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Casting Mayberry

When I was a child, I loved watching the Andy Griffith show. It was a sweet situation comedy about a small town sheriff keeping the peace in rural North Carolina. The setting was bucolic. The cast was full of benign well-meaning people occasionally beset by antagonists passing through or creating problems for each other.

Let’s take a look at the functions of the different characters. 

The protagonist was the widowed Sheriff Andy Taylor. He had a shrewd mind hidden behind a good-old-boy smile. That was his secret weapon. The antagonists always underestimated him. His role was that of caretaker to a town full of people too innocent to protect themselves. His weakness was that he was too nice, bordering on enabling.

This was apparent when dealing with his sidekick, Barney Fife. Bumbling Barney meant well, but was often more of a hindrance than a help. He occasionally redeemed himself by luck rather than skill.

Andy’s Aunt Bee acted as the sweet voice of reason, but she occasionally got it wrong and this offered mild interpersonal conflict.

Otis, the town drunk, was usually a hindrance or complication to solving the story problem.

Floyd, the Barber, was the town gossip with feathers for brains. His tidbits of information sometimes helped and sometimes hindered.

Opie was Andy’s son and often posed important thematic questions. He occasionally got into trouble.

Goober and Gomer Pyle were goofy gas station attendants who innocently interfered. Their station was the portal to the town.

Andy was occasionally given a love interest who offered interpersonal conflict based on the occasional jealous pang or misunderstanding.

The antagonists were a series of moonshiners and petty criminals passing through. Once in a while they dealt with a real criminal (bank robber).

The characters not only offered local color, they were the source of interpersonal conflict. They aided or impeded and sometimes brought trouble to their door.

Andy’s genuine love for them kept him motivated to save them from their own folly and the bad guys who passed through.

There were no special effects, no guns blazing, no brutal murders. Sheriff Taylor was a loving but firm disciplinarian with Opie (and the rest of the town). Mayberry was a sweet place to pass a summer’s evening full of genuine love and kindness.

I doubt storytelling will ever return to that level of innocence, but the world could use a little country comfort these days. 

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