In honor of the 50th anniversary of The Andy Griffith Show, CBS/Paramount has released The Best of Mayberry, a collection of fan favorites on three DVDs. For anyone who got to experience when these shows first aired, for anyone like me who watched the show in reruns on weekday afternoons, or or anyone who first discovered the show on TV Land, this set is a great compilation of some of the funniest episodes that aired during the show’s long run from 1960 to 1968. However, for anyone who’s never experienced the laid back charm of Andy Taylor, the small town sheriff of Mayberry, North Carolina, and the characters that made up this imaginary town, The Best of Mayberry is the ideal place to get a taste of the charm of Andy Griffith and the brilliance of Don Knotts, who played Deputy Barney Fife.
The greatness of this series is that it’s remains consistently funny even though fifty years have passed. When I sat down to review the DVDs, I used my computer and headphones while the family went about their daily business in the background. Time and again, I was laughing out loud, causing curious stares from my children. It’s not just Griffith’s sly line readings or Knotts’ double takes and masterful physical humor, it’s also the cutaways to young Ronny Howard, reacting to the shenanigans around him, it’s Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier) rolling her eyes or welling up in tears, and it’s Floyd the Barber (Howard McNear) and Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors), two of the eccentrics that populated Mayberry. Everything about this show is just as funny as it was in the 1960s.
Among the classic episodes included on the disc are: “The Pickle Story,” in which Aunt Bee makes another batch of her “kerosene pickles,” and the boys are distressed when she decides to enter the awful veggies in the county fair; “Convicts at Large,” the episode that features Floyd and Barney trapped in a cabin with three escaped female convicts; and “Barney’s Sidecar,” the one where Barney get himself a motorcycle.
“Opie, the Birdman,” one of the best episodes the series ever aired, is also a part of the set. In this one, Opie accidentally kills a mother bird with his slingshot. The boy is devastated and Andy is angry. When he confronts his son, there is nothing jovial about Griffith’s performance. He appears every bit as menacing as any child would see their parent in a similar situation. Opie decides to raise the dead bird’s three offspring on his own until they’re able fly away. This episode is a reminder that The Andy Griffith Show not only had some of the best comedic writing of its day, but it also was able to turn serious and perform as an excellent family drama on occasion.
Special features include some of the original sponsor adds for Post, which are always fun to watch, the episode of The Danny Thomas Show from which The Andy Griffith Show spun off, informative introductions to each episode, and the complete TV reunion movie, Return to Mayberry.