The Andy Griffith Show Christmas Special

CBS

Aired December 25, 2015

Copying the formula of the I Love Lucy one-hour special, CBS gave us a colorized half-hour Christmas-themed episode of The Andy Griffith Show followed by a second classic episode plucked from the show’s eight-season history. The familiar opening theme stuck in our heads long after the episode ended, as it did back when we first watched the series in syndication in the 70s. And once again we were treated to a day (or two) of life in Mayberry.

“The Christmas Story” episode featured a song, sentimentality, and holiday cheer from a small town’s perspective, and from a less cynical era of TV. Andy and Barney had to bring Christmas to their jailhouse in order to prevent a family from missing out on being together for the holiday, while unknowingly helping an elder curmudgeon feel the holiday spirit. There were no major hijinks on display, no sarcasm, or any other flip on the Christmas theme that you might expect from contemporary TV shows tackling a holiday special. Instead, it was a very simple story that delivered a message of good will with a hint at the religious side of the holiday. It was the type of story you’d want your younger kids to watch; unfortunately, given what kids are subjected to for entertainment today, those older than ten or eleven might find it corny, which is a shame.

In the second episode, “The Pickle Story,” Aunt Bea’s homemade pickles were at the center of controversy. Despite her best efforts, she just couldn’t make pickles that anyone enjoyed eating, but no one had the heart to tell her how epically bad they were. Faced with the prospect of eating jars of her latest batch of pickles, Andy and Barney swap them out for store-brand pickles in order to save their pallets. Once Aunt Bea sees how much the boys like her new batch, she becomes encouraged to enter them in a pickle contest at the state fair in a complication you can see coming from a mile away. Andy can’t bear to watch her possibly win the contest under false pretenses, especially considering what winning that contest means to a certain other woman in town, and he goes about to right the wrong he had committed.

It was a touching episode, a bit on the sappy side that leaned towards teaching a life lesson under the guise of humor, though the humor was more charming than it was gut-busting funny. Still, there’s room (some may even argue a need) for the oh-shucks kind of life portrayed on The Andy Griffith Show and the messages it delivered.

Aside from the vibrant colors now introduced, the highlight of the special was Don Knotts’ portrayal of Barney. His ability to pay off jokes with well-delivered, perfectly-timed retorts or with his physical reactions to setups provided the most humorous moments in both episodes. Also fun to watch:  A-list director Ron Howard as cute, little Opie Taylor. That never gets old.

The Andy Griffith Show is still a good source of light entertainment with the occasional message. Not a bad thing to have your young ones watch, and the one-hour Christmas special is a good starting point to introduce them to the show.