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We're Not Spring Chickens Anymore
This episode starts out with Aunt Bee feeling depressed about an acquaintance who passed away and was close to Aunt Bee in age. Andy suggests a visit to the doctor but she dismisses the idea saying that Doc Andrews wouldn't understand. On her way home, she encounters a street peddler who is pushing a special tonic that is supposed to give you a boost and revitalize your energy. Aunt Bee buys a couple bottles and also invites the charismatic pitchman over for dinner. Later, Andy and Barney also encounter the "medicine man" and they both become immediately suspicious. However, he has the necessary paperwork for street peddling and they leave him alone for the time being. In the meantime, Aunt Bee is home cooking dinner and has already sampled the tonic. When Andy and Barney get to the house, they fine Aunt Bee bouncing up and down playing the piano and singing with Opie. They immediately notice her erratic behavior (Barney tells Andy "I think she's tiddly") They then find the tonic bottles and decide Barney should take one of them to the local doctor for analysis. By this time Colonel Harvey arrives for dinner. Aunt Bee and Opie are charmed by his talk and magic tricks however Andy already has him figured out as a boorish and pompous double talker. Veteran character actor John Dehner is flawless in the role as Aunt Bee's medicine man. Frances Bavier turns in another great performance as Aunt Bee while under the influence of the Colonel's Charm and his tonic. Director Bob Sweeney also deserves props for how he framed each scene in this episode to emphasize the visual humor ( e.g. Aunt Bee bouncing up and down on the piano stool and spinning around to greet Andy and Barney. Also, the Colonels entrance to the Taylor house when he discovers Andy is Aunt Bee's nephew.) Its also good to see Andy and Barney working together as a team without Barney doing something inept. Another good example of TAGS in its prime.
Get me a Spindle Wrench
Relatives from out of town come for a visit with their two young boys and upset the Taylor household. This was an episode without Don Knotts (Barney) who in later years would take occasional time off I beleive "Family Visit" became the model of what to do when the shows main source of comedy (Barney) was not in the script. It was all about Andy's reactions to situations and this story had several good examples. Watch Andy's face at the breakfast table when his Uncle Ollie complains he "did not sleep a wink". This after Andy spent a sleepless night being kept awake by Ollies snoring and tossing and turning. Watch Andy's reaction when his Aunt Nora wont get off the official courthouse phone until Andy speaks to her spinster friend she thinks is perfect for him. And watch Andy's reaction to Uncle Ollie's multiple blustery displays of boorish behavior like playing with the siren in the squad car, randomly grabbing the rifles out of the gun rack and chastising a local who comes in the courthouse to pay a fine. Guest stars Maudie Prickett and James Westerfield are excellent as the bickering relatives in this one of the funniest non-Barney episodes.
Unplanned Swan Song
Apparently when this episode was made, it was not known that the show would soon be cancelled. But because the story does concern a major turning point, and because it was the final first-run episode aired it serves as an unofficial finale. Its a smart script that once again has Mama Carlson ( the always effective Carol Bruce) pulling strings and manipulating the employees at WKRP. This is also one of four episodes that feature Mama's butler Hirsch who is played to hilarious perfection by Ian Wolfe. However, it is the penultimate scene with Dr. Johnny Fever and Mama that is the most memorable. Fever, whom she usually dismisses as a burned out stoner, quickly figures out what is really going on with her latest gyrations, and calls her out on it. A great scene well played, and even though things are unresolved, it ends up being an adequate stopping point.
Every Character Has Their Moment
This is one of my favorite episodes It focuses on Jennifer but it showcases the entire cast as they each react differently to the death of her beloved "Colonel", (a much older man that she has been dating). Most everyone has something to say, without knowing what to say, and its all awkward as they reach for just the right condolences. Everyone but Herb that is. For better or worse, Herb says exactly whats on his mind and this ends up calming Jennifer who realizes there is something to be said for not being politically correct all the time. The highlight of this episode for me is the reading of the will which the Colonel did himself on video. Guest star Pat O'Brien is hilarious as he runs through each of his greedy and spoiled relatives while lovingly recognizing his "good soldier" Jennifer. The family sees Jennifer as a gold digger since she was named executrix of the will, therefore there is much resentment and gossip surrounding the "mystery lady". Their are many good lines throughout this episode such as when Mr. Carlson escorts Jennifer to the funeral ("Hey look! She's with another old coot!"). Or when Les and Herb banter back and forth about the meaning of "executrix". In the end however, it is LonI Anderson's spot on performance as Jennifer that holds the show together. One minute sad, one minute uncertain, but through it all its her intelligence and wit that stand out. Don't miss it.
Mayer Stoner Arrives
This is the first episode to feature Parley Baer as Mayor Roy Stoner, an antagonistic character in the mold of local businessman Ben Weaver. This mayor is pushy, bossy, condescending and he makes you want to see how Andy will eventually put him in his place. This episode starts with Andy getting ready to release a prisoner early so he can get his crops in. Andy's common sense approach clashes with the Mayor's "by the book" approach when Stoner forbids Andy to release the man before his sentence is up. Of course Andy lets the man go with the understanding that he return in a few days once he finishes with his crops. In the meantime the Mayor discovers Andy has gone against his instructions and decides to wait in the Sheriff's office with Andy and Barney for the mans return. When he doesn't return at 3pm as promised, the three of them take a ride out to the prisoner's farm to see what happened. In between all this there are funny scenes with Barney who is so intimidated by the new mayor, he reacts nervously every times he comes in contact with him. It has been said that Andy Griffith never liked the character of the Mayor which is probably why he only appears in a half dozen or so episodes. Regardless, this a funny episode that marks the debut of a colorful new recurring character.
Aunt Bee Shines
Aunt Bee is usually known for her prowess in the kitchen including her succulent fried chicken and other fine southern recipes, however in this episode we learn she doesn't know how to make an edible pickle. What's amusing is she's the only one that doesn't realize her pickles taste like "kerosene". As usual, Andy forgoes honesty to prevent her feelings from getting hurt so there's a lot of plotting going on behind her back to avoid her finding out what people really think. This all goes into high gear when Aunt Bee decides to enter her pickles in the Annual Pickle Contest at the local fair. This episode is a good showcase for Francis Bavier who always shines as Aunt Bee. A very funny episode.
If You Could Pick Only One Episode ...
If you could pick only one episode to show someone who has never seen a single episode pf "The Andy Griffith Show", this would be a great example. The contrast between the hustling of displaced businessman Malcom Tucker and the easygoing Sunday afternoon antics of Mayberry's finest citizens demonstrates everything that's appealing about the series. It includes the great front porch scene with Barney lazily repeating his mundane afternoon itinerary to the point that it infuriates Tucker. We also learn about "adventure sleeping" and Gomer's cousin Goober (who would later replace him at the filling station). Then there are the two elderly sisters who tie up the phone line every Sunday talking to one another about their health issues. A high point from the classic era that usually ends up at the top of most viewers "Best of" lists.
A Rare Disappointment From The Early Years
Even if you love Mayberry and are a fan of it's neurotic barber Floyd, you might be disappointed with this episode. Howard McNear tries admirably to carry the goofy plot with his usually hilarious portrayal of Floyd, however there are too many flaws to overlook. The story has Andy discovering that Floyd has been corresponding with a woman he's never met and lying about his status and wealth. So when the woman decides to finally visit Floyd in Mayberry its up to Andy to handle damage control (in the same manner he usually helps Barney save face). What happens next requires the viewer to suspend such disbelief that it actually distracts from any thing else that might be appealing about this episode. We are expected to believe that Andy would actually betray the trust of a homeowner who left his house keys with Andy while out of town. Then we are expected to believe that Andy would go along with Floyd's charade and even include Aunt Bee and Opie on the deception. A better showcase of Howard McNear's characterization of Floyd is the episode "Convicts at Large". Check that one out first and avoid this rare disappointing episode from the classic era of "The Andy Griffith Show".
This episode contains all the classic elements that make "The Andy Griffith Show" appealing to so many people. It centers around Barney and the decision to spend his life's savings($300)on a used car. Of course the car is a supposed one owner, pampered cream-puff that has been "handled with kid gloves". And the car owner is a supposed recently widowed "little old lady" who's husband also happened to be named Bernard. The highlight of the episode is a Sunday drive in the country in Barney's new ride with Andy, Opie, Aunt Bee, Thelma Lou and Gomer. This episode is also a perfect example of how important the incidental music (by composer Earle Hagen)was to the series (note the use of a harpsichord used in the scenes with Mrs. Lesh.) Ultimately, this episode spotlights Don Knotts who gets to display the entire range of Barney's emotions as he navigates his way through his first big purchase. One of the series' best.
Star Trek (TOS) Defining Moment
Arguably, "Star Trek"'s finest hour, "The City On The Edge of Forever" proved the potential of a series that was too often uneven and frustrating to watch. The history of the episode is controversial because it's high profile author felt his story had been compromised to satisfy production constraints. It all takes place on a planet where there exists a time portal tended by an unseen "Guardian of Forever". After Dr. McCoy accidentally injects himself with an overdose of a psychotic drug, he becomes temporarily mad and jumps through the time portal. In a matter of seconds, the orbiting Enterprise disappears and the landing party is stranded. Correctly assuming that McCoy had altered time, Kirk and Spock realize they must jump into the portal a few weeks before him, and figure out how to prevent the change. While waiting, the pair use primitive means to power their tricorder in order to find clues to where McCoy might be and what he may have changed. All this happens as the pair works in a depression-era street mission run by attractive do-gooder Edith Keeler. As time runs out, Kirk and Keeler start to fall in love. A beautiful, compelling story that might have fared even better as a 90 minute or two hour episode.
Star Trek: Spock's Brain (1968)
The Beginning Of The End
This is one of the episodes that some "Trekkies" love to hate. It was the first episode of the series' third and final season, the one salvaged by an unprecedented letter writing campaign at the end of season two. Any non-trekkie tuning in to this episode to see "what the fuss was all about" would likely have dismissed any further plans to follow the series. This episode has been described and explained better by other reviewers. I especially like the comparison of the empty premise to the brainless body of Spock "clicking" through the corridors of the underground complex while McCoy remotely guides the shell like some sort of battery operated toy. Actually the ides of an alien race stealing "Spock's Brain" to use it as a kind of CPU has some good possibilities. It's just mishandled here and the result is mostly creepy and often laughable.
Star Trek: The Galileo Seven (1967)
Good Character Development
Star Trek was hitting its stride by the time of the "Galileo Seven". The title might actually be a variation of "Twelve Angry Men" another story of several interesting characters forced into a situation where important choices need to be made. The characters of Spock, McCoy and Scott in particular are advanced here as we learn more about each of them. Spock's strictly logical thinking proves to be both an advantage and a detriment as he is the ranking officer and responsible for the ultimate choices being made here. McCoy on the other hand acts as Spock's "human" conscience, figuratively sitting on his shoulder and pushing him not to rely so much on his non-emotive Vulcan side. Scott merely does what he does best by tirelessly testing theories using the resources he's provided to do his part in solving the problem at hand. In this case, the shuttlecraft "Galileo" is stranded on a hostile planet with large alien creatures determined to prevent their escape. The conclusion will surprise you and ultimately gives some great insight into the character of Spock.
Star Trek: All Our Yesterdays (1969)
A Season 3 (And Series) Standout
By the time "All Our Yesterdays" appeared at the end of season 3, many fans had probably given up on the idea that "Star Trek" would actually be capable of producing another quality episode. Thanks to budget cuts and creator Gene Roddenberry abandoning ship, there were just as many bad episodes in Season 3 as there were good episodes in season 1. "All Our Yesterdays" starts out with the interesting premise that allows the viewer to imagine what it would be like to choose your own destiny in the time line of your existence. A planet is about to be destroyed by a natural outer space phenomenon when its people (who have had enough time to prepare) are allowed to choose some point in their planet's history to live out their lives. The plan is to "prepare" everyone before they go through a time portal so that once they are on the other side they are unaware of their actual past. This preparation also prevents them from returning. Kirk, Spock and McCoy are inadvertently shoved through the portal by the "Librarian", a caretaker who is frantically trying to get everyone to safety before the impending disaster. Kirk lands at a point in time similar to Earth's 17th century and finds himself accused of being a witch (after people hear the voices of McCoy and Spock on the other side of the portal). In the meantime McCoy and Spock are back in the planet's Ice Age where they are befriended by a lonely beautiful women who lives in a cave by herself. In addition to having to find their way back to the portal, Spock has started to revert to a more primitive version of himself complete with primal Vulcan emotions, adding another obstacle to their dilemma. The ultimate solution to their problem is believable and along the way we get to witness more of Kirk's ingenuity and bravery and get more insight to the complex relationship between Spock and McCoy. A very satisfying episode.
Star Trek: The Doomsday Machine (1967)
One of the Top Five Star Trek (TOS) Episodes
An exciting "edge of your seat" episode that also manages to highlight the main characters and shows how well they function as a team. Here they are working together to neutralize a so-called "Doomsday Machine" that travels the universe consuming everything in its path (including whole planets). Kirk and Scotty are on board the badly crippled "Constellation" (a twin to the "Enterprise")and work on trying to restore enough power to assist the Enterprise. Meanwhile, on the Enterprise, Spock is in command and is left to deal with the Constellation's lone survivor, Commodore Decker (who is now on a personal mission of his own) and Dr. McCoy who (as usual) is challenging Spock's decisions. Everyone has their shining moment in this one.
Gomer Grows Up
The best episodes of the Andy Griffith Show are the ones that highlight the characters and use the storyline to emphasize the interaction between them. We love watching what everyone does in their off time whether it is choir practice, preparing for the town picnic, or in this case going to the annual Mayberry Dance. Most of the comedy in this episode comes from Gomer who is a little naive when it comes to dating. The Mayberry Dance coincides with a surprise visit from Thelma Lou's cousin (sweetly played by Mary Grace Canfield) who is also a "wallflower" type and Thelma Lou does not want to leave her alone while everyone else goes out on the town. The solution is to find her a date, however this late in the game most everyone has plans. Everyone, that is, but Gomer Pyle. At this point it takes a lot of convincing talk, but ultimately the three couples (Andy and Helen, Barney and Thelma Lou, and Mary Grace and Gomer) get together and its time to go to the dance. What happens next is a lesson in humanity and at the same time we see a side of Gomer that further defines one of the best characters to ever come out of Mayberry. This is a very funny well-played episode.
Barney's Home Life
This is a hilarious episode that lets us see Barney Fife's home situation. This is what it's like when Barney is off duty and he's not over at Andy's or with Thelma Lou (or Juanita). We see that he rents an upstairs room from Mrs. Mendlebright at the local boarding house. Mrs. Mendlebright is a sweet little old lady who will treat you just fine as long as you are not breaking any of her rules. Unfortunately, her rules are little confining – no cooking in the room, no light bulbs over 40 watts, etc. So Barney copes with this by regularly breaking the rules behind her back. He uses a 60 watt bulb so he is able to read his detective magazines at night, and he smuggles in food to cook on his "illegal" hot plate. One night Andy drops by and Barney is cooking up some stew on his hotplate. Mrs. Mendlebright is occupied downstairs with a prospective new tenant. Andy and Barney get sidetracked while talking about how the room is decorated, when the pan of stew gets overcooked and the room starts filling with smoke. Of course this alerts Mrs. Mendlebright who is horrified that Barney is breaking the rules and has also just ruined her special dresser with his cooking. In her anger she throws Barney out and rents his room to the new tenant (a slick, older man who already seems a bit too over-complimentary of Mrs. Mendlebright). In the meantime, Barney fixes up the back room at the courthouse and decides to stay there until he can find something else. This leads to some awkward moments when Andy and Opie walk in one evening to check on why the lights are flashing on and off and find Barney entertaining Thelma Lou. After a while, Andy realizes that there is nowhere for Barney to go but back to Mrs. Mendlebright's, so he convinces him to apologize and beg for his room back. As it turns out, Barney is too late because Mrs. Mendlebright has already made a decision that will soon change everything.