Who didn't love Andy Griffith?
The TV icon died Tuesday at the age of 86, almost 52 years after the debut of "The Andy Griffith Show." Generations of Americans have grown up watching Andy, Barney, Opie and Aunt Bee as the episodes repeated endlessly.
It never went out of style. As recently as 2010, "The Andy Griffith Show" was the highest-rated program on TV Land. Griffith himself was just nominated by the Television Critics Association for its Lifetime Achievement Award.
"The Andy Griffith Show" wasn't a hit because the show was hilarious, although it was at times. It was more gentle humor, and the characters were just plain lovable. Particularly Sheriff Andy Taylor (Griffith), the man everyone would have loved to have as their pa.
(Trivia: Andy, Opie, Aunt Bee and the town of Mayberry first appeared on an episode of "The Danny Thomas Show" in which Andy arrested Danny for running a stop sign.)
And while Griffith didn't lack for turmoil in his own life, he was the perfect television star. Warm, amiable, and personable — he made it look so easy viewers perhaps didn't realize how talented he was.
After several failed attempts at a TV comeback, he brought that persona back to television in 1986. Griffith played good-guy lawyer Ben "Matlock" in a show that again appealed to a wide audience and ran nine seasons.
In person, Andy Griffith was the same person we saw on TV. I interviewed him once several years ago, and it was like talking to Andy Taylor. And Matlock. And Andy Griffith. All rolled into one.
After a couple of decades of interviewing TV stars, there aren't many who make a big impression. Griffith did.
Andy Griffith will be missed. But "The Andy Griffith Show" isn't going anywhere. It's going to be rerun on TV until there's no TV anymore — and then, no doubt, it will play in some other format.
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