One of the few television shows from the 1960s that still regularly airs on network and cable TV is the Andy Griffith Show. Set in the fictional North Carolina town of Mayberry, the Andy Griffith Show was an instant hit and continues to resonate with viewers today. Watching the show in 2013, it’s hard to imagine a world—even a fictitious one—so peaceful and relaxed ever existed on television. Although Andy Griffith played a sheriff, he rarely dealt with criminals more hardened than the town drunk or the occasional petty thief. The world of Mayberry is one of comical mischief, math tests and awkward school dances for Opie, and a Friday night double date for Andy and his loyal deputy Barney.
Could such a show succeed today? It’s difficult to say. News dominates the airwaves 24/7, and it’s often bad news. All around, the media seems eager to showcase the latest information on a breaking news story, whether of more violence or stocks crashing or mass unemployment. But in Mayberry, life goes on as usual, and at the end of the day, there’s always a peaceful resolution to the day’s problem.
With most of the main cast deceased (except for Ron Howard), it might be easy to dismiss the Andy Griffith Show as nothing but a relic of the past—a time capsule of mid-century small-town America. But the show actually represents a time period that never truly existed. During most the show’s original run, the United States was going through the middle of a social revolution, and by the time the show ended in 1968, the Vietnam War was in full swing. The show may have seemed as quaint and detached from reality to viewers then as it does to viewers now.
Baby boomers and their parents, who watched the show during its original run, aren’t the only ones who have a strong attachment to the sitcom. In fact, Joey Fann wrote a book about the show called The Way Back to Mayberry: Lessons From Simpler Times, which contains Bible verses illustrated by 30 different episodes of the show. The book has proven to be so popular that it’s used in many churches as a study guide. Because of its strong moral values and comforting presence in increasingly uncertain times, the Andy Griffith Show is deceptively deep, and will continue to be discussed for years to come.