The Lost Art of Americana

I’m watching “The Andy Griffith Show.” It’s late at night, and I am a lifelong fan of this program.

One of my earliest memories is watching this show as an infant, sitting before a console television, and I was gnawing on something. It’s unclear what I was chewing, but I’m pretty sure it was a wooden army-man figurine.

I chewed everything at that age, even coffee tables and the legs of furniture.

And this is probably my earliest memory from toddlerhood, aside from the memory of me peeing in Miss Frankie’s yard when I was three.

I had no idea that it was wrong to pee in public back then. All I knew was that my father always stood on our back porch and announced that he was “watering the old rose bushes.” And I would join him.

Another memory I have is watching Andy Griffith as a guest on the “Tonight Show.” He was elderly, with white hair and a corduroy blazer. He was funny. He was folksy. And I knew on that very night, sitting in front of the television, I wanted to dedicate the rest of my life to corduroy blazers. Today I own three.

Years ago, I was on my way to play a gig in South Georgia. It was the Fourth of July, a Wednesday. I stopped at a gas station to get a bag of Chili Cheese Fritos and coffee.

The newspaper machine’s headline read: “Goodbye Andy.”

I bought a paper and shook it open. His face was on the third page. His wild hair was parted down the side, looking like an advertisement for Brylcreem. A heart attack at age 86. And I cried. I know, I’m ridiculous.

I don’t know why I’m telling you about this except that lately it’s been hard finding anything on television. The days of lighthearted TV-watching are dead. The tastes of the public have changed. Sex sells. Nobody wants Floyd the Barber when they could have medieval characters with tight buttocks.

All my younger friends keep recommending “hip” new shows, and I keep trying to watch them. But I don’t get it.

For one thing, these shows are found on internet streaming services, which means you spend three hours browsing through thousands of shows that all fight for your attention until at long last you settle on going to bed.

Or, if you already know which show you want, you must first type the Title Of Your Show into the dreaded keyword search bar by using the keypad on your Chicklet-sized remote.

Modern shows are heavy on sex appeal. I guess it’s inconceivable for producers to think anyone wants entertainment that isn’t about two people getting busy.

I’m no prude, I’m as fun as the next working stiff. But when a male actor rips his shirt off four times per episode, and his girlfriend’s physical proportions are enough to make Dolly Parton look like a Girl Scout, it’s difficult to keep eating my Fritos.

Pretty soon, I start to feel self conscious about my own body. Compared to shirtless TV-Man, who hasn’t eaten carbohydrates since Regan was in office, I look like John Candy.

Again, I don’t mean to criticize Hollywood. I know they must work hard at producing so many genuinely crappy movies. But I miss a time when B-movies didn’t try so hard.

The old American double-feature movie poster didn’t take itself seriously. The B-movie made no attempt to hide the fact that the film you were about to see truly sucked. And somehow this made it kind of cool.

The gaudy posters featured cowboys, gumshoes, spaceships, or a fifty-foot reptile holding Zsa Zsa Gabor in his gigantic claw.

When I was in fifth grade, Ben Heit would have these wonderful sleepovers and invite all the boys over for B-movie marathons. We would eat truckloads of jawbreakers, talk about girls, and watch Japanese monster movies. Ben Heit’s family had a television that was enormous for its era; about the size of a paperback novel. It was the biggest TV around for miles.

Ben’s old man loved B-movies. During each film he would show his excitement by making loud noises without using his mouth. Ben’s father ate lots of carbohydrates.

All night we’d watch Japanese actors running around Tokyo with the English dialogue dubbed over the soundtrack. You’d see the lips of a Japanese man shout what appeared to be four paragraphs of dialogue, but all you heard on the American soundtrack was, “Look! Goh-zilla!”

We were an easy audience. We were entertained by simple movies without the effluvia of today’s digital world. There was no sex involved. And nobody used dumb words like effluvia.

My father watched “Gunsmoke” every evening after work. Where did shows like that go? Today, they’d laugh Marshal Dillon out of the Long Branch Saloon.

“Bonanza” was another good one. I’ll bet Little Joe ate plenty of carbs. “I Love Lucy” couldn’t be any better. For crying out loud, I even like “Family Affair.”

But somewhere along the way everything changed and I got left behind. Maybe that’s why I’m watching the “Andy Griffith Show” tonight even though I’ve seen every episode a hundred times. I suppose that sometimes it’s just nice to know an old friend is still around when you need him.

Maybe when I get hungry I’ll go to the kitchen and find a wooden army-man figurine to gnaw on.

Just as soon as I visit the rose bushes.

37 comments

  1. Dolores - January 19, 2020 7:11 am

    I agree, Sean, today’s entertainment has left us behind. There’s not much good shows on TV any more.

    Reply
  2. Don Ramsden (Niceville, Florida cracker) - January 19, 2020 9:30 am

    Perfect Brother Sean. Right on. You hit all the buttons that make lost in the maze of our changing culture. Have seen 3 of your shows and I always come away that everything will turn out alright, if you can live to be a 100.don

    Reply
  3. Glenda Hulbert - January 19, 2020 10:53 am

    I’ve turned on the TV twice in two years; get my daily news via the internet. Thankfully, I login to gmail frequently and almost always ~ there you are, Your column has been shared on my Facebook page many times, some of my Memphis love you as do I!!! I’m sitting here with my rescue pup (who eats everything pica, and I want to kill him and love him at the same time!) Rarely do I take time to comment, however this one resonates [ask your bride she’ll get it] just want you to know that there is a silent audience out here who appreciates you immensely!

    Reply
  4. SUsan Reese - January 19, 2020 11:39 am

    Amen Sean, I am right there with you!

    Reply
  5. Camille - January 19, 2020 12:27 pm

    Everyday, I watch the same episodes of Andy Griffith, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Waltons, Little House, The Virginian, Wagon Train, The Rifleman, Branded, The High Chaparrel, The Big Valley and Dr. Quinn. I watch no news, no new fangled shows and I am 100% happier. I’m convinced that life was much less stressful when we watched these shows back, (way back) in the day! Yes, I am an oldie! 72!

    Reply
  6. Leigh Amiot - January 19, 2020 12:33 pm

    I remember the days of roof top antennas—NBC, CBS, and public television were our choices, and I was the remote control. The complexity of tuning in/streaming a show now may drive me back to the part of childhood where I played outside a lot and read books by the armful from the public library.

    Reply
  7. Karen G - January 19, 2020 12:45 pm

    You are spot on ! We watch every episode of Gunsmoke that we can, Andy Griffith – even Matlock – Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie, etc, etc. Even saw Leave it to Beaver not too long ago. These are the shows we grew up with – ones that had family values and ended with moral, loving endings! The good guys always won, and the families and friends always held together! Maybe they weren’t all so realistic, but they sure tried to instill values in us. Worked for me!!!

    Reply
  8. Dianne - January 19, 2020 12:47 pm

    Still love to watch the Andy Griffith reruns, too, as does one of my sons and a couple of his buddies (every day for them). There were a lot of life’s lessons to be learned in those shows.

    Reply
  9. Naomi - January 19, 2020 1:12 pm

    I am a 76-year old lady and I still watch all of these programs. Growing up, my only playmate was my brother who was 3 years younger the me. When we were old enough, we would go to the western serials every Saturday at the Alabama Theater in Birmingham. We got to meet the Lone Ranger and Tonto there. We also stood in line with our coon-skin hats, along with a thousand other kids to shake hands with Fess Parker who was playing Davy Crockett on TV. We then went to a photo booth and took pictures of ourselves in our coon-skin caps. I also got to meet Milburn Stone, who played Doc Adams on Gunsmoke. He was there to get treatment for his heart but he took the time to spend the entire day to accept the coins from all of the children who had been trick-or-treating for UNICEF. I also got to meet the Cisco Kid and Chico at the Alabama State Fair. I was there with my Girl Scout troop. The Cisco Kid was hitting on one of the teenage blonds in my Girl Scout troop, but that’s another story.

    Reply
  10. Meredith - January 19, 2020 1:32 pm

    My family and I still watch these shows every night. “Modern” tv shows are worthless!

    Reply
  11. Amy - January 19, 2020 1:47 pm

    I am right there with you! I would rather watch reruns of old shows than this new crap.

    Reply
  12. Shannon Moore - January 19, 2020 1:50 pm

    This is why we cancelled our cable subscription. There would be DAYS when we’d never turn on the TV. We decided we’d rather not pay 100 dollars a month for trash.

    Reply
  13. Jim Thomssen - January 19, 2020 2:02 pm

    A lot of us got left behind right with you! Welcome to the party!

    Reply
  14. Shelton A. - January 19, 2020 2:03 pm

    Things and times change. America has changed for the worse…you can’t get a church full to agree on singing or saying the Lord’s Prayer. We can’t agree on anything except that our vets are getting screwed…how to fix that starts an argument. Andy is still great. Watch all you can.

    Reply
  15. Melanie - January 19, 2020 2:19 pm

    Nailed it! 👍👏🎬📺

    Reply
  16. Berryman Mary M - January 19, 2020 2:43 pm

    Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheer it up. Proverbs 12:25

    Reply
  17. Linda - January 19, 2020 4:03 pm

    I too so long for a good happy, sex free, killing free, addiction free. I could go on but I long for a good TV or movie to watch. Maybe we should make our own ! Wanna give it a try? Lol!
    Take care Sean ! I miss Andy too!

    Reply
  18. aleathia nicholson - January 19, 2020 4:10 pm

    I dang near cried when you mentioned nearly all my favorites that I still watch every night, all except BARNEY MILLER and I’ve watched all those episodes twice in a row including selling the precinct building and the Chinese one who gambled and really died in real life and Wojohoitz finally passing the test even while being impotent. I loved that show…well not Barney’s wife…she worked my last good nerve and I was also happy when Linda Lavin went to Mel’s diner with Flo-Miss Kiss my Grits.

    Reply
  19. Ann - January 19, 2020 4:53 pm

    Those are beautiful “ ahhhhhh moments”….refreshing and reassuring “ to ground us in the current frantic times…thank goodness we can still find them….if only the current you can find something like it too…

    Reply
  20. Linda Moon - January 19, 2020 5:08 pm

    I’ve seen you in one or another of your three corduroy blazers. You wore them well. Your younger friends…..well, just replace some of them with new older friends. Your friend Ben’s sleepovers sound fun! Fifth grade happens to be a most memorable time for me, too. Thank God, there’s at least one person (you) outside of my unique family who has good taste in TV, movies, and music that often hark back to American Roots. Treat yourself to Uncle Dave Macon’s tune, “Down the Old Plank Road” and enjoy some Americana! Stay ridiculous, my friend!!

    Reply
  21. Thomas Scott - January 19, 2020 5:34 pm

    I can check what is playing and if there is a Sinfeld I will watch it. There are so many that I have missed I can watch it. I can’t believe that I have missed so many. Maybe being 85 has something to do with. I sometimes watch Poker but they take so much time playing with their chips that I will look for Something else. I like PD live. It seems that they catch people who are Druggies or have a bunch of Warrants. I am amazed at how many they pull over that don’t have a License, Insurance or Registration. I guess money saved is money earned.

    Reply
  22. Timothy Smith - January 19, 2020 7:11 pm

    I remember wanting so desperately to be a member of the Waltons…watching American Bandstand…and roller skating every Saturday night with my best friend. You are so right…we as a society have lost our innocence…

    Reply
  23. Beth Carey - January 19, 2020 7:17 pm

    Sadly, you are absolutely correct
    . I enjoy your column very much. Everyone in my family got your books as part of their Christmas. . Keep on keeping on

    Reply
  24. Kathi harper-hill - January 19, 2020 7:21 pm

    Did you know the theme song for Andy’s show has words? There’s a youtube of scenes from the show with him singing it

    Reply
  25. Jenny Young - January 19, 2020 8:28 pm

    I just keep watching the old shows.

    It’s weird the comforting, warm feeling I get when I hear the theme to Bonanza. I feel the excitement of anticipation in my stomach & can even smell the suppertime smells of my childhood….we always watched Bonanza while mom was cooking supper.

    You might like StudioC. It’s just a bunch of college kids from BYU doings skits but goodness they make me laugh. They make fun of everyone & everything. My husband discovered them on Youtube then we realized that BYU has a free channel we can stream through Roku or Friestick so now we stretch out on the sofas & have a good laugh at the end of the day. There are 13 seasons & we plan to go back & start them over again once we watch them all.

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  26. KATY - January 19, 2020 9:07 pm

    🤗we have found Hallmark Mysteries safe to watch !

    Reply
  27. Tim House - January 19, 2020 9:59 pm

    Well, I’m sure this ad nauseum, but I’d suggest Blue Bloods to you. At core is family, honor, and respect.

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  28. Susan Kennedy - January 19, 2020 10:32 pm

    You’re right. TV is crap. When I watch, it’s pretty much Animal Planet and Nat Geo Wild. You need a TV show Sean. I’d watch. Go for it!

    Reply
  29. Cathi Russell - January 19, 2020 11:19 pm

    Amen! These days I watch a lot of MeTV & Antenna TV…Andy, old Perry Mason & Gunsmoke. Favorite Andy episode? The Loaded Goat…I don’t think I’d ever heard the word “blooey” & I’d surely never laughed so hard over it!

    Reply
  30. Charles Mathers - January 20, 2020 12:11 am

    Add Mash and the Waltons and HeeHaw and I’m right there with you! All gone!

    Reply
  31. Kathy Daum - January 20, 2020 3:43 pm

    Great use of “effluvia.”

    Reply
  32. Robert Chiles - January 20, 2020 9:43 pm

    About the only things I watch are Antiques Roadshow, and Nova, and the travel shows with Rick Steves.

    Reply
  33. Lonna - January 21, 2020 4:59 pm

    You put my feeling to words! I’m so tired, I’m mean soul weary tired of all the sex and violence on TV and film. Take me back to Mayberry!

    Reply
  34. Matilda Wille - February 25, 2020 2:54 am

    This was a great one Sean. My dad looked like Andy Griffith and was just as down to earth. Andy is a favorite of mine. Gunsmoke is my go to show. Watch it every night while waiting on my son to come in. I miss the days of my youth, but these shows always take me back and make me smile. Good job on making me look up the word effluvia….

    Reply
  35. Martha (Kudzu) Black - February 25, 2020 3:13 am

    The further you go in this thing called life, the behinder you’ll get, I hear.
    I don’t know so much about that, but best (television) is behind us……, I fear

    Reply
  36. Larry Leroy McFall, Sr. - February 25, 2020 12:20 pm

    I watch the old movies sooo much that I get tired of them. I’ve got to say my TV does take up an empty spot in my living room that would seem lonesome without it. However, Andy gets a lot of playin around this neck of the neighborhood. We usually get a big goodnight with the Andy Griffith show. The trash on TV is hardly worth the bucks to spend on a TV and the electricity to run it. Good night Andy!

    Reply
  37. Jessie - February 25, 2020 4:28 pm

    Love Andy Griffith! Still watch episodes over and over. Especially the ones when the Dillard’s came to town.

    Reply

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