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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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John P. Johnson, HBO
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10 Wild Facts About Westworld
John P. Johnson, HBO
John P. Johnson, HBO

The hit HBO show about an android farm girl finding sentience in a fake version of the old West set in a sci-fi future is back for a second season. So grab your magnifying glass, study up on Lewis Carroll and Shakespeare, and get ready for your brain to turn to scrambled eggs. 

The first season saw Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and her robotic compatriots strive to escape bondage as the puppet playthings of a bored society that kills and brutalizes them every day, then repairs them each night to repeat the process for paying customers. The Maze. The Man in Black. The mysteries lurking in cold storage and cantinas. Wood described the first season as a prequel, which means the show can really get on the dusty trail now. 

Before you board the train and head back into the park, here are 10 wild facts about the cerebral, sci-fi hit. (Just beware of season one spoilers!)

1. IT’S NOT THE FIRST TV ADAPTATION OF THE MOVIE.

Though Westworld, the 1973 film written and directed by Michael Crichton, was a hit, its 1976 sequel Futureworld was a flop. Still, the name and concept had enough cachet for CBS to move forward with a television concept in 1980. Beyond Westworld featured Delos head of security John Moore (Jim McMullan) battling against the villainous mad scientist Simon Quaid (James Wainwright), who wants to use the park’s robots to, what else, take over the whole world. It would be a little like if the HBO show focused largely on Luke Hemsworth’s Ashley Stubbs, which just might be the spinoff the world is waiting for.

2. THE ORIGINAL GUNSLINGER HAS A CAMEO.

Ed Harris and Eddie Rouse in 'Westworld'
JOHN P. JOHNSON, HBO

The HBO series pays homage to the original film in a variety of ways, including echoing elements from the score to create that dread-inducing soundscape. It also tipped its ten-gallon hat to Yul Brynner’s relentless gunslinger from the original film by including him in the storage basement with the rest of the creaky old models.

3. QUENTIN TARANTINO, ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, AND MANY OTHERS COULD HAVE REBOOTED IT.

Speaking of Brynner’s steely, murderous resolve: His performance as the robo-cowboy was one of the foundations for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s turn as the Terminator. Nearly 20 years later, in 2002, Schwarzenegger signed on to produce and star in a reboot of the sci-fi film from which he took his early acting cues. Schwarzenegger never took over the role from Brynner because he served as Governor of California instead, and the reboot languished in development hell.

Warner Bros. tried to get Quentin Tarantino on board, but he passed. They also signed The Cell director Tarsem Singh (whose old West would have been unbelievably lush and colorful, no doubt), but it fell through. A few years later, J.J. Abrams—who had met with Crichton about a reboot back in 1996—pitched eventual co-creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy on doing it as a television series. HBO bought it, and the violent delights finally made it to our screens.

4. IT COSTS $40,000 A DAY TO VISIT THE PARK. (AND THAT’S THE CHEAP PACKAGE.)

Thandie Newton and Angela Sarafyan in 'Westworld'
HBO

In season one, Logan (Ben Barnes) revealed that he’s spending $40,000 a day to experience Westworld. That’s in line with the 1973 movie, where park visitors spent $1000 a day, which lands near $38,000 once adjusted for inflation. Then again, we’re talking about 2052 dollars, so it might still be pricey, but not exorbitant in 2018 terms. But a clever Redditor spotted that $40,000 is the minimum you’d pay; according to the show’s website, the Gold Package will set you back $200,000 a day.

5. BEN BARNES BROKE HIS FOOT AND DIDN’T TELL ANYONE.

Once Upon a Time’s Eion Bailey was originally cast as Logan but had to quit due to a scheduling conflict, so Ben Barnes stepped in … then he broke his foot. The actor hid the injury for fear he’d lose the job, which is why he added a limp as a character detail. “I’m sort of hobbling along with this kind of cowboy-ish limp, which I then tried to maintain for the next year just so I could pretend it was a character choice,” Barnes said. “But really I had a very purple foot … So walking was the hardest part of shooting this for me.”

6. THE CO-CREATORS RICKROLLED FANS OBSESSED WITH UNCOVERING SPOILERS.

Eagle-eyed fans (particularly on Reddit) uncovered just about every major spoiler from the first season early on, which is why Nolan and Joy promised a spoiler video for anyone who wanted to know the entire plot of season two ahead of its premiere. They delivered, but instead of show secrets, the 25-minute video only offered a classy rendition of Rick Astley’s internet-infamous “Never Gonna Give You Up,” sung by Evan Rachel Wood with Angela Sarafyan on piano, followed by 20 minutes of a dog. It was a pitch-perfect response to a fanbase desperate for answers.

7. IT FEATURES AN ANCIENT GREEK EASTER EGG.

Amid the alternative rock tunes hammered out on the player piano and hat tips to classic western films, Westworld also referenced something from 5th century BCE Greece. Westworld, which is run by Delos Incorporated, is designed so that guests cannot die. Delos is also the name of the island where ancient Greeks made it illegal for anyone to die (or be born for that matter) on religious grounds. That’s not the only bit of wordplay with Greek either: Sweetwater’s main ruffian, Hector Escaton (Rodrigo Santoro), gets his last name from the Greek eschaton, meaning the final event in the divine design of the world. Fitting for a potentially sentient robot helping to bring about humanity’s destruction.

8. JIMMI SIMPSON FIGURED OUT HIS CHARACTER’S TWIST BECAUSE OF HIS EYEBROWS.

Evan Rachel Wood and Jimmi Simpson in 'Westworld'
HBO

In season one, the show’s many secrets were kept even from the main cast until the time they absolutely needed to know. Jimmi Simpson, who plays timid theme park neophyte William, had a hunch something was funny with his role because of a cosmetic change.

“I was with an amazing makeup artist, Christian, and he was looking at my face too much,” Simpson told Vanity Fair. “He had me in his chair, and he was just looking at my face, and then he said something about my eyebrows. ‘Would you be cool if we just took a couple hairs out of your eyebrows, made them not quite as arched?’” Guessing that they were making him look more like The Man in Black, Simpson said something to Joy, and she confirmed his hunch. “She looked kind of surprised I’d worked it out,” he said.

9. THE PLAYER PIANO MAY BE AN ALLUSION TO KURT VONNEGUT.

One of the show’s most iconic elements is its soundtrack of alternative rock songs from the likes of Radiohead, The Cure, and Soundgarden redone in a jaunty, old West style. In addition to adding a creepy sonic flavor to the sadistic vacation, they also may wink toward Kurt Vonnegut’s first novel, Player Piano, which deals with a dystopia of automation where machines do everything for humans, leading to an entrenched class struggle. The show’s resonant elements are clear, but Westworld also mentions that the world outside the theme park is one where there’s no unemployment and humans have little purpose. Like The Man In Black (Ed Harris), the protagonist of Player Piano also longs for real stakes in the struggle of life.

10. THERE ARE TWO JESSE JAMES CONNECTIONS.

Anthony Hopkins and Jeffrey Wright in 'Westworld'
HBO

Anthony Hopkins’s character Dr. Robert Ford is an invention for the new series, and he shares a name with the man who assassinated infamous outlaw Jesse James (a fact you may remember from the aptly named movie The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford). The final episode of the first season flips the allusion when Ford is shot in the back of the head, which is exactly how the real-life Ford killed James.

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The ‘Scully Effect’ Is Real: Female X-Files Fans More Likely to Go Into STEM
Fox
Fox

FBI agent Dana Scully is more than just a role model for remaining professional when a colleague won't stop talking about his vast governmental conspiracy theories. The skeptical doctor played by Gillian Anderson on The X-Files helped inspire women to go into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers, according to a new report [PDF] from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which we spotted at Fast Company.

“In the world of entertainment media, where scientists are often portrayed as white men wearing white coats and working alone in labs, Scully stood out in the 1990s as the only female STEM character in a prominent, prime-time television role,” the report explains. Previously, anecdotal evidence has pointed to the existence of a “Scully effect,” in which the measured TV scientist—with her detailed note-taking, evidence-based approach, and desire to autopsy everything—inspired women to seek out their own science careers. This report provides the hard data.

The Geena Davis Institute surveyed more than 2000 women in the U.S. above the age of 25, a significant portion of whom were viewers of The X-Files (68 percent) and women who had studied for or were in STEM careers (49 percent). While the survey didn’t ask women whether watching Dana Scully on The X-Files directly influenced their decision to be a scientist, the results hint that seeing a character like her on TV regularly did affect them. Women who watched more of the show were more likely to say they were interested in STEM, more likely to have studied a STEM field in college, and more likely to have worked in a STEM field after college.

While it’s hard to draw a direct line of causation there—women who are interested in science might just be more inclined to watch a sci-fi show like The X-Files than women who grow up to be historians—viewers also tended to say Scully gave them positive impressions of women in science. More than half of respondents who were familiar with Scully’s character said she increased their confidence in succeeding in a male-dominated profession. More than 60 percent of the respondents said she increased their belief in the importance of STEM. And when asked to describe her, they were most likely to say she was “smart” and “intelligent” before any other adjective.

STEM fields are still overwhelmingly male, and governments, nonprofits, schools, activists, and some tech companies have been pushing to make the field more diverse by recruiting and retaining more female talent. While the desire to become a doctor or an engineer isn’t the only thing keeping STEM a boy’s club, women also need more role models in the fields whose success and accomplishments they can look up to. Even if some of those role models are fictional.

Now that The X-Files has returned to Fox, perhaps Dana Scully will have an opportunity to shepherd a whole new generation of women into the sciences.

[h/t Fast Company]

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