Wednesday, July 4, 2012

America calls, I must go (Porcupine Tree)

Turned over from the Wimbledon tennis coverage yesterday morning to hear the TV One newsreader (Peter Williams) announce that Andy Griffith had passed away at age 86.

I know that it's going to sound weird but it felt a bit like my second dad had died. My own dad was about the same age as Andy Griffith and also passed away in his eighties a few years ago. They were both fantastic role models - wise, patient, generous gentlemen who oozed integrity, except one was real and the other was a creative piece of American fiction.

To people of my generation, now aged in the mid fifties (Peter Williams is also of that age), The Andy Griffith Show was about people we knew and could identify with, in a place that we also knew well.

To summarise for those not of my generation:
The Andy Griffith Show was an American sitcom first televised by CBS between October 3, 1960, and April 1, 1968. Andy Griffith portrays a widowed sheriff called Andy Taylor in the fictional small community of Mayberry, North Carolina. His life is complicated by an inept, but well-meaning deputy, Barney Fife (Don Knotts), a spinster aunt and housekeeper, Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier), and a young son, Opie (Ronny Howard). Local ne'er-do-wells, bumbling pals, and temperamental girlfriends further complicate his life.

Mayberry and Royal Oak in Auckland, NZ, felt the same to me. Small and safe and cosy and affectionate places to grow up.

Aunt Bee was like my own Ma (my mum's mum), and really - I was Opie. I like Ron Howard as a character and there were aspects of Opie that I could see in myself. Ron's only three years older than me and was only 7 when he first started on the show. When the show ended I was 11 and he was 14.

There were plenty of examples of a Gomer Pyle and a Barney Fife around me as well.

Never once did it occur to me that there were other little boys and girls watching The Andy Griffith Show and feeling the same things I did in the mid sixties. I still have that naive egoism as part of my character when it comes to popular culture. But age 11? Forget about it. The show was made for me and I was the only one loving it, absorbing it. It existed only in my head. It always comes as a mild shock when someone like Peter Williams expresses an emotional link to something I've regarded as mine and mine alone. 

A lot of the interweb talk surrounding Andy Griffith's death has been about the passing of a TV generation from history and I guess that's true to a point but there is always an inexorable move or shift going on, from what was once and what is now. A show like that could not get on the air now but it did once upon a time and I loved Andy Taylor as played by Andy Griffith.

Love and peace - Wozza

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