Sheriff Taylor more than just TV character

Published 12:08am Sunday, July 8, 2012

Last week, our family lost a true friend. Interestingly enough, he was a friend we’d never actually met.

That didn’t matter, though. His loss was still a sad day. He was like the cool uncle everyone wishes they had.

Millions of others feel the same way, I expect.

This jovial fellow came into our homes through the magical little box each week. His presence spanned generations, since Andy Griffith has entertained Americans for nearly 60 years.

Although Griffith portrayed many TV and film characters, the one that made him close to my heart was that of the humble, wise and prudent country sheriff, Andy Taylor.

The good people of fictional Mayberry, N.C. — where “The Andy Griffith Show” was set — often didn’t realize just how lucky they were to have Sheriff Taylor watching out for their collective wellness.

Townspeople often figured out how lucky they were in the last minute of each episode. Like many of us, they’d often take the good things in life for granted by the time the next week’s hijinks rolled around.

“The Andy Griffith Show” only aired for eight years. It’s amazing that it’s even a part of my childhood since it ended official production before I was born. But it was certainly a part of my life — in re-run form.

I’d faithfully watch Andy, Barney, Opie, Aunt Bee and the other interesting, if a little quirky, inhabitants of Mayberry each weekday after school.

The show has been on in syndication pretty much since it ended production in 1968. At least, it seems like it’s always been on some channel, somewhere.

What was it about the show and its star that made the show such a hit and caused it to have such a memorable impact on millions of Americans?

Taylor’s handle on all things in Mayberry was almost perfect, idyllic even.

The sheriff’s easy, levelheaded manner and common sense approach to crime-fighting and small-town problem solving kept the peace in the community.

Taylor came across as someone who genuinely liked to help people and who really enjoyed the quirkiness of those around him.

Unlike today’s TV hits, the show was entirely wholesome and appropriate for viewers of all ages.

Each 30-minute episode was like a mini-Greek tragedy, Southern-style. The plot lines seemed to flip between one of the locals who temporarily did something bad or the outsider who came to town and turned Mayberry temporarily on its head.

Most often, it was the sheriff who helped smooth things over and set the world right again in Mayberry.

He always had a way of doing that in which everyone — perhaps except the occasional villain — felt good about how things were handled.

Each episode offered up what was effectively a life lesson, often applicable to anyone from age 6 to 60.

Griffith was a paid actor, but he was someone who was so believable, so credible that none of us ever felt like he was acting. It was just him we thought.

The world will miss Griffith, but the lessons his famous character gave us will be around for a long, long time.

When we’re faced with a problematic situation, in many cases applying a bit of “Andy” logic can generally solve the problems at hand.

Thanks to Andy Griffith for sharing his theatrical talents with all of us and changing our culture in the process.

 

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.