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Remembering the People of Mayberry

The Andy Griffith Show (TAGS) premiered on television on October 3rd, 1960. That means Sunday will mark the show's 50th anniversary! There are events scheduled all over the country (and on TV) to celebrate this milestone. In the series' eight-year run, we got to know the residents of Mayberry as if they were our own neighbors.

Sheriff Andy Taylor

The character Andy Taylor, and indeed the entire show was modeled on Andy Griffith's persona, which he inhabited as a storyteller and in the 1958 movie No Time for Sergeants. If you were to watch that movie today, you'd think that you were watching a Gomer Pyle who happened to look like Andy Taylor. By the end of the first season of TAGS, the sheriff toned down the wackiness and became the straight man to the even goofier deputy and the townspeople of Mayberry. The switch was necessary because someone had to rescue the protagonist of the week from their troubles.

Andy Griffith grew up in Mt. Airy, NC, which became the fictional town of Mayberry on TV. Griffith insisted that the characters in the show reflect a small town way of life as he knew it, without poking fun at rural or Southern people. TAGS was the number one show in its final season, but Griffith wanted to move on, so new characters were introduced as a transition to the spinoff series Mayberry, RFD. He then starred in several unsuccessful series between 1970 and 1980. Griffith also appeared in many made-for-TV movies, but fell ill with Guillain-Barre Syndrome in 1983. Recovered, he made another name for himself as lawyer Ben Matlock in the hit series Matlock from 1986 to 1995. Griffith, who lives in Manteo, NC, is yet to retire at age 84. His latest project is a series of public service announcements promoting the benefits of the new health care reforms to seniors.

Barney Fife

Deputy Barney Fife is the sheriff's cousin, best friend, and co-worker. However, several quotes later in the series lead us to believe they are not closely related. There is some speculation the character may have been related to Andy's deceased wife. His awkward, over-the-top personality provided more pure comedy than any other TAGS character. Some of Fife's quotes became pop culture touchstones, such as the catchphrase "Nip it in the bud". In 1965, Barney left Mayberry to work as a detective in Raleigh, but he returned home occasionally during the last three seasons.

West Virginia native Don Knotts met Andy Griffith when they both acted in the Broadway play No Time for Sergeants. They were reunited in the movie version. When Griffith told Knotts about the development of TAGS, Knotts himself suggested the character who became Barney Fife. After leaving the show in 1965, Knotts starred in The Don Knotts Show in the 1970-71 season and had several successful movies, including The Incredible Mr. Limpet, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, and The Reluctant Astronaut. He teamed up with Tim Conway for several more film comedies. He played landlord Ralph Furley on the hit TV show Three's Company from 1979 to 1984. Knotts continued to act in TV and onstage until shortly before his death in 2006.

Opie

Opie Taylor grew up on TAGS with his widowed father Andy and never spoke of his deceased mother. He learned many life lessons from the mistakes he made with the help of Andy, Barney, and Aunt Bee. Opie made an appearance on Mayberry RFD in the episode where Andy and Helen got married, and returned for the reunion shows Return to Mayberry in 1986 and The Andy Griffith Show Reunion: Back to Mayberry in 2003.

Ron Howard was only five years old when he was recruited for the role of Opie, but he had some acting experience already, most notably in the films The Music Man and in The Courtship of Eddie's Father. By the time TAGS finished, he was just 14, but had more acting experience than many movie stars. He made the transition to adult actor as the star of American Graffiti in 1973, which led to his role as Richie Cunningham in the series Happy Days from 1974 to 1980. Howard began directing movies in 1977 at age 23. His many directorial credits include Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, The Da Vinci Code, and Dilemma, scheduled for release in 2011.

Aunt Bee

When TAGS premiered on 1960, the first episode centered around Andy's Aunt Bee, who moved in with Andy and Opie to replace their departing housekeeper. Aunt Bee is no stranger to Mayberry, however, as she had only been gone for five years at that point. In fact, she had supposedly raised Andy. Many of the show's episodes revolved around Aunt Bee and her friends and suitors. One of the most memorable shows involved Aunt Bee's horrible homemade pickles, which is available on YouTube. In the spinoff series Mayberry, RFD, Aunt Bee moved out of Andy's home when he married and she went to live with Sam Jones, another widower with a son and the main character of the spinoff series.

Francis Bavier, the actress who played Aunt Bee, was a successful stage actress in the early part of the 20th century, appearing in vaudeville productions and on Broadway beginning in 1925. Her first movie was The Day the Earth Stood Still in 1951. A dozen or so movies (and a few TV roles) later, she was cast as Aunt Bee on The Andy Griffith Show. Bavier was the only cast member to stay "in Mayberry" from the pilot episode all the way through Mayberry, RFD. She retired from acting in 1972 and moved to Siler City, NC. The New York native fell in love with the beauty of rural North Carolina, no doubt influenced by her stay in Mayberry. Bavier worked in her retirement to support the Christmas and Easter Seal Societies. She died of a heart attack in 1989 at age 86.

Gomer Pyle

Gomer Pyle was the not-too-bright mechanic in Mayberry from 1961 to 1964, when he joined the Marines and became Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. In Mayberry, he was sometimes deputized temporarily to help Andy and Barney with their crime-fighting capers. Thanks to Gomer, we still sometimes hear someone utter "Shazam!" and "Surprise, surprise, surprise!" or even "Citizens arrest! Citizen's arrest!"

After Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., actor Jim Nabors hosted a variety show called The Jim Nabors Show for one season (1977-78) and appeared in several movies, but focused more on his singing. He released quite a few albums and traveled the world in musical productions. Nabors underwent a liver transplant in 1994 due to hepatitis, but returned to work as soon as he was able. Now 80 years old, Nabors continues to sing and make occasional appearances.

Goober

Goober Pyle was Gomer's cousin and took over his job at Wally's gas station in Mayberry when Gomer joined the Marines. Strangely, the two only appeared together in one episode. Goober was a more skilled mechanic than Gomer, but almost as goofy otherwise. Goober eventually bought the gas station when Wally retired. He remained in Mayberry during the RFD years, and then moved to the variety show Hee Haw.

George Lindsey graduated from the University of North Alabama in 1952 and then taught science at Hazel Green High School. After serving in the Air Force, Lindsey decided to try acting. Lindsey was Gene Roddenberry's first choice for Spock in the original Star Trek series, but turned the role down. He played the character of Goober continuously from 1964 to 1990 on three series. Lindsey continues to perform and lend his support to the Special Olympics and an annual film festival at the University of Alabama.

Helen Crump

Helen Crump was introduced as Opie's teacher in the third season of TAGS. Opie didn't like his teacher, which led to a conflict between Andy and Helen, but they worked it out by the show's end. Helen then dated Andy through the rest of the series. The two married in the first episode of Mayberry, RFD and moved to Raleigh, but returned for a guest appearance later and for the reunion show Return to Mayberry in 1986.

Aneta Corsaut made her film debut in the Steve McQueen movie The Blob in 1958. She was supposed to be a one-time guest star on TAGS, but impressed the producers so much that she was written in as a regular character. After Mayberry, she had regular roles in the TV shows House Calls, Adam-12, and General Hospital, and recurring appearances in Matlock. Corsault died of cancer in 1995 at age 62.

Thelma Lou

Barney Fife's girlfriend Thelma Lou only appeared in 26 episodes of TAGS between 1961 and 1966. Even during her run, Barney occasionally saw other women, particularly Jaunita, who he talked to on the phone but was never seen. Thelma Lou eventually married someone else. In the 1986 TV movie Return to Mayberry, Barney and the divorced Thelma Lou reunite and marry at last.

After TAGS, actress Betty Lynn guest starred in many TV series, then moved in Mt. Airy, NC. to escape the crime of Los Angeles. Ironically, she was the victim of a robbery in her adopted town earlier this year. Betty Lynn participates in Mt. Airy's Mayberry Days every year, and will be signing autographs this Sunday from 2 to 4PM.

Other residents of Mayberry we knew and loved include town drunk Otis Campbell, Ernest T. Bass, the musical Darling Family, Howard Sprague, barber Floyd Lawson, and neighbor Clara Edwards, among others. Learn more about The Andy Griffith Show and its characters and the many 50th anniversary celebrations at The Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club, A Mayberry State of Mind, and at TV Land.

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Why the Film You're Watching on HBO Might Not Be the Whole Movie
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In the days before widescreen televisions, most of the movies you watched on VHS or on cable looked a little different than their big-screen versions. The sides of the image had to be cropped out so that you could watch a movie made for a rectangular screen on the small screen. Today, those little black bars on the top and bottom of the screen that allow you to watch the same movie scaled to any shape of screen are everywhere. But it turns out, cropping for aspect ratios is alive and well—on HBO, as YouTube film vlogger Patrick Willems explains.

In his latest video, which we spotted on Digg, Willems explains why aspect ratios matter, and how the commonly used aspect ratios can fundamentally change a movie.

Most old-school televisions have 4:3 aspect ratios, meaning movies had to be significantly cropped to fit wide-screen films on the small screen. Now, most computers and televisions use 16:9 aspect ratios, which is approximately the same as the one used for movies, typically 1.85:1, so many movies expand to fit TV screens perfectly. The catch: Some Hollywood movies are shot with even wider angles to show even more of an image at once. And even though viewers are familiar with the sight of those black bars, it seems the streaming sites are determined to limit their use, even for movies that don’t fit on a normal screen. As a result, you may only be seeing the central part of the image, not the whole thing. You could be missing characters, action, and landscape that’s happening on the far sides of the screen.

Since 1993, the Motion Picture Association of America has mandated that any film that’s been altered in a way that changes the original vision of its creators—say, to edit out swear words, adjust the run time, or to make it fit a certain screen—run with a disclaimer that says as much. That’s why before movies run on TV, they usually show a note that says something like “This film has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit this screen.” But this doesn’t seem to apply to streaming.

In 2013, Netflix was accused of cropping films, too, showing wide-angle movies to fit the standard 16:9 screen instead of running the original version with black bars. The streaming giant claimed it was a mistake due to distributors sending them the cropped version, and those films would be replaced with the originals. However, as of 2015, users were still complaining of the problem. According to Willems, it’s a problem that still plagues not just HBO, but Starz and Hulu, too, and there isn’t any clear rationale for it other than that perhaps people don’t like looking at black bars. But frankly, that seems better than seeing a version of a film that the director never intended.

You can get all the details in the video below:

[h/t Digg]

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22 Things You Might Not Know About Dawson's Creek
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Hulton Archive, Getty Images

On January 20, 1998, teenagers found a new small-screen obsession when Dawson's Creek made its debut. Created by Kevin Williamson, the series centered around a tight-knit group of friends—Dawson Leery (James Van Der Beek), Joey Potter (Katie Holmes), Pacey Witter (Joshua Jackson), and Jen Lindley (Michelle Williams)—living in the picturesque (and fictional) town of Capeside, Massachusetts.

It didn't take long for the series, which ran for six seasons, to become a bona fide pop culture phenomenon. On the 20th anniversary of its premiere, here are 22 things you might not know about Dawson's Creek.

1. IT FOUND ITS INSPIRATION IN SEVERAL OTHER MOVIES AND TV SHOWS.

"I pitched it as Some Kind of Wonderful, meets Pump Up the Volume, meets James at 15, meets My So-Called Life, meets Little House on the Prairie,” said creator Kevin Williamson. “I sort of threw everything in there." Fox passed on the show, so Williamson brought his pitch to a younger network, The WB, which got its start in 1995. In an attempt to reach a younger audience, the network picked up Dawson’s Creek.

2. KATIE HOLMES'S MOM PLAYED DAWSON IN HER AUDITION TAPE.

Katie Holmes as Joey Potter in 'Dawson's Creek'
Getty Images

Williamson actually wanted to cast Selma Blair as Joey, but he decided to audition other actresses—including Katie Holmes, who he'd seen in Ang Lee’s film The Ice Storm. Still a high school student at the time, Holmes refused to fly to Los Angeles to audition because she had another commitment: playing Lola in her school’s production of Damn Yankees. So, in their sewing room, Holmes and her mother acted out the scene and filmed it. "I had the camera, and my mom would read Dawson's lines," Holmes told Rolling Stone.

3. JOSHUA JACKSON AUDITIONED FOR BOTH PACEY AND DAWSON.

Joshua Jackson actually auditioned for both lead roles. He originally read for Pacey, but the producers were interested in hearing him read for Dawson as well. Then, they switched him back to auditioning for Pacey. Despite an exec falling asleep during one of his auditions, Jackson got the role. One of his competitors for that role, by the way, was future American Pie star Jason Biggs.

4. KEVIN WILLIAMSON HAD TO FIGHT FOR JAMES VAN DER BEEK TO BE CAST.

James Van Der Beek
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Dawson was the last role to be cast. On the way to the audition in Los Angeles, James Van Der Beek actually sat next to future Entourage star Adrian Grenier on the plane, only to discover that he was also auditioning for the part of Dawson Leery. After watching the auditions, the head of Sony didn’t believe that Van Der Beek had star quality. But Williamson was convinced that Van Der Beek could do it, so they kept having him read the scene over and over again. Finally, Williamson yelled, “I wrote Dawson! I am Dawson! This is Dawson!” Two days before filming was scheduled to begin, Van Der Beek was officially cast.

5. WILLIAMSON PUT PROPS FROM SCREAM AND I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER IN DAWSON'S BEDROOM.

Williamson wrote the screenplays for all the Scream movies as well as I Know What You Did Last Summer. Sometimes he used Dawson’s world to wink at his own work. For example, in the season one episode “The Scare,” Dawson and Joey watch I Know What You Did Last Summer together. Later, in the season finale, there’s a poster for the movie hanging on Dawson’s wall. “The Scare” also has a few Scream references and contains the iconic Ghostface mask. 

6. WILLIAMSON LOVED STEVEN SPIELBERG AS MUCH AS DAWSON DID.

Steve Spielberg
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Dawson’s passion for Spielberg movies came from Williamson’s direct childhood experience. “In fifth grade, Jaws came out," Williamson once said. "It began my love affair with Steven Spielberg. I took out a spiral notebook and I wrote the sequel to Jaws.” Sound familiar?

Unsurprisingly, it was tough to get the rights to all of the Spielberg posters that hang in Dawson’s room. In fact, Spielberg watched the pilot to personally approve the use of his work. He did ask that they remove a line about Jen looking like Kate Capshaw, but other than that, he was fine with the references. According to Van Der Beek, Spielberg later approached him at a Lakers game to say, “I like the posters on your wall.”

7. THEY WEREN'T ALLOWED TO SAY THE WORD "MASTURBATE" IN THE PILOT.

In the original script, Joey plainly asked Dawson, “How often do you masturbate?” After examining the pilot, Standards and Practices told them that they couldn’t say the word “masturbate” on television. In the final version of the episode, she asks, “How often do you walk your dog?”

8. DAWSON'S HAIRCUT WAS INSPIRED BY BRAD PITT'S HAIRSTYLE IN THE DEVIL'S OWN.

Brad Pitt in 'The Devil's Own' (1997)
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The studio insisted that Van Der Beek change his hair for the role. The crew paged through an Entertainment Weekly and saw an ad for The Devil’s Own, and Dawson’s infamous haircut was born. 

9. THE SHOW LOST A SPONSOR FOR BEING CONTROVERSIAL.

The show shocked audiences and critics with its blunt dialogue about sex—and a first season plot line about an affair between a teacher and a high school student didn’t detract from the controversy. Procter & Gamble was supposed to be a sponsor of the show but pulled out before it aired.

"As we have learned more about the episodes over the long term and the content that will unfold over time, the majority of the content within the majority of the episodes walks a fine line and bumps up against what we think is appropriate," a spokesperson for the company said.

10. WILLIAMSON KNEW HE WANTED JACK TO BE GAY, BUT HE DIDN'T TELL ANYONE AT FIRST.

Kerr Smith in 'Dawson's Creek'
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

In the second season, two new characters were introduced: siblings Jack and Andie McPhee. Williamson claimed that while creating the characters, there was a voice in the back of his head saying, “God, I wish Jack could be gay. That would be so great to write a gay character.” But he decided not to mention it to anyone, including the writers. Jack quickly became one of the show's most popular characters and halfway through the season, Williamson had him come out to his friends. 

11. THE "TRUE LOVE" EPISODE FEATURED THE FIRST MALE GAY KISS ON U.S. PRIMETIME TELEVISION.

“True Love” was the third season finale, which aired in May 24, 2000. In the episode, Jack kisses his boyfriend, Ethan. Ten years later, Kerr Smith, who played Jack, recalled, “I did know how historic it was and he did too. I’ll never forget the day that we were filming that. I was quite nervous, as was he ... We knew what we were doing. We knew what we were addressing. We knew that it was important and that a lot of people were going to be looking up to the show now for this particular type of storyline. I think we did a good thing.”

12. MEREDITH MONROE WAS 29 WHEN SHE PLAYED 16-YEAR-OLD ANDIE.


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Meredith Monroe, who played Andie McPhee, was nine years older than Katie Holmes and 10 years older than Michelle Williams. But her on-screen brother, Kerr Smith, was also a little old for high school. He was 27 when he was cast.

13. HALFWAY THROUGH THE SERIES, A HURRICANE WREAKED HAVOC ON THE SET.

One of the downsides to filming on the Wilmington, North Carolina coastline was the possibility of hurricanes. In fact, one took down the pier outside the Leerys' home. It was only halfway through the series and the crew had to rebuild the pier because it had already become a beloved part of the show.

14. VAN DER BEEK'S MEME-WORTHY CRY WAS AN AD LIB.

Years after Dawson cried on a pier in the first season finale, his cry-face became a meme. Van Der Beek had a good sense of humor about it and even admitted that his tears were organic. “It wasn’t scripted, I don’t think,” he said. “You know, it was just high drama; you've been living with this character for a while and a scene like that just kind of drops in your lap and you just lose it.”

15. JACKSON USED TO MOON PEOPLE TO EASE TENSION BEFORE FILMING SCENES.

In an interview on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Holmes said, “I think he really thinks he’s doing a service to everyone ... It doesn’t even faze us anymore. We have different directors every week that come in and he’ll do it and some people will give a chuckle. The rest of us are like, ‘Oh,’ you know. The directors get a kick out of it.”

16. MICHELLE WILLIAMS WAS OFTEN INSECURE ABOUT NOT GETTING ENOUGH SCREEN TIME.

Michelle Williams and James Van Der Beek in 'Dawson's Creek'
The WB

“The show was primarily a love triangle between Dawson, Pacey, and Joey," Michelle Williams later explained. "For the most part. At times I felt, ‘What’s not good enough about me? Am I doing something wrong?’ Flipping through the script you’re only in three pages, ‘Oh, boy. Okay.’ And maybe I had questions about why that was.” Van Der Beek helped her through these times by reminding her that her career would be easier because she would be the least associated with the show in the future. (Given the fact that she has been nominated for four Oscars—and counting—since her Dawson's days, Van Der Beek was clearly onto something.)

17. THE CAST MODELED IN A J. CREW CATALOG.

In a beautiful cross-marketing moment, Holmes, Jackson, Van Der Beek, and Williams did a photo shoot for J. Crew in 1998. You can find pictures online, but if you’d like a copy of your own, they usually sell for over $100 on eBay.

18. SOME OF BUSY PHILIPPS'S SCENES HAD TO BE REWRITTEN AFTER A WILD NIGHT OUT.

In an interview with Wendy Williams, Busy Philipps confessed that she liked to party during her Dawson’s Creek days. One drunken night out resulted in an emergency room visit and a dislocated knee. This was an inconvenience for the writing staff who, according to Philipps, “had to rewrite the show so that I was laying down and sitting down for two weeks.”

19. THE SHOW HAD SIX HEAD WRITERS, ONE FOR EACH SEASON.

After the second season, even Williamson went off to focus on other projects. During a Reddit AMA, someone asked Van Der Beek why there were so many writer shifts over the course of the series. He responded, “I think it was more a function of our writers being in such high demand that they were eventually wooed with offers [to do] their own shows, or just a matter of someone coming into an already established show with a very specific voice and everyone realizing a few steps down the road that it just wasn't quite the right fit.”

20. JOHN WESLEY SHIPP'S CHARACTER WAS KILLED OFF BECAUSE HE DIDN'T LIKE WHERE THE SHOW WAS GOING.

John Wesley Shipp
Diane Freed, Getty Images

John Wesley Shipp, who played Dawson’s dad, grew disappointed with the show, especially after Williamson left. He didn’t like how small the roles of the parents were becoming. “At the end of the four seasons and the kids were going to be going to college, I saw the handwriting on the wall,” Shipp explained. “We would be standing in the background with Lily and waving at Parents Day and I really had no interest in doing that. So when they wanted to renegotiate our contact, I set my price really high.” Executive producer Paul Stupin asked if he would return to do the death storyline and Shipp agreed.

21. WILLIAMS DIDN'T WANT JEN TO DIE.

According to Williamson, “Michelle was a little scared and nervous. She goes, ‘Well, what if we do a reunion show? What if we do a movie or something?’ I’m like, ‘Well, then you’ll be a ghost.’” He noted that Jen’s death “was that last bit of growth that pushed [the characters] into adulthood.”

22. ANDIE WAS CUT FROM THE FINALE.

The cast of 'Dawson's Creek'
Getty Images

Meredith Monroe did return for the finale, but her scenes were not aired. Andie was a medical resident in Boston, who came back to Capeside to say goodbye to Jen. She also had a sentimental scene in the hospital cafeteria with ex-boyfriend Pacey. Her scenes can be found on the Dawson’s Creek DVDs.

In 2015, Williamson and several members of the Dawson's Creek team reunited for a panel discussion about the show in which it was revealed that the panel's moderator, Julie Plec—a longtime friend and collaborator of Williamson's who was also a writer on Dawson's Creek—was the one who wanted Andie to appear in the finale. "She felt it was incredibly important for Pacey and his first love Andie to have some sort of a resolution," wrote The Hollywood Reporter.

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