Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A tribute to the late, great Andy Griffith

Here at Plan 9 Crunch, we are fans of The Andy Griffith Show. Here's a review of the TAGS episode "Family Visit." Today, we remember the late, great Andy Griffith. RIP Sheriff Taylor

The Andy Griffith Show, Season 5, Episode 3, "The Family Visit." Starring Andy Griffith, Ron Howard, Frances Bavier. Guest starring James Westerfield and Maudie Prickett as Uncle Ollie and Aunt Nora.

As TAGS afficionados know, Don Knotts needed a few breaks a year from TAGS duties. Oftentimes, the Barney-less episodes lack the manic comic punch Knotts offered, but it often allowed others to shine. A good example is Frances Bavier's blend of comedy and pathos in "The Bed Jacket." Another Barney-less gem is "The Family Visit," which first aired Oct. 5, 1964. (It must be wonderful to be a TAGS fan who saw these episodes premier)

The episode starts with an enjoyable Taylors-on-the-Front-Porch scene where the family relaxing, is greeting other families on their way to preaching and spending time with relaxed chatter. Aunt Bee's observations about several generations of Beamers walking to church leads to reminiscing about their own relatives, and why they don't see them more often. It is finally decided to invite Uncle Ollie and Aunt Nora and their two boys for a weekend in Mayberry.

Once Uncle Ollie and Aunt Nora arrive, the comedy conflict arises. As the Taylors learn, our memories favor the positive, not the negatives. Ollie and Nora are nice folks, but a fussy, middle-aged pair who like to bicker. Their sons tussle with Opie. Nora wants to set Andy up with a "skinny widow with a bakery truck" -- "with the original paint," Ollie chimes in. Ollie, bless his heart, is an impulsive blowhard and house messer-upper. He also dreams he's riding a bike, as bedmate Andy discovers. In short, after a couple of days with Aunt and Uncle and the boys, the Taylors have had their fill of a family visit. Of course, that's when Ollie and Nora decide to extend the trip for a week. Andy finally gets rid of the family by calling a reckless bluff Ollie made earlier. There is a fun epilogue where Andy gives Aunt Bee an incredulous look when she pines to have Ollie, Nora and the boys back soon.

As always, Griffith, Bavier and Howard are good but the success of "Family Visit" must go to ubiquitious character actors and TV comedians James Westerfield and Maudie Prickett. Both were fixtures in mid-century TV and film and their comic timimg as a long-married, squabbling couple is perfect. Some of their best scenes include Nora forcing a busy Andy on the phone with "the skinny widow" and Ollie bullying a meek traffic violator. Westerfield and Prickett's squabbling over "Ollie always forgetting" is also classic TV comedy. Westerfield and Prickett's Ollie and Nora characters were, frankly, good enough to become regulars on TAGS or as a spinoff TV sitcom.

Notes: Westerfield played the character of "Big Mac" in the classic 50s film "On the Waterfront." He was in dozens of TV shows, including Mayberry RFD, and a fixture in westerns. Prickett later played an occasional roles as Mrs Larch in TAGS. She was also in Mayberry RFD and Gomer Pyle USMC and Bewitched and Dragnet. Uncredited roles included "The Music Man" and "North by Northwest."

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