July 12, 2012
A reader sent me an interesting request a couple of days ago, one about which I’ve really had to think before responding. As I’m sure everyone is aware by now, the great Andy Griffith passed away last week. With him is buried an era of Americana that I fear we may never see again. Most famous for the fabulously popular “The Andy Griffith Show,” Griffith and the unforgettable cast of the show TV Guide called “the ninth most popular show in television history” taught a very fortunate generation about life, fairness, honesty and the things that really matter. Griffith, Aunt Bea, Gomer, et al will forever be considered family to many Americans.
The reader to whom I referred asked me to write about how much television has changed since “The Andy Griffith Show”; specifically, how on earth did we go from small town Mayberry and the sterling values of its citizens, to the drunken, promiscuous, obnoxious cast of "Jersey Shore"? It’s a very good question and one I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer, but there are a few things I do know:
I never once saw Aunt Bea stumbling down the middle of the street, too-short dress askew and pantyhose ripped, shouting random obscenities at passersby.
Andy didn’t worry too much about the gym, tanning or laundry, nor did he take bets on whether Helen was “DTF” on any given evening.
Opie wasn’t a raging alcoholic. Otis was, but at least he had the decency to lock himself up once he had too much to drink. Come to think of it, he’s the one character who could have easily made the transition from North Carolina to the Jersey shore. He wasn’t very tan, and I’m assuming his wife did his laundry, but he could throw back some liquor.
I can’t recall ever seeing anyone, male or female, on the popular '60s sitcom look into the camera and belching or demonstrating any other noisy bodily function for the viewers’ amusement.
Next to Snooki or Deena, Goober Pyle would look like a nuclear physicist.
Neither Thelma Lou, Helen nor Aunt Bea had chest-enhancing cosmetic surgery. At least, if they did it wasn’t obvious. I don’t think they ever used profanity or got arrested, either (there’s nothing wrong with a little cosmetic surgery, mind you - just an observation).
People in Mayberry didn’t randomly stumble and fall. I do not understand why that happens so often in "Jersey Shore" or why it’s so funny. I think a few of the cast members of "Jersey Shore" should request CAT scans, and soon.
Now I’m showing my age, I know, but I wish things were really the way the fictional town of Mayberry was. I wish people were (for the most part) honest. I wish they exhibited self-respect and respect for others. I wish kids really could play outside until dark. I wish women weren’t portrayed as being easy, inebriated morons. I wish “dumb” wasn’t the accepted norm.
Oh well. Train wrecks sell, as we’ve seen in so many other “reality” shows on television. Here’s something to think about though; if Barney Fife were to dump Thelma Lou for one of the girls of "Jersey Shore," which one would it be?
Carole Townsend is also a Gwinnett Daily Post staff correspondent and author of “Southern Fried White Trash.” The book takes a humorous look at families and how we behave when thrown together for weddings, funerals and holidays. She has been quoted on msnbc.com, in the LA Times, USA Today and the Christian Science Monitor, been featured on FOX 5 News and CNN, and is often a guest on television and radio shows nationwide. Her next book, “Red Lipstick and Clean Underwear,” is eagerly expected in late summer 2012.