago TAGS has never truly been gone, as it has continuously aired in syndication. And of course nowadays, thru the magic of home video and streaming, it is even more readily available to fans. So awhile back I got an idea.

 

I have decided to rank 159 episodes of TAGS. Now you may saying “Wait…wait…weren’t there 249 episodes over 8 seasons??”, and you’d be right. andygriffithHowever, there is a definitive split in the history of the show. When Don Knotts signed on to play Barney Fife he was told by Andy Griffith that the plan was to do five seasons. After those five years were up Knotts signed a movie deal that he couldn’t get out of when Griffith decided to keep the TV program going for three additional seasons. Therefore, Deputy Fife was quietly written out, taking a “big city” job as a detective in Raleigh. Concurrent with that change the show also switched technology and was produced in color for seasons 6-8 as opposed to black & white. I’m sure back then this was seen as an advancement, but thru the nostalgic prism that we view TAGS today the shift diminishes its quaint charm. New writers were also brought in, and they replaced the comedic genius of Barney Fife with other players, mainly dimwitted mechanic Goober Pyle and uptight, socially inept county clerk Howard Sprague, characters that have never been among my favorites. It’s not that TAGS was a bad show in its final three seasons. I’d choose to watch any of those episodes over 95% of the drivel on television these days. But for the purposes of this exercise I am concentrating on the first five seasons, broadcast in delightful B&W and showcasing the lovely town of Mayberry, a place that I can only assume is a fictionalized representation of Heaven. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

159   A Black Day for Mayberry (S4E7)

$7 million in gold is clandestinely passing thru Mayberry on its way to Fort Knox, but when Barney accidentally spills the beans the whole town barney1eventually finds out and completely overreacts. Seriously…they throw a freakin’ parade for an armored car. I love the idiosyncrasies of small town life and Mayberry usually captures such minutia in an appealing & comical way, but this is just weird. Both Ron Howard’s father Rance and brother Clint appear in the episode. Rance made four TAGS appearances as various characters, and Clint appeared five times as little Leon who never says a word.

 

 

158   Mayberry Goes Bankrupt (S2E4)

Andy is forced to evict an eccentric old man for failing to pay back taxes, but when the man finds a century-old savings bond which has grown to a value of over $300K he appears to have the town over a barrel. This is the kind of story that couldn’t be told nowadays because of course the man would just lawyer up and get his money, but since it was written over fifty years ago the mayor & Andy simply explain that the town doesn’t have the money and the man is forced to accept several people pitching in to fix up his dilapidated house as an adequate substitute. Then right at the end of the episode it is said that the bond may have been issued with Confederate money after North Carolina seceded during The Civil War, making it worthless. The question is never really answered. Very odd entry into the TAGS canon.

 

.

157   Andy the Marriage Counselor    (S1E18)

Andy tries to mediate for a couple who frequently cause calls to the police due to their raucous domestic disputes. As always Sheriff Taylor finds a tags4unique solution to the problem. The episode is notable for a few reasons. First, we get to see Barney practicing judo, which is hilarious. Secondly, the actor portraying one half of the quarreling couple is Jesse White, who would go on to become the lonely Maytag repairman in a series of commercials for over two decades. And finally, one must understand that whenever it looks like its nighttime in Mayberry it’s really not. The show was filmed during the day and a special night filter was utilized on the camera. This is its inaugural use. Unfortunately, while many attitudes & ideals expressed on TAGS make us hearken back to a simpler time and yearn for an America that has slipped into the wistful mist of history, seen thru the prism of modern sensibilities domestic violence is strange fodder for comedy.

 

 

156   Opie Flunks Arithmetic      (S5E30)

When Helen informs Andy that Opie isn’t doing well in math he isn’t overly concerned. But when Barney butts in and gets Aunt Bea all worked up about the boy’s future Andy decides to crack the whip. That approach backfires. This is the final appearance of Barney Fife as a regular cast member, although he does visit a few times in later seasons. It’s funny how things have changed over the decades. Today when a star departs a TV show we know about it well in advance, the exodus is written into the script, and a big deal is made about the whole thing. But when Barney Fife…one of the most beloved characters in television history…left TAGS he was just there one day and gone the next, with nary a mention of where he went.

 

 

155   Floyd the Gay Deceiver    (S3E9)

Floyd has pretended to be a rich entrepreneur in letters to a wealthy widowed pen pal, but when she suddenly decides to visit Mayberry the lonely tags5barber has to live up to the ruse. For some reason Andy, normally a man of steadfast integrity, decides to help in the deception and as usual in these situations things don’t go smoothly. In an interesting twist it turns out that the woman is lying as well. Remember kids…honesty is the best policy.

 

 

154   Goober Takes a Car Apart          (S5E17)

Andy has to go out of town. Barney is out of town as well. Someone has to man the courthouse, and the only person available is Goober, who proceeds to inexplicably dismantle a car and reassemble it inside the building. Goober-centric episodes don’t usually frost my cupcake. There is a reason Gomer got a spinoff and Goober didn’t.

 

 

153   A Medal for Opie        (S2E19)

Opie signs up for the 50 yard dash at the annual Sheriff’s Day event and fantasizes about winning a medal, but when he comes in last he doesn’t take ittags6 well…at all. Opie is usually a cute, easygoing, good kid, but here he morphs into a petulant brat. Of course Andy steps in to teach the lad about good sportsmanship and being an honorable loser. There is some fun interaction between Opie and Barney, who volunteers to be a coach/trainer.

 

 

152   Stranger in Town       (S1E12)

Citizens of Mayberry become suspicious of a new arrival from NY City who seems to know everything about them. It turns out that he had an Army buddy from Mayberry and fell in love with it thru the stories he was told by that friend. When an angry mob confronts the stranger it is Andy who steps in and gives the situation a positive spin. We meet barber Floyd Lawson in this episode, although he is portrayed by a different actor than the one who would become synonymous with the character. It’s funny that even a half-century ago the stranger’s peculiar tactics of ingratiating himself into Mayberry were met with distrust. Heck, nowadays the dude might get beat up or worse.

 

 

151   My Fair Ernest T. Bass                (S4E17)

After wild & crazy Ernest T. Bass causes a disturbance at a social gathering Andy decides to turn him into a sophisticated gentleman and pass him off ernestt1as an out of town relative at the same weekly party he’d interrupted previously. This is where Ernest T. meets his sweet Romeena, the girl he would talk incessantly about in two later TAGS appearances. The episode is just fine, although regular characters like Opie, Aunt Bea, Floyd, Goober, & Otis are MIA. I don’t know…I can’t really articulate a reason, but Ernest T. Bass tends to annoy me rather than make me laugh.

 

 

150   Cousin Virgil     (S2E30)

Barney’s bumbling cousin Virgil from New Jersey visits Mayberry and inadvertently causes havoc at every turn. Of course it’s up to Andy to give a virgilboost to the young man’s confidence, something he does multiple times over the years for Barney. Amusing, yet for some reason I find Virgil to be one of the more annoying guests to ever visit Mayberry. I think it’s his perpetual creepy smile.

 

 

149   The Family Visit                  (S5E3)

Aunt Bea’s sister, obnoxious brother-in-law, & their bratty kids come for a visit. They annoy Andy tremendously until he finds a way to get them to leave. There’s no Barney in this episode, which is a shame. It’s a prime example of how easygoing, friendly, understanding Andy began to become more easily irritated in later seasons.

 

 

148   The Jinx   (S2E17)

Andy tries to help Mayberry resident Henry Bennett end his apparent bad luck and convince him that he is not hexed, as Barney, Floyd, & others jinxbelieve. Unfortunately plans backfire…twice. It’s up to Andy to talk Henry out of leaving town.

 

 

147   Barney Runs for Sheriff     (S5E21)

Andy is pretty sure he’s getting a big city corporate gig so he encourages Barney to file election papers to run for Sheriff while leaving his own name off the ballot. However, Andy’s job falls thru, so everyone agrees to support a write-in campaign for him. The problem is that Barney ends up feeling embarrassed & overlooked. Eventually all’s well that ends well, but for a bit things are a little testy between Andy & Barney, and that’s just not much fun. Politics & TAGS don’t mix well.

 

 

146   The Perfect Female   (S2E8)

Barney & Thelma Lou fix Andy up with Thelma Lou’s visiting cousin from Arkansas. The pair hit it off, but Barney screws things up with his big tags7mouth. The young lady, who unbeknownst to the guys is a champion shooter, decides to use her skills to prove a point to Andy. The rather old-fashioned sentiments espoused by Andy & Barney might come across as a bit misogynistic to modern viewers.

 

 

145   Opie and the Carnival                  (S5E31)

Opie tries to win a birthday present for Andy at a carnival, unaware that the shooting gallery is rigged. Andy figures out the deception and persuades the carnies that it’d be in their best interest if Opie wins the prize he desires. This is the first episode after the departure of Don Knotts as Barney, although his absence is never mentioned.

 

 

144   Guest of Honor                    (S2E21)

A pickpocket is ironically made the random “guest of honor” in Mayberry, a harebrained idea conceived as a way to celebrate Founder’s Day. They even have a parade and give the guy the key to the city. One of the great charms of TAGS is the kindhearted & guileless townsfolk of Mayberry, but sometimes they go a bit overboard and are portrayed as clueless rubes. There is a really funny scene where Barney is “training” a few emergency deputies (including Floyd the Barber). Anytime the word “mollycoddling” makes it into the script it’s a good thing.

 

 

143   Opie Loves Helen      (S5E1)

Unbeknownst to Andy or anyone else Opie develops a crush on Helen. Aunt Bea is nowhere around for some reason. I suppose it isn’t unusual for kidstags8 to crush on an adult. It’s probably even fairly common for students to crush on a teacher. But when that teacher is dating the child’s father and is the boy’s future stepmother it’s a little strange, especially when he gifts her a pair of pantyhose. There are some good interactions between Opie & Andy and Opie & Barney in this episode.

 

 

142   Bargain Day      (S4E24)

Aunt Bea buys a side of beef at a discount market but her back porch freezer is old & shaky. When it breaks down she is hesitant to call a repairman in Mount Pilot, despite repeated pleas from Andy to do so. Aunt Bea eventually has to go to her regular grocery store and sheepishly ask if the owner will store the meat until her freezer is repaired. Of course this being Mayberry the grocer happily helps her out. There’s some funny stuff here from Andy & Gomer.

 

 

141   Guest in the House   (S5E24)    

When a rather attractive family friend comes to visit the Taylors after a recent breakup Helen becomes jealous of the young lady. Andy eventually reunites his friend with her fiancée. Jealousy isn’t a good look for Helen Crump. No Barney in this episode. The actress who plays Gloria (the visiting friend) is absolutely beautiful. I’m surprised she never became a big star.

 

 

140   Opie and the Spoiled Kid  (S3E21)

Opie’s manipulative, spoiled, obnoxious, disrespectful pal Arnold convinces him that he shouldn’t have to work for his allowance. Unfortunately for tags9Opie the tricks Arnold teaches him don’t work at all on Andy.

 

 

139   Aunt Bea’s Romance                   (S5E5)

Aunt Bea rekindles her romance with an insufferable former flame who is passing thru Mayberry. He’s a know-it-all who rogerthinks he’s hilarious when in reality he’s not funny at all. Andy & Opie quickly tire of the dude’s shtick. When he hints that he needs money or else he might just marry Aunt Bea and move in Andy doesn’t fall for it and the guy leaves town. TAGS has a bit of an obsession with the idea of Aunt Bea as an eligible bachelorette just waiting for the right mate to come along, which is odd since she’s a frumpy old maid two or three decades past her prime. And I mean that in the nicest way possible.

 

 

138   The Education of Ernest T. Bass                  (S5E4)

Ernest T. Bass comes back to town seeking an education at the request of his sweet Romeena. Andy talks Helen into letting the crazy mountain man sit in on her classes, but he becomes a major nuisance. After Helen gets angry with him and smacks him with a ruler he falls in love with her…some kind of weird Oedipal thing. Andy devises a way to satisfy Ernest T. by having Helen administer a “test” that he’ll pass and then receive a “diploma”. Barney has some fun moments in this episode.

 

 

137  A Deal Is a Deal                    (S4E26)

Opie & his buddies get involved in a scam selling worthless “miracle” salve. Barney & Gomer head to Mount Pilot to check out the situation at the company that produces the stuff. Hilarity ensues. Barney & Gomer are obviously funny on an individual basis, but the two of them together is classic.

 

 

136    Andy and the Woman Speeder          (S2E3)

Andy gives a woman passing thru Mayberry a ticket for speeding. She refuses to pay the fine and is held in the jail pending trial. Female prisoners are tags10rare in Mayberry, and Andy indicates that by law a female prisoner must have a matron (a plot device used only this one time). Enter Aunt Bea. The episode is amusing, but it’s one that feels antiquated in its views on women.

 

 

135   The Christmas Story          (S1E11)

Storeowner Ben Weaver is the town Scrooge, forcing Andy to arrest Sam Muggins on Christmas Eve for tags11making moonshine. But Andy makes lemonade out of lemons and helps the entire Muggins family have a delightful holiday. Mr. Weaver has a Dickensian change of heart and joins in the merriment. Oddly enough this is the only Christmas themed episode in TAGS’ eight seasons.

 

 

134   Opie’s Ill-Gotten Gain                   (S4E8)

Everyone is pleasantly surprised when Opie gets straight A’s on his report card. Andy & Aunt Bea are beaming with pride and reward the boy with a brand new bicycle. Unfortunately the teacher…Miss Helen Crump…made a mistake when tallying the grades (another reason to dislike Helen). Opie actually earned an F in math!! Rather than disappoint his father the boy runs away from home, but he doesn’t get very far before Andy catches up to him and reassures him that he is proud of him no matter what. There’s a really funny scene where Barney claims to remember the preamble to The Constitution that he learned in grade school, but Andy has to hilariously walk him thru it word-by-word.

 

 

133   The Case of the Punch in the Nose    (S5E25)

While looking at old files Barney comes across an unsolved assault case from two decades earlier involving Floyd and a local grocer. Rather than let the matter rest Barney stirs the pot, causing the situation to escalate into a serious quarrel. Anytime Barney goes overboard…which is often…it’s pretty funny.

 

 

132   Andy and the Gentleman Crook         (S1E21)

An infamous con man being held temporarily in the Mayberry jail charms just about everyone but Andy. They all learn their lesson when the criminal takes advantage of their kindness and tries to escape. There is some fun interaction between Andy & Opie, Barney accidentally fires his gun in the courthouse (a joke repeated multiple times thru the series), & we learn that Barney’s gun usually has no bullets and he carries one single bullet in his shirt pocket.

 

 

131   Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.                  (S4E32)

In this backdoor pilot for a Gomer Pyle spinoff Gomer enlists in the Marines and Andy tags along to boot camp to help the transition go smoothly. It’s gomer1not that there isn’t some funny stuff here, it’s just that it doesn’t really feel like an episode of TAGS.

 

 

 

 

 

I think this might be a good place to pause for now. Stay tuned.

Superfluous 7 – Fictional Characters With Whom I’d Like To Hang Out

Awhile back I read a book called The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived. It wasn’t quite what I thought it was going to be when I made the impulse purchase, skewing a bit too much toward the analytical and academic instead of the lighthearted and interesting. The authors made a point of emphasizing that their list was based on influence and not popularity. Many of the conclusions reached were curious, some in a good way and some in a real head scratching sort of way. Rosie the Riveter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Barbie (the doll) made their list. The Marlboro Man was #1. Meanwhile, Fonzie and Rocky Balboa are nowhere to be found. So I decided to make my own, much shorter list. My criteria isn’t based on popularity or influence. The question I asked myself was simply “Who would it be cool to hang out with??” Now let me be very clear…I am not simply talking about meeting them or doing an interview. I am talking about spending a weekend or maybe a summer with a person, becoming involved in their daily life. Michael Corleone is an awesome character, but really…who wants to become part of the mafia with all the guns and blood?? Shakespeare created many memorable characters, but a lot of them are unstable and end up dead. I love Forrest Gump, but I think he may get on my nerves after awhile. So I thought about who it would be fun to converse with and learn from, or just have a good time with. It was difficult to narrow down to seven, but the mission was accomplished. Who would you enjoy chillin’ with if you had the opportunity and the line between fiction and reality was not only blurred but eliminated?? Don’t hesitate to let me know…after you enjoy…..

 

 

 

from the home office in Spasticsville, Kansas…..

 

 

 

The Superfluous 7 Fictional Characters With Whom I’d Like To Hang Out:

 

 

7 The Duke Boys

I am a child of the 80’s, and every Friday night from 1979-1985 I could not wait for The Dukes of Hazzard to come on television. It is only now, 25 years later, that I can truly appreciate the show (and I mean that sincerely). Was the acting great and the writing superb?? No. But no one ever got killed, and the crimes committed were pretty benign. Hazzard County seems like it would be a cool little town in which to live, as long as one doesn’t get on the bad side of Boss Hogg & Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane…and even then they are actually rather tame as far as villains go. Now I am resisting the urge to write about what I would do if given the chance to spend some quality time with Daisy, instead taking the high road and choosing to chillax with Bo & Luke. Did they have jobs?? What did they do all day other than run the roads in the General Lee and occasionally throw back a cold one at The Boar’s Nest?? I suppose they helped Uncle Jesse by doing most of the heavy lifting on the farm, but that’s okay…a little elbow grease and sweat never hurt anyone. I’m not much of a fast driver, but I could handle being a passenger as the guys race around evading the law. I imagine it’d get the ol’ blood pumping, especially when a washed out bridge forces one of those cool jumps. I could grip the roll bar and yell “Yeeeee-haaaaaa”. Mostly I can just see myself enjoying the slow pace, the good people, and the relative innocence of a place like Hazzard and learning the essence of being a cool country boy from The Dukes. And yes…I’d probably hit on Daisy.

 

 

6 Bilbo Baggins

There is a reason I specifically chose Bilbo Baggins. His nephew Frodo is a character we get to know much more in depth, as he is the main protagonist in all the Lord of the Rings books/movies. In contrast, Bilbo is the focus in only one shorter book, The Hobbit. But Frodo’s adventure is so long, grueling, and dangerous that it doesn’t seem like it’d be much fun to be in his proximity. As a matter of fact, because of that damn Ring (The One to rule them all) Frodo’s life and the lives of everyone around him becomes way too scary. Bilbo’s adventure in The Hobbit is not without peril, but it is much shorter and less fraught with life-in-the-balance moments. However, if I were to hang out with Bilbo it would not be in the midst of an adventure at all. I would want to hang out in The Shire with he and the other hobbits. The Shire is a quiet, idyllic land where the hobbits enjoy simple things like eating, drinking, smoking, and being social. The hobbits enjoy gardening and live off the fat of the land. It is a simple place and they are simple folk, which I like. Bilbo is a good storyteller and definitely has some stories to tell, plus he is pals with the wizard Gandalf, so one never knows when he might pop in.

 

 

5 Batman/Bruce Wayne

Batman is the ultimate example of bi-polar disorder. How cool would it be to hang out with him?? During the day one could enjoy the lavish lifestyle of billionaire Bruce Wayne, and at night get a taste of adventure as The Dark Night trolls the seedy underbelly of Gotham City exacting vigilante justice. I would LOVE to ride shotgun in The Batmobile and of course chill in the ultimate man cave, The Bat Cave. I am not much for physicality, but it’d be intriguing to try to outwit villains like The Riddler, Catwoman, and The Penguin. While Batman doesn’t seem like much of a conversationalist his alter ego, Bruce Wayne, is charming and charismatic. And since I would know his secret we could have rather fascinating discussions. Trying to get inside the head of a man who was emotionally scarred as a child by seeing his parents gunned down and who uses that trauma as a reason to dress up like a bat and fight crime…well call me crazy, but that sounds like fun.

 

 

4 Sheriff Andy Taylor

It has long been my opinion that the happiest place on Earth is not Disney World, but rather the town of Mayberry. I am too young to have caught The Andy Griffith Show when it first aired in the 60’s, but forty years after it was cancelled generations of people like me are still invited into the lives of Andy, Opie, Barney, and Aunt Bea thanks to reruns. And while Barney Fife is one of the funniest characters in television history and we all love Opie because we have literally seen Ron Howard grow from a small boy to an Oscar winning director and a grandfather, for me the heart & soul of the show and the town is Sheriff Andy. It may seem like a trite cliché, but Andy Taylor is a good man. He is kind, wise, understanding, and tough. He’s a great Dad, a good friend, and good at his job. I have reached a point in my life where I see that running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to impress people and achieve what the world defines as success is akin to a cat chasing its tale…an exercise in futility. Faith, family, and friendship are the most important things in life. I think a man like Sheriff Taylor understands that, and I would enjoy immensely the opportunity to sit on the front porch sipping some iced tea, picking a little on the ol’ guitar, and shooting the breeze with him.

 

 

3 Captain Jean-Luc Picard

This was a tough call. Thanks to my good friend The Owl I am a Trekkie, and the Star Trek Universe is polluted with memorable characters. I love Bones McCoy, but I really can’t see myself voluntarily spending time with a doctor. Scotty is cool, but I am not an engineer either. Spock is interesting, but really…would he even understand the concept of chillaxing?? ‘Tis not very logical afterall. Captain Kirk is awesome, but a little too intense and adventurous for my tastes. I like to keep things low key. Captain Picard is more my speed. He is less of a swashbuckler and more of an intellectual, an educated man with eclectic interests in classical music, literature, archaeology, fencing, and physics. Picard is the type of guy one could probably sit and listen to for hours, even if he is so smart that the majority of what he is saying goes way above your head. Captain Kirk would be fun to party with and you’d definitely want him on your side in a fight, but Picard is someone to learn from and gain insight about the world.

 

 

2 Santa Claus

Oh come on…who wouldn’t want to hang out with Santa Claus?? And I am not just talking about on Christmas Eve as he makes his journey around the globe delivering presents and eating cookies. I want to spend all year with Old Saint Nick. How does he know when we are sleeping and when we are awake?? How does he know whether we’ve been bad or good?? How does he know exactly what every child wants for Christmas?? Precisely when does he check The List twice and how much time does that take?? Who compiles The List in the first place?? What kind of set up does The North Pole have as far as manufacturing all the latest gadgets kids want these days?? Most of us are selfish and not the least bit concerned about the needs of others, so why is Santa so different?? Why is he so giving and what lead him down this career path?? What is the economic situation for him personally and professionally since he just gives presents away?? Does he get a cut of the profits from stores like WalMart, Sears, Amazon.com, and Best Buy?? What is the deal with the elves?? These are things I need to know people!!

 

 

1 Sherlock Holmes

I have been a huge Sherlockian since junior high school. I have read each of the 56 short stories and 4 novels countless times and enjoy them tremendously. I think maybe the coolest job in history was Watson’s. I would love love love to be Watson, hanging out with Holmes and then writing about all his adventures. I realize that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle makes Victorian London seem far more awesome than it probably was in reality, but that’s okay. Doyle’s London is an odd mix of quaint, mysterious, dangerous, and romantic. Holmes wouldn’t need to flip through endless channels of mind numbing idiocy even if the technology were available to him. He’s got plenty to keep him busy. If he’s not out solving some of the oddest crimes ever conceived he is conducting chemistry experiments in his living room, writing an academic treatise on various types of soil or poisons, or playing his violin. One would never get bored hanging out with Sherlock Holmes, except during those times of languid inactivity when he takes to shooting up cocaine. That’d be when I’d have to leave and visit someone else on the list. At any rate, spending time at 221B Baker Street would encompass meeting all sorts of strange people, trudging through the streets of London at all hours of the day & night in search of answers, and most of all learning at the feet of quite possibly the smartest man in history.