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The View from the East End (25)

By Inspector Hopkins

November 6, 2005

Sherlock of Mayberry?

Remember the old television series, "The Andy Griffith Show"?

This heartwarming sitcom about the exploits of a small town sheriff named Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith) and his trusty deputy Barney Fife (Don Knotts), captured the hearts of millions of Americans in the early 1960’s. Taking place in the fictitious village of Mayberry, North Carolina, Andy and Barney faced a comedic situation in each episode.

Varying between somewhat serious overtones and outlandishly silly ones, the problems usually reflected typical situations found in the equivalent of a very large family. In the village of Mayberry, with such lovable characters as Andy’s son Opie, his Aunt Bea, Floyd the barber, Howard Sprague, and Goober the town mechanic to name a few, everybody knew everyone else. Hardy anyone locked their doors, real crime was essentially non-existent, and Sheriff Taylor never carried a gun. The characters were basic, honest, moral, church-going people going about their daily lives with a dogged faith in their government and their country. They reflected the values of days gone by, when a trip to the ice cream parlor was a real treat, and when "competition" only meant trying to win blue ribbons at the County Fair.

Sheriff Taylor was a single parent raising his son Opie. Nothing was ever mentioned about Opie’s mother, but Andy’s Aunt Bea helped in raising the boy, and in taking care of the household. In spite of the well-meaning but bumbling efforts of most of the villagers, especially Barney Fife, Sheriff Taylor was always in control, playing the "straight man" in this comedy series. Each episode usually had a moral to it, mainly focusing on how to spare someone’s feelings from being hurt. Reminiscent of Lucille Ball of "I Love Lucy" fame, most of the comedy began or revolved around a "white lie" told in order to prevent offending or affronting someone.

The series was popular, lasted for a numbers of seasons with some changes in the cast, and finally went into syndication for many years. I remember watching it as a boy every week with my parents, and have caught an episode of it from time to time over the years.

Recently, I saw these shows again in the form of a "Marathon"! (From time to time, we have these out here in the East End). It was a 48-hour "Andy Griffith Show Marathon" no less, and I was therefore entertained for an entire weekend. I watched episode after episode, and as I did, I noted that they were broadcast in roughly the same order that they were originally filmed and produced. But never before had I watched so many episodes of the show back-to-back. In fact, I watched some episodes for the very first time. For example, the show where Barney Fife was first introduced to Sheriff Taylor.

It occurred to me that there was a chronological order to these episodes, and it reminded me of the Canon when Holmes and Watson first met. I started watching more intently, picking up little bits of detail, episode by episode and piecing them together one by one. Occasionally during this Marathon, there was some commentary presented. For example, the fact that Sheriff Taylor and Barney Fife were portrayed as cousins was brought out. As the Marathon continued, I noted that this fact was mentioned in only two episodes out of the entire series. As the series progressed, more and more detail was filled in, and it reminded me more and more of the progression in the Canon.

I started to observe the Ford police car that they used, and noted several different model years, which enable me to place the episode in the correct time frame. Hmmm . . . I was subconsciously looking for facts and details which enabled me to do my own chronology of the series . . . just as we try to do in the Canon.

One after another, episodes came on, and I found myself sorting them out in their proper place and in their proper time. As Watson left from time to time in the Canon, so did Barney Fife in the television series, until he was no longer on the show at all. This reminded me of BLAN and LION when Holmes was without his sidekick, and corresponded to the end of the Canonical series. I felt as if I was really on to something. Smiling with satisfaction, I simply realized that my mind was becoming better trained to look for detail in the world all around me!

And I owe it all to being a Sherlockian.

So the next time someone tells you that reading Sherlock Holmes over and over is a silly waste of time . . . well, you just might consider my words and think differently.

Until next time, and thanking you once more for your attention, I am indeed,Yours faithfully,