100 Memorable TV Characters…Part 3

 

Television is chewing gum for the eyes.  –  Frank Lloyd Wright

 

 

 

 

My father & I occasionally hearken back to the late February day 18 years ago when we laid my mother to rest. We always recall how blessed our family was with such a beautiful sunny day, because on top of our grief it would have been that much more difficult to go thru the whole process in the midst of rain, snow, & chilly temperatures. We’ve been fortunate to once again have had some unseasonably temperate days here in West Virginia lately, and since I am a self-diagnosed sufferer of Seasonal Affective Disorder and know I’ve had issues with Vitamin D deficiency in the past I have taken the opportunity to award myself some much needed sunshine therapy this week. Alas, now we are back to the cold & wet climate more typical of this time of year, but the good news is that means that we can move forward with this project. If you aren’t up to speed with previous entries then by all means check them out here, here, & here. After you are all caught up come back and enjoy what’s next with the rest of us.

 

 

 

 

50     Beavis & Butt-Head (Beavis and Butt-Head)

In my final year of college I finally escaped dorm life and got my first ever Bachelor Palace off campus. It just happened to be a few blocks away from our favorite watering hole(s), so oftentimes my buddies would stop by to hang out before we headed to those establishments. It was during this time that MTV premiered a crudely animated sitcom in which two dimwitted delinquents wander around their town causing chaos in between sitting on the couch commenting on music videos (which MTV still aired occasionally at that time). It’s a show with a narrow focus and I assume a very specific target audience, which explains why I wasn’t nearly as interested once I graduated and segued into adult life. However, I have really great (though a bit fuzzy) memories of that year. Some things are special because it is a shared experience, and I am so glad that Beavis & Butt-Head were a memorable part of that era in my life. A feature film was released in 1996 in which the moronic duo go on a quest to find their stolen TV and somehow end up at the White House hanging out with President Clinton. The movie is alright, but not great. A few years ago I got excited when a revival of the show was announced, but I must admit that I never watched the one season return.

 

49     Lenny & Squiggy (Laverne & Shirley)

Speaking of idiots…

Wacky neighbors are a dependable television trope, so while the titular twosome (who had been introduced on Happy Days) were the focus of the show and the ladies swooned over “The Big Ragu” Carmine Ragusa, oftentimes it was Lenny & Squiggy who got the laughs. Lenny Kosnowski & Andrew Squigman live in the apartment above Laverne & Shirley and are truck drivers for the same brewery at which the ladies are bottlecappers. They frequently pop in to annoy the gals, and fancy themselves as tough, cool, desirable 50’s greasers, when in truth they are just a couple of goofballs that don’t appeal to women at all.

 

48     Matt Foley (Saturday Night Live)

It is an inescapable fact that Chris Farley’s weight was used as part of the joke in most everything he did, from SNL to the films in which he appeared. But since Farley himself seemed to be okay with that I suppose no one else should be offended. By far his best SNL contribution was Matt Foley, a raucous motivational speaker who is “35 years old, eating a steady diet of government cheese, thrice divorced, and living in a van down by the river!”. Foley isn’t as much a motivator as a cautionary tale since he is unkempt, belligerent, rude, pessimistic, & apparently a failure, hence the humor, and he usually ended up somehow hilariously crashing thru a piece of furniture. The character was the perfect showcase for Farley’s unique brand of physical comedy, and it is unfortunate that he passed on before Matt Foley could be brought to the big screen.

 

47     Opie Taylor (The Andy Griffith Show)

These days Ron Howard is best known as an award-winning director of films like Apollo 13, Splash, & A Beautiful Mind, and many affectionately recall his role as awkward teenager Richie Cunningham in the retro sitcom Happy Days. However, way back in the 1960’s little Ronny got his start portraying the precocious son of the local sheriff in The Andy Griffith Show. We literally get to watch Opie grow up from an adorable six year old to a young teenager. Father-son interactions provide some of the most uplifting moments on TAGS, but Opie has plenty of entertaining scenes with many other inhabitants of Mayberry as well. Two of my favorite TAGS episodes…Season 3’s Mr. McBeevee and Season 4’s Opie the Birdman…showcase Opie and give an indication of just how great of an actor Ron Howard could have been if that would have been his passion.

 

46         The Riddler (Batman)

Batman is my favorite superhero, and while his comic book origins are indeed dark…an aesthetic that most renditions of the story stick with…one notable exception is the beloved goofy 1960’s TV show. Episodic television allowed a different villain to invade Gotham City each week, including the already established “rogue’s gallery” of Batman baddies as well as some pretty hysterical adversaries created exclusively for the show. I’m a traditionalist, so I prefer the bad guys we all know & love to hate, and my favorite has to be The Riddler. Edward Nygma likes to tease The Caped Crusader with riddles that are clues to his location and/or the crime he is about to commit. Riddler wears a garish green costume peppered with question marks, and has an irritating laugh.

 

45     Balki Bartokomous (Perfect Strangers)

ABC had a penchant in the late 80’s into the 90’s for churning out silly sitcoms that, by any objective measure of quality, shouldn’t have made it more than a season or two, but somehow became cherished by the masses. It is an interesting lesson that modern television executives should learn. Not everyone is on the edge of their seat waiting for the next gritty, studious, sanctimonious, ripped-from-the-headlines show. Sometimes we simply crave pointless escapism that tickles our funny bone. At any rate, Balki is a sheepherder from the Mediterranean island of Mypos. He comes to Chicago to stay with his tightly wound cousin Larry, and boom…you have a fish-out-of-water story that’s also an amusing take on the Odd Couple formula. Balki’s misunderstandings about American culture are comical, as are Larry’s exasperated attempts to clear up any confusion. When anything good happens the two engage in Balki’s Dance of Joy, which kind of looks like something folks do at a Greek wedding.

 

44     Frank Costanza (Seinfeld)

In addition to the hysterical main cast, Seinfeld also had a ton of memorable guest stars and several great recurring characters. Frank is the obnoxious father of George. He is a temperamental traveling salesman best remembered for inventing Festivus, a non-commercial Christmas alternative that features feats of strength & airing of grievances.

 

43     Daisy Duke (The Dukes of Hazzard)

I went thru puberty while The Dukes of Hazzard was on the air, so yes…a sexy woman known for wearing super short jean shorts and who appeared in a skimpy bikini in the show’s opening credits every week for seven years definitely frosted my cupcake. Daisy is a hybrid…part sweet southern belle, part tough as nails tomboy. She is said to “drive like Richard Petty, shoot like Annie Oakley, & know the words to all of Dolly Parton’s songs.” She’s not above using her feminine gifts to distract anyone trying to go after her family, and most often does so with charmingly inept Deputy Enos Strate, who has always had a huge crush on her. In contrast to modern shows in which very little is left to the imagination even on network television, Daisy Duke seems like a quaint reminder of a more innocent time.

 

42     Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, & Sophia (The Golden Girls)

I just can’t choose one. The entire ensemble made The Golden Girls work, and even with two Emmys & three Golden Globes I still think it may have been an underrated program. Dorothy Zbornak is a Brooklyn born teacher who is divorced from philandering Stan. She is smart, acerbic, & perpetually exasperated by her roommates, though she thinks of them as family. Blanche Devereux is a well-to-do southern belle and a widow with a healthy libido. Rose Nyland is a naïve & simpleminded widow who is fond of telling pointless stories about her childhood in St. Olaf, MN. She’s really sweet & trusting, and prone to being taken advantage of by others. Sophia Petrillo is Dorothy’s elderly mother. She is sharp as a tack, fearful that Dorothy will send her back to Shady Pines retirement home, & loves to tell stories from her youth in Sicily, though there is a general vibe that most of those stories are poppycock. As opposed to many shows that tend to feature young & pretty people, The Golden Girls proved that “seasoned citizens” can be a lot of fun.

 

41     Otis Campbell (The Andy Griffith Show)

I love any episode of TAGS in which town drunk Otis appears. I suppose nowadays some people would get their knickers twisted about alcoholism being treated as a joke, but thankfully folks were much less politically correct back in the 60’s. Otis actually has a job & a wife, but every Saturday night he goes out and gets snockered on hooch, then locks himself up in the Mayberry jail. Did you know that Hal Smith…the actor who portrays Otis…was a well-known voice artist?? He most notably voiced Goofy in several Disney productions, including Mickey’s Christmas Carol.

 

40     President Jed Bartlet (The West Wing)

I’ve often asked myself if I would vote for Jed Bartlet in an election, but there is no conclusive answer because I don’t believe that anyone like him actually exists. He is a man of high ideals but realistic expectations. He is a Nobel Prize winning economist, but despite being brilliant he’s also empathetic & quite funny. President Bartlet…like everyone associated with the show…is a bleeding heart liberal, but somehow all involved are able to make that look like a good thing, which is probably one of the greatest magic tricks anyone has ever performed on television. Martin Sheen might be a crackpot in real life, but credit where credit is due…he is a brilliant actor. The President was originally intended to be a rarely seen supporting character, with plots revolving around various White House staff members. However, that plan quickly changed, which undoubtedly made for a better program.

 

39     Dr. Johnny Fever & Venus Flytrap (WKRP in Cincinnati)

When I was a kid I considered becoming a radio DJ when I grew up. Why?? Well, probably because Johnny Fever & Venus Flytrap made the job seem so cool & fun. Johnny is a laid back pothead & former 60’s hippie whose career in radio had been successful before he fell on hard times. He had considered WKRP to be rock bottom, but when the station’s format changes from easy listening to rock n’ roll he is energized and becomes a very popular morning drive personality. Venus Flytrap (real name: Gordon Sims) is a Vietnam vet who is hired by his pal Andy Travis, WKRP’s new program director. It is Andy who suggests the pseudonym and also advises Sims to dress cool so he’ll act cool. Unlike Johnny, whose on-air persona is hyper & wild, Venus is tranquil & chill. He is rather conservative and oftentimes acts as an even-tempered voice of reason. These two dudes made being a disc jockey look like an attractive career option to a young boy in grade school back in the day, and it wasn’t until many years later that I learned that it’s actually a really low-paying & unstable gig.

 

38     Norm Peterson (Cheers)

Cheers is the bar where everybody knows your name, and that’s especially true of Norm, who is enthusiastically greeted by the crowd every time he walks thru the door. Norm is an accountant who frequently seems to be between jobs, so he ends up spending a lot of time sitting at the end of the bar drinking beer. He is married to Vera, who we never meet in eleven seasons. Norm doesn’t seem to be particularly unhappy or disdainful of Vera, but neither is he ever in a rush to go home. It’s pretty funny that in an entire decade of watching the guy do virtually nothing except drink beer we never see him even remotely intoxicated, and his huge unpaid bar tab is occasionally the subject of mockery.

 

37     Wayne & Garth (Saturday Night Live)

Party on!! Wayne Campbell & Garth Algar are the hosts of a public access TV show emanating from Wayne’s basement. They are two nerdy juveniles who think they’re cooler than they are because they like heavy metal music & hot women. The sketches introduced a ton of catchphrases that many of a certain age still utilize with some frequency, such as “Schwing!”, “That’s what she said”, “Not!”, “hurl” & “spew”, “Are you mental?”, and “We’re not worthy!”. In 1992 the duo took their act to the big screen in a surprisingly solid film that did well enough to get a sequel just a year & a half later.

 

36     Linus Van Pelt (Peanuts)

Peanuts is interesting. It never spawned a regular comic book or TV show, and creator Charles Shultz was content to simply produce his comic strip for a half century. However, he did allow the characters to be marketed, which resulted in a ton of merchandise that’s still being churned out nearly two decades after Schultz’s death. As I did when writing about my favorite cartoons I am taking advantage of a loophole of sorts in the fact that there have been a plethora of Peanuts animated television specials over the years, a couple of which many of us grew up watching and continue to enjoy annually. Linus is the youngest of the group, a blanket toting, thumb sucking boy who tends to be the most solicitous & sensible out of any of his friends. He’s a great listener and always gives good advice, although his self-absorbed pals continue to overlook & disrespect his insight.

 

35     Captain Hawkeye Pierce (MASH)

Dr. Benjamin “Hawkeye” Pierce is the 4077th’s chief surgeon, a New England bred prankster who deals with the daily grind of being in a warzone by drinking copious amounts of martinis and flirting with every female in camp. He resents being drafted and definitely doesn’t conform to the Army way of life. Despite his irreverence it is Hawkeye that provides many of the series’ more somber moments after it segued into more of a dramedy during the second half of its run. In the series finale he suffers a breakdown and returns home to be a local country doctor after the war ends.

 

34     Bo & Luke Duke (The Dukes of Hazzard)

The show’s theme song describes them as good ol’ boys that never mean any harm. Luke is the older cousin and is shown to be smarter & more level-headed. He’s a former Marine. Bo is the younger, more vain & flirtatious pretty boy. He almost always drives the General Lee. The Duke Boys are on probation after being caught unlawfully transporting moonshine, and aren’t legally allowed to own firearms or leave the county, although they frequently do so anyway. They are constant targets of law enforcement, and regularly foil Boss Hogg’s shady schemes.

 

33     Dr. Heathcliff & Claire Huxtable (The Cosby Show)

While characters like Fred Sanford, JJ “Dynomite!” Evans, Arnold Jackson, & “Rerun” Stubbs are all entertaining on various levels, I don’t think there’s any way they could be held up as role models. Conversely, The Huxtables are undeniably so. Mom is a perceptive & resolute attorney, while Dad is a fun-loving & considerate physician. Both are educated and have high expectations for their five children. They are strict yet devoted parents, and their marriage is strong. They are affluent but not extravagant, and seem to have solid moral certitude. In other words, Cliff & Claire represent the vast majority of Americans, the sort of stable citizens & contributors to society that are often disregarded & ridiculed by the media & pop culture. The Cosby Show was popular and critically acclaimed, so I’m not sure why the formula hasn’t been duplicated a thousand times over. Of course I suppose any attempt to copy it would just be a poor imitation.

 

32     Fred Flintstone (The Flintstones)

Yabba dabba doo!! The Flintstones is a sneaky show. What do I mean by that?? Well, we tend to focus on the fact that it is animated, and that it is set in The Stone Age (the rock puns are always a treat). However, the truth is that it is simply a traditional sitcom about an average nuclear family and their friendly neighbors. Fred is an overbearing yet kindhearted crane operator. He’s short-tempered & irritable, but he’s devoted to his family & friends. He enjoys bowling, golf, & hanging out at the Loyal Order of Water Buffalos Lodge. When I was a kid I honestly thought that actor Jackie Gleason provided Fred’s voice, but I was wrong…sort of. Gleason may not have been directly involved with The Flintstones, but his Ralph Kramden character from 1950’s sitcom The Honeymooners heavily influenced how Fred was portrayed.

 

31     Dr. Niles Crane (Frasier)

Niles is the neurotic & effete younger brother of the show’s eponymous radio show host. Like his big brother Niles is also a psychiatrist. He’s the kind of pretentious nerd who loves opera, expensive wine, classical music, French food, & theater but knows absolutely zero about sports or pop culture. Niles is definitely a hypochondriac & a bit OCD, and tends to be overzealous in attempts to ingratiate himself into the perceived proper social circles. When we first meet Niles he is married to Maris, who we never see (much like Vera in Cheers), but his descriptions of her are horribly hysterical. They eventually divorce and he ends up marrying his father’s caregiver Daphne, who he’d been infatuated with since the day they met. I absolutely love Niles, and would have really enjoyed a Niles & Daphne spinoff, but sadly that never happened.

 

30     Sheriff Andy Taylor (The Andy Griffith Show)

Andy Griffith was a brilliant actor. Take some time to watch the 1958 film No Time for Sergeants, in which he plays country bumpkin Will Stockdale, who hilariously clashes with his superiors when he is drafted into the Air Force (sounds like a great idea for a sitcom). After that watch 1957’s A Face in the Crowd, in which Griffith portrays drifter Lonesome Rhodes, who turns a random appearance on a radio show into fame & fortune on television then becomes an egotistical bully before his star falls as quickly as it rose. Griffith based Sheriff Taylor largely on Will Stockdale, atleast initially. After the first season of TAGS he figured out that other characters in Mayberry should be the source of humor while he played the bemused straight man, and so he toned down the hillbilly simpleton persona considerably. Sheriff Taylor is the kind of lawman we’d all love to encounter but probably doesn’t exist in reality…not anymore anyway. He doesn’t even carry a gun!! He’s a good friend, a pleasant neighbor, and the type of father all men should aspire to be. Check out the Season 1 episode A Feud is a Feud in which Andy explains Romeo & Juliet to Opie, or the Season 3 episode Andy Discovers America, in which he gives a unique history lesson to a group of boys. Andy is constantly doing everything he can to boost his deputy’s fragile ego, and is usually the voice of reason in the midst of idiocy. In the last few seasons Sheriff Taylor becomes a little too serious, frequently becoming aggravated by the antics of others, which is just one of the reasons that the first five years of TAGS are the best.

 

29     Kermit the Frog (The Muppet Show)   

When The Muppets won the Sammy Award for Favorite Movie in 2011 I said that “Honestly, toward the end when Kermit breaks out into Rainbow Connection I became so swelled with happiness & emotion that if I could have jumped out of my wheelchair and given a standing ovation I swear to God I would have”. It was in that moment that I realized just what kind of impact The Muppets had on my childhood. In his other popular song It’s Not Easy Being Green Kermit laments that “it seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things, and people tend to pass you over ’cause you’re not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water or stars in the sky”, which I have always taken as a perceptive nod to the marginalized in society who often feel ignored, disrespected, & taken for granted. I bet you didn’t realize Kermit was so profound.

 

28     Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

There are only two starship captains in the Trek universe that matter. Captain Picard is an alleged Frenchman with singularly British proclivities (“Tea! Earl Grey! Hot!). He is cultured, judicious, & somewhat aloof, though he does care deeply for his crew. He prefers diplomacy over battle, but ultimately does what needs to be done. He is fascinated with archaeology, enjoys fencing, is quite knowledgeable about physics & literature, and loves horses. Captain Picard is a true Renaissance man, even though he was born about 600 years after that period ended.

 

27         Stefano DiMera (Days of Our Lives)

I’ve been watching DOOL since I was about ten years old, and during that time no supervillain in any entertainment genre has been as evil as Stefano DiMera. He came to Salem in 1982 professing to simply be a European business tycoon, but it soon became apparent that he was more of a crime boss. Stefano has a longstanding vendetta against the blue collar Brady family and makes their lives a living hell for the biggest part of three decades. He dies about a dozen times, but is inevitably revealed to be alive, which explains why he calls himself The Phoenix. The actor who portrayed Stefano actually did pass away a few years ago, but the way the storyline was constructed on the show left things open ended, as though The Phoenix could rise again someday.

 

26     Charlie Brown (Peanuts)

Charlie Brown is essentially the animated personification of his creator Charles Shultz. He is the classic loveable loser, always being insulted & ignored by his friends. He’s a shy & mild-mannered kid with a bundle of neuroses bubbling up inside. But as unsuccessful as he tends to be Charlie Brown rarely gives up. He may not be confident about the result (with good reason), but he keeps trying. In the underrated 2006 sequel Rocky Balboa the aging boxer tells his son that “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward.” That’s a great lesson for all of us, and Charlie Brown embodies exactly that attitude.

 

 

 

Okay ladies & gentlemen…let’s take another break. We’ll return for the exciting conclusion in a couple of days.

TAGS Episode Guide: Ranking (Not Quite) Every Episode of One of America’s Most Beloved TV Shows…Part 4

Welcome back!! If you haven’t already done so please go back and check out Parts 1, 2, & 3.

 

barnthelI want to take a moment to address an elephant in the room. Obviously with this project we are ranking only episodes in the first five seasons of floydTAGS. It’s not that I don’t enjoy some things from the last few years of the show. There are quite a few entertaining episodes, such as Malcolm at the Crossroads when Englishman Malcolm Merriweather tangles with Ernest T. Bass. Or Aunt Bea on TV, when Aunt Bea wins a bunch of prizes on a game show and becomes a bit too haughty about it. And how about The Battle of Mayberry, when Opie researches a famous Revolutionary War skirmish & exposes the hidden truth, or Opie’s Piano Lesson, when the boy has to decide between piano lessons & football. There are also a few return  gp2visits from Barney Fife, episodes that snagged Don Knotts two additional Emmy Awards. Having said all that, it is undeniable that TAGS lost a otis4lot of its magic when Knotts departed his regular role and the show switched to color technology, events that happened to coincide. When I am channel surfing and run across a black & white episode I almost always stop and watch. If it’s a color episode?? Well…then it’s a tossup. Maybe I’ll watch, maybe I won’t. Your mileage may vary and that’s okay.

 

 

 

 

 

75     Back to Nature  (S4E31)

Andy, Barney, & Gomer take Opie and some other boys on a camping trip. Opie wanders off to pick some berries and Andy goes to find him. Instead of staying with the btnother youngsters Barney & Gomer also go looking for Opie and manage to get themselves lost. Andy then goes in search of them, and as in numerous other situations, finds a way to spare Barney’s fragile ego and make him look like much more of a rugged outdoorsman than he really is. Really funny stuff from Gomer & Barney.

 

 

74     Mountain Wedding             (S3E31)

Charlene Darling is set to wed Dud Walsh, but wild man Ernest T. Bass has taken a shine to Charlene and wants her for himself. Andy & Barney are recruited to help  mtnwedddeal with Bass, who keeps throwing rocks thru the Darlings’ windows. Andy devises a ruse in which Ernest T. thinks he’s kidnapping Charlene, but it is actually Barney in drag. This is the first appearance of Ernest T. and the only episode in which he & the Darlings appear together. It’s always funny when Barney dresses up like a woman.

 

 

73     Runaway Kid (S1E6)

After Opie tattles on his friends for a practical joke they played on Andy the sheriff proceeds to teach the lad about the importance of keeping one’s word. However that lesson backfires when Opie befriends a young runaway and declines to reveal the boy’s real name so Andy can call his parents. All’s well that ends well though, as Andy gets the info when the case is reported by another police department. I adore father/son stuff with Andy & Opie, and Barney is pretty amusing as well.

 

 

72     Lawman Barney (S3E7)

Two farmers illegally selling produce on the side of the road ignore Barney’s orders to cease & desist. This blatant disrespect brings Barney down, and it’s up to Andy to lawmanbhelp him regain confidence. But after the two farmers learn that Andy’s tale about Barney being a badass is completely false they again defy the deputy’s orders. After a pep talk from Andy the deputy confronts the men a third time with genuine confidence and they respect his authority. Character actor Allen Melvin makes the third of eight TAGS appearances, this time as one of the quarrelsome farmers.

 

 

71     Andy the Matchmaker (S1E7)

At a crossroads in his life Barney tells Andy he is resigning from the police force. He feels bored & useless since there’s never any crime in Mayberry. In an effort to prop up Barney’s self-esteem so that he won’t quit and maybe even ask out a woman he’s sweet on Andy & Ellie make up a story about Walker’s Drug Store being robbed. However, much to their surprise the deputy actually arrests a stranger he suspects of the “robbery”. In a twist of fate the suspect, though obviously not guilty of the fake crime, is actually a wanted man in back in Chattanooga. Andy covertly doing things to boost Barney’s fragile ego is a tried & true TAGS staple.

 

 

70     Rafe Hollister Sings (S3E20)

As Barney is prepping for a tryout to represent Mayberry in some kind of regional choral concert farmer Rafe Hollister comes into the courthouse. It turns out that rafe5Hollister has a beautiful singing voice, and Andy encourages him to attend the auditions. Choir director John Masters chooses Rafe for a solo, but Mayor Stoner isn’t happy because the farmer’s appearance is rather unkempt & dingy. Andy tries to save the day by buying Rafe some new clothes, but they are way too small & tight. He ends up singing in his overalls but is nevertheless a fine representative of Mayberry at the concert. This is the final series appearance for both Mayor Stoner & Rafe Hollister.

 

 

69     Cyrano Andy (S1E22)

In the inaugural appearance of the lovely Thelma Lou things are a bit shaky because Barney, who we normally see exude a boastful cool with the ladies, is really uneasy around her and doesn’t know what to say or how to act. When Andy tries to help Barney misinterprets his actions and Thelma Lou decides to use the situation to make Barney jealous. Barney then hysterically hits on Ellie, and she plots to scare him away by actually responding to his advances. Andy tries the same tactic with Thelma Lou. Of course the ploy works and Barney & Thelma Lou find their way back to each other. This is a great episode that makes me sad that Ellie Walker didn’t stick around Mayberry for the long haul.

 

 

68     Three Wishes for Opie (S5E14)

Barney buys a fortune-telling game, and after the first two of the three wishes he grants Opie actually come true he mistakenly thinks Opie’s third wish is for Andy & Helen to wed. Of course the deputy gets overexcited and the rumor that Andy & Helen are getting married quickly spreads thru Mayberry, much to the chagrin of the sheriff. Floyd & Goober are also around to provide a laugh or two.

 

 

67     Mayberry on Record (S1E19)

A record producer comes to town looking to make a folk music album featuring local artists. As always the citizens get overly excited and agree to invest in the project. However, Andy thinks the guy may be a swindler. Eventually he is able to convince the others of this, but just as they are ready to hunt down the producer he returns with news that he has sold the record and made everybody who invested a nice profit. Future bluegrass stars The Kentucky Colonels appear in this episode.

 

 

66     Andy and Helen Have Their Day         (S5E13)

Andy & Helen want to have a nice, peaceful Saturday at Myers Lake. Unfortunately Barney keeps showing up to be a nuisance. When Andy is arrested by the gameah warden for fishing without a license he tries to call Barney to have him bring money for the fine, but Goober gets the call instead. Goober totally screws up the message Andy gives him, and Barney jumps to the conclusion that Andy & Helen are getting hitched…a mistake Barney makes often. This basic idea would be utilized again a couple of years later when Deputy Warren Ferguson & Goober keep interrupting Andy & Helen’s date at the lake.

 

 

65      Hot Rod Otis     (S4E19)

Andy & Barney become concerned when Otis buys a car. They come up with a hilarious ploy to fool Otis into thinking he died after he goes on one of his frequent benders and wakes up in jail. As it turns out Otis had come to his senses before he ever got drunk and actually sold the car. No one else besides Andy, Barney, & Otis are seen in this episode.

 

 

64     The Darling Baby (S5E12)

Charlene Darling & Dud Wash have had their first baby, a girl they name Andelina. Briscoe, Charlene, & the boys come to Mayberry seeking a future husband for the darlingbabynewborn, which is hysterically funny in a creepy sort of way. While jamming a bit with Andy at the Taylor homestead Briscoe gets the idea that Opie would make a great future husband for his granddaughter. Andy disagrees strongly, and Barney is around getting accidently snockered on hooch again. Andy eventually fools Mr. Darling by having Opie sign the betrothal “contract” with a disappearing ink pen, which the old man looks at as some kind of voodoo so he & his family leave as quick as they can. I have always thought that the 1986 TV movie Return to Mayberry missed out on a really cool nod to this episode by having Opie’s wife be a grown-up Andelina instead of some random woman the audience has no reason to care about.

 

 

63     A Plaque for Mayberry (S1E25)

The Women’s Historical Society deduces that a descendant of a Revolutionary War hero is living in Mayberry and want to present that person with an award. Much to the horror of Andy, Barney, & Mayor Pike the family member to be awarded turns out to be Otis Campbell. However Otis surprises them all when he shows up to the ceremony stone cold sober and all cleaned up. Otis decides to donate the award to the town, rightfully noting that just because a person’s ancestor was a hero doesn’t make them one, which is the most logical point of the entire plot.

 

 

62     Jailbreak (S2E18)

The state police are in town hunting down a thief and they arrogantly request that the local force…Andy & Barney…just stay out of the way. When the crook is caught he is temporarily housed in the jail and Barney stupidly allows him to escape. Andy & Barney deduce that the criminal & his gal pal partner are holed up at the local trailer park, and it seems that they have kidnapped the bigheaded state cop. Barney actually captures a perp legitimately with his quick thinking instead of the dumb luck that usually leads to his particular brand of heroism. Character actor Allen Melvin makes the first of eight TAGS appearances in this episode, and we also meet dry cleaner Fred Goss.

 

 

61     Aunt Bea the Crusader      (S4E15)

Andy & Barney must reluctantly run Mr. Frisby off of his chicken farm because the county is going to build a new highway. Aunt Bea & her lady friends are bcrusadehorrified and organize a protest. However in the midst of the standoff it is discovered that Frisby has a moonshine still in his basement and of course the ladies become angry that they were fighting for a lawbreaker.

 

 

60     Sheriff Barney (S2E12)

A neighboring town in need of a sheriff offers the gig to Barney after seeing a flattering newspaper article. Andy knows that Barney isn’t prepared for the job because sheriffin’ is different than deputyin’, and in an effort to teach Barney that lesson the two switch jobs for a day. After Andy is able to easily solve a dispute that Barney couldn’t between two farmers Barney gets down in the dumps, but Andy is able to reassure him by making Barney believe he has captured the most wanted man in the county, bootlegger Rafe Hollister. Full of bravado again Barney turns down the new job because Maybery needs him. There is a really funny scene with Barney trying to extract information out of a sleeping Otis. The town drunkard jokingly gives the address of his liquor supplier and it takes Barney a second to realize it is HIS address. Did you know that the address given…411 Elm St….is the same as the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas?? Now that might seem like some kind of morbid joke…except for the fact that this episode aired almost two years BEFORE the Kennedy assassination!! This episode marks the first of three appearances by Rafe Hollister, although the actor had previously been on three other episodes portraying different characters.

 

 

59     Otis Sues the County         (S5E15)

After Otis slips & falls at the jail Barney makes him fill out an accident report, but when the notary public at the bank isn’t around Otis has to take the paperwork to Mt. Pilot to have it notarized by an attorney. That lawyer is a shyster who convinces Otis to sue the county, persuading him that he’d actually be doing Andy & Barney a favor by assuring that the courthouse would receive needed renovations. At the hearing Otis remembers that he actually tripped over his own coat. Floyd is particular obtuse in this episode, to great comedic effect. There is a really funny scene involving Otis & Barney wherein the clueless deputy accidentally becomes intoxicated, something tha happens a few times over the years. The actor portraying the shady lawyer had previously played a thief on the show a few years earlier.

 

 

58     The Darlings Are Coming  (S3E25)

The Darling family came down from the mountains to visit Mayberry about a half dozen times, and this was the first. They are meeting the bus that is bringing darlings2Charlene’s fiancée Dud home from military service. In the meantime though they keep sneaking into the hotel and disturbing the peace with their music. There’s a lot of good singing in this episode. I wouldn’t have minded more appearances by the Darlings.

 

 

57     The Pageant  (S5E11)

Aunt Bea takes over the lead role of Lady Mayberry in the Founder’s Day play after Clara Edwards has to go out of town, pageantbut it turns out she’s a terrible actress. Andy is given the task of telling her about her…lack of ability…but he is spared when Clara returns sooner than expected and Aunt Bea willingly steps aside. Founder’s Day is a big deal in Mayberry, as it is celebrated or mentioned a few times over the years. I’m sure some modern touchy-feely folks may get their knickers twisted about Andy & Barney’s portrayal of Indians, but political correctness wasn’t the cancer fifty years ago that it has become.

 

 

56     The Rumor  (S4E29)

Barney misinterprets a PDA between Andy & Helen that just so happens to occur in a jewelry store. He quickly convinces Thelma Lou & Aunt Bea that the couple are engaged, which of course they aren’t. Practically the whole town bucks up for a surprise party & gift, which in this case is a redecorated bedroom befitting a married couple. When Andy breaks the news that there is no engagement folks are disappointed but stick around for a party anyway. Barney trying to push Andy into marriage or jumping to the conclusion that he is about to get married is a storyline that is used multiple times throughout the show’s run, and it’s almost always sweet & funny.

 

 

55     Opie’s Fortune (S5E9)

After Opie finds a change purse containing $50 Andy tells the boy he can have the money…if no one has claimed it in one week. Immediately after the deadline a man comes forward claiming the lost loot, but Andy doesn’t have the heart to disappoint Opie. However Opie finds out anyway and, in one of those classic mix-ups between father & son, Andy thinks Opie is hurrying to spend the cash when in reality he is preparing to give it back to its rightful owner. Father/son stuff between Andy & Opie is always poignant, a stark contrast to so many of the dysfunctional relationships we see portrayed on television these days.

 

 

54     Up in Barney’s Room                   (S4E10)

Barney is evicted from Mrs. Mendelbright’s boarding house after he breaks her strict rule against cooking in his room. But when Andy & Barney hear that the landlady barnroomis about to sell everything and run off with a new beau they smell a rat. It turns out that the guy is a con man out to scam the old lady. They save her, Barney profusely apologizes for breaking the rules, and she agrees to take him back & maybe ease up just a little. This in the only episode with Mrs. Mendelbright, who was portrayed by the same actress who was the first to ever portray Tarzan’s Jane, in a 1918 silent film. Barney gets gooned on hard cider, and it’s always funny when Deputy Fife accidently becomes intoxicated.

 

 

53     A Feud Is a Feud (S1E9)

In a nod to Romeo & Juliet Andy tries to end a long running feud between two families who have offspring that want to get married. The feud has been going so long feudthat neither family patriarch even knows what they’re fighting about. Andy does his patented reverse psychology thing by trying to get the two old men to duel each other, but it turns out that both are spineless cowards and that no one in either family has ever been hurt or killed during the alleged feud. All’s well that ends well when the two youngsters tie the knot. Hearing Andy break down Shakespeare for Opie in his down-to-earth homespun way is one of the highlights of the entire series.

 

 

52     Man in the Middle      (S5E7)

Barney & Thelma Lou get into an argument & break up, only to reconcile the next day. But an offhand comment by Andy (that he didn’t even say) when trying to console Barney explodes into a mess of quarrels among Andy, Barney, Thelma Lou, & Helen. The foursome are the only characters in the episode, which is almost Shakespearean in the way that things get misconstrued & spiral out of control amongst the characters. The infamous night filter is used again, which thru the prism of modern technology looks really silly, although I’m sure 50 years ago few even noticed.

 

 

51     Ellie Comes to Town (S1E4)

When pharmacist Fred Walker falls ill his young niece Ellie arrives to run the drug store. She’s a bit uptight and doesn’t immediately get how things work in Mayberry, ellie3for example Andy having a key to the store and helping himself to what Aunt Bea needs. There’s also local hypochondriac Emma Brand (later Watson), who demands her pills sans prescription and requests Ellie’s arrest when she doesn’t acquiesce. Despite Ellie’s…rigidity…there is definitely a spark between her & Andy, and the two would go on to become a couple soon enough. She is one of my favorite Andy girlfriends. Emma is one of those delightfully quirky characters that only made a handful of appearances but makes an indelible impression. There’s also some adorableness from Opie here, and that’s always fun.

 

 

 

 

Let’s take a timeout. We’ll be back!!

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.