It’s been said that if you rent an old television show like, The Andy Griffith Show, you’ll notice that the actual program lasts about 26 minutes, without commercials. Then how do the networks today show the same episode with close to 10 minutes of commercials jammed in? Hmmmm…Yep, you guessed it, network executives have long ago learned how to manipulate the space-time continuum. They can stuff 36 minutes into a 30 minute time slot.
Not really! I can tell you from personal observation, that one way they do it is by cutting out parts of the program. Sometimes very important and in the case of The Andy Griffith Show, very funny parts of the program.
I remember a particular episode of The Andy Griffith Show, where Deputy Barney Fife (played by Don Knotts) thinks he has solved a problem of too many dogs overrunning the courthouse, by taking them out to the country and setting them free. Opie, the son of Sheriff Andy Taylor, comes back to the courthouse to find that the dogs are gone, just as a thunderstorm descends upon the town of Mayberry. Opie is terrified of the thought that the dogs are out, in the open, during this thunderstorm. What happens next, in my opinion, is one of the funniest and most masterful comedic segments ever play by Don Knotts.
Barney starts to reassure Opie that the dogs are going to be fine. That they’re low to the ground and won’t be hit by lightning. If they were giraffes, there would be trouble, he says, because they’re so tall. And furthermore, the bigger dogs will take care of the smaller ones, so Opie doesn’t need to worry .
While Barney is “reassuring” Opie, he (Barney) becomes less and less sure himself. With every clap of thunder and lightning, Barney tries to reassure himself, as he gets less confident of the well-being of the dogs in such a strong storm. To watch this internal struggle inside Barney is, to me, a beautiful job of comedic acting.
A few years ago, I was watching this particular episode on TV Land and was anxiously waiting for this scene to come up. Wow! What a disappointment! They had hacked it all up, leaving out parts of this scene, making it pretty much useless! Comedy, for a big part, relies on timing, the set-up, tension and the resolution. Don Knotts understood this and performed effortlessly. What gall it takes, to take this kind of performance and edit it down to a meaningless snippet of the original masterpiece.
The part that really bugs me is that younger folks don’t know any different. They’ve grown up watching commercial-heavy programming. SO heavy, in fact, that networks even advertise other shows at the bottom of the screen while you’re trying to watch another one. And I think young people just accept it because they don’t know how it used to be.
Man, I’m really getting old. Where’s my cane? I want to shake it! BAH!