Andy Griffith is gone and it makes me sad. I’ve always loved ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’ but … there was always an alternate Mayberry universe. Maybe you remember it. To recap:
• Barney had an ongoing affair with Aunt Bee, who secretly modeled her infamous pickles on Barney’s impressive anatomy. When Andy would come home for lunch, you’d see Barney diving out the kitchen door as the sheriff came in through the front door. This was a running gag in alternate Mayberry.
• Also, several of alternate Mayberry’s citizens disappear over time in my story arc, mysteriously, giving Andy and Barney some actual police work to do. Turns out, Floyd the barber was the Sweeney Todd of the South, cutting the throats of select victims. He would eventually be killed in a struggle with Barney, who somehow manages to pluck that one bullet out of his pocket, load his gun and shoot Floyd through the glasses, a la Moe Green.
• Opie is the town’s leading pot dealer, carefully acquiring his supply from the evidence room back of the sheriff’s office. In one episode, entitled ‘Andy’s Vacation,’ the sheriff goes to Mount Pilot for some downtime with the ‘fun girls,’ and Opie sneaks some Strawberry Diesel Kush into Aunt Bee’s brownie mix when she isn’t looking, then – at Aunt Bee’s request – brings a plate of brownies to Barney, who is pulling overtime at the jailhouse. Barney gets baked into a coma, forgetting to replace the retrievable jail cell key for Otis (or feed him). When Barney, waking from his coma with a raging bazooka, rushes to Bee’s for some marathon belly-to-belly action (among other things), Otis, screaming for a bathroom break, suffers a fatal stroke in his cell, thus quitting alcohol cold turkey.
• In an episode called ‘Barney’s Vacation,’ Andy hires a temporary deputy, who happens to be an African-American named Carnell, who disappears one night. Andy saves the day, though, stopping the local Klan from lynching Carnell in the woods at the edge of town. Because he never carries a gun, Andy has to defeat the small assembly of hooded weirdos by clubbing them with a burning cross. Turns out, Goober is the Grand Wizard, and as he is being thrown in jail, he hisses to Andy, “din’t you ever wonder why thar ain’t no [black people] in Mayberry?” Carnell admits he’s got no experience or interest in law enforcement, confessing that he’s always wanted to be a hairdresser, and Andy gets an idea. “This town looks like a bunch of dang hippies since Floyd … uh … left,” he says. “We can sure use a barber.” So, Carnell becomes the town’s new barber.
• There was the episode in which Gomer gets into politics and runs against Mayor Pike, who tries to have Gomer assassinated. Barney discovers the plot and Mayor Pike is arrested, then Barney discovers that Gomer is the leader of a local cock-fighting ring. In the end, Thelma Lou is declared mayor, with one write-in vote – hers – and alternate Mayberry becomes the first city in North Carolina with a woman mayor.
• And there were other alternate classics: Bee’s best friend Clara comes out of the closet as a lesbian and makes a pass at Bee, who gently declines, but becomes matchmaker and hooks Clara up with Helen the schoolmarm, breaking Andy’s heart; Ernest T. Bass goes back to school and becomes an investment banker; the Darlins cut an album with Doc Watson (another great loss) and leave Mayberry for Nashville; in the series finale, Barney is killed accidentally while playing Russian roulette with Opie, who is indicted, prompting Andy to quit sheriffing and become a lawyer, successfully defending his son, who moves to Hollywood to direct movies.
OK, so these treatments are as funny, relevant or educational as the actual sitcom (unless you count a glimpse into a severely twisted mind as educational), and maybe one or two of you (which pretty much comprises my entire readership) aren’t happy picking at the bones of a sacred cow.
But, parody is the sincerest form of flattery and also inevitable when something is so good (and so popular) for so long. And lets not forget, Andy Griffith was not only terrific as the wise, amiable, fair-minded sheriff and single dad. He was also spot-on as the amoral, conceited, asshole, Lonesome Rhodes (‘A Face in the Crowd’ — if you watch this one, then follow it with an episode of ‘Matlock,’ you’ll go blind).
So, we lost a great, multi-talented artist. And in the gentler, well-lit corner of my imagination, he’s riffing with his old pal Don Knotts and jamming among the cosmos with Doc Watson … with some occasional downtime in the company of the ‘fun girls.’