How did we get from ‘Andy Griffith’ to ‘Modern Family’?

Published 5:33 am Tuesday, January 31, 2012

On a clear day, with the wind just right, and with my lips working seamlessly with a bit of moisture and pucker, I can whistle. Not all that good, but some. Chances are the tune at the top of the list is the theme from arguably the most-popular situation comedy of all time, The Andy Griffith Show.

Andy Taylor is walking along some road toward a fishing pond and right by his side is a smiling Opie. Thankfully, Sheriff Taylor of Mayberry is able to go fishing with his son because, back at City Hall, he has the greatest deputy in the history of law enforcement, Barney Fife, nipping every bit of crime “in the bud.”

Here is another thing I remember about those days when the genre of situation comedy was so rich and entertaining. The song begins with the line, “Come and listen to a story ‘bout a man named Jed, a poor mountaineer barely kept his family fed.” You know the rest, don’t you?

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Or how about this. The front door to the modern living room opens and a slim and young Rob Petrie comes home after a day of writing comedy with Sally and Buddy. There to greet him is the adorable Laura, a.k.a. Mary Tyler Moore. Rob walks in and heads toward the sofa to rest and falls over the ottoman, doing one of the great pratfalls of all time.

One more. A rotund driver of a city bus in the Bronx borough of New York City is trying to convince his spitfire of a wife, Alice, of his latest hair-brained dream to get rich quick. He is wonderfully animated as he tells her of the huge benefits about to come into their lives.

Alice, on the other hand, has heard it all before and tells Ralph that the only thing “huge” coming their way is that belly of his that shakes like a bowlful of jelly. Her stand-up routine sends Ole Ralphie Boy, as his best friend Norton calls him, over the edge and he shouts, “One day Alice, one day, Kabooom! Pow! To the moon.”

Most of us can remember these scenes as they play out with all of their black-and-white glory in our minds and we still laugh even though we have seen them dozens of times. Then we say, “Those were the good, ole days.”

It’s sort of ironic that television, in its innocent infancy, was so much more fun. Things are supposed to get better with age, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with the medium of television. I enjoyed it more when we had only three channels and no remote. Today’s small screen of 99 channels, and my ability to run through them searching for something good, leaves me doing just that: running through all 99 channels looking for anything that will entertain me for just the time it takes to eat a sandwich. Not a thing!

I am thinking of this today because of something I read last week. It concerned one of the new situation comedies, Modern Family. It’s an award-winning comedy that I know is watched by millions, but I have never seen it. As that is the case, that I have never seen it, please take my comments with a grain of salt.

The article that I read about Modern Family was based upon a controversial weekly episode by the name of “Little Bo Bleep.” The “bleep” was for the technical aspect of bleeping out a word that was going to be said by one of the show’s characters, a 2-year-old adopted girl named Lily.

In this episode Lily plays the flower girl in a wedding and, during the show, utters a profane word. The word is not “darn,” “shoot,” or “heck,” but a word that is very crude and offensive, a word that begins with the sixth letter of the alphabet (you figure it out). Let me reiterate, this girl is 2 years old and how she would ever know a word like that is amazing to me.

She actually doesn’t say the word. She says a word that is not profane, but has the same phonetics as the offensive word. Her mouth is visually altered as she speaks the word and, as it is bleeped, there is no doubt as to the word the television show is suggesting.

Okay, I am no prude. I, also, was not born yesterday and know a little about the world in which we live. I know how our culture has sunk to accept many ways of talking and acting that would have not been a part of our society just a few years ago. But to have a 2-year-old child utter such an offensive word and have that action celebrated as ground-breaking progress makes me mad. It makes my blood boil for its crude nature, but more than anything, I am saddened.

The article I read was about an attempt to have the episode canceled; not the entire series, but just that episode. In the article, the person or group that sought this action was treated as if he or it had a backward attitude and was old-fashioned.

The creator and producer was quoted as being “proud and excited” that ABC (the network) was persuaded to allow the episode to air. As if great progress has been made because a 2-year-old, precious child, maybe even your or my granddaughter had been allowed to say that word and that the vast majority of Americans would not accept as appropriate.

This is America. People can watch what they want and this program seems to be very popular. Maybe the times have passed me by. Maybe I simply need to open my mind and “get with it.” If I was Barney Fife, I might say, “nip it in the bud,” but the bud has already bloomed. The can of worms is wide open. Pandora’s Box has had its top blown off. The horse is already out of the barn.

And that makes me sad!