Saturday, May 18 2013 7:54 AM EDT2013-05-18 11:54:38 GMT
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Longtime golf commentator and 1964 U.S. Open champion Ken Venturi died today, and there's nearly no need to add to the tributes that surely will come, because there's a greatMore >>
Ken Venturi left a lasting memory in Louisville when he opened Hunting Creek Country Club's championship course with a record that still stands, and with a simple gesture to a sportswriter 25 years later.More >>
Follow the WDRB Newsroom, Reporters and Anchors.More >>
Tweets from the WDRB Newsroom, Reporters and Anchors.More >>
LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- About two weeks ago, in a heat-wave induced Netflix marathon, I sat on the couch with my two boys, ages 8 and 10, and clicked on the first episode of The Andy Griffith Show.
Now, I can recite just about every line from every episode of that show's first five seasons, those filmed in black and white, even though they aired years before I was born and some of them 15 years before I ever would watch them.
I was surprised, then, a day later when I passed my 8-year old Henry with the laptop, watching more of the show. In fact, he might've worked his way through the whole first season in the span of a few days.
Generally, that's too much screen time. But I don't know if you can ever have enough exposure to The Andy Griffith Show.
Andy Griffith died today, and goodness knows, he was not the small-town sheriff he portrayed on television, even as he was playing him. He was a star on radio and Broadway already, but his rural roots allowed him to tap into something in the way of that life that hit home pretty hard with my family, probably because it was a lot of the same kind of humor we exercised on a daily basis. He grew up in a poor family. Much of his entertainment consisted of listening to the older folks tell stories.
We were so into that show at our house that it infused our vocabulary. My brother, Joe, and I will still invariably revert to favorite phrases from that show when we talk. And it didn't end when I left home. Between David Barber from Ashland, Ky., and Mike Flynn from Burgin, I had plenty of higher-education references.
Whenever I encounter an artist, writer, or creator of anything, I like to focus on his or her early work probably more than any. There are some who have such genius that their work never stops maturing, never stops improving. But for many, the early work is their essence, the work they spent years turning over and over inside their minds and hearts. Griffith never was listed as a writer for the show that bore his name, but those connected to the show said he was involved in almost every aspect of it, that he helped develop every script, and even gave direction as to how characters would deliver certain lines, to make them more authentic. A look at his work before that program, his musical training, his backwoods-style monologues, his prior TV work, show a life growing toward that moment.
He had an enviable career after that show. Few in the entertainment business have remained so popular for so long. I'm sure, in fact, that his early work at times seemed like a burden to him, or something he'd like to set aside just because of its sheer magnitude.
But it was a gift that many of us have never tired of enjoying, and in fact will continue to draw from for years even after his passing.
The show has been in syndication for 48 years, including here on WDRB, and continues to resonate with people whose lives have about as much in common with life in Mayberry as they do with life on another planet.
I'm struck watching today by how many of those episodes were built around not hurting someone's feelings. They were situation comedies, but they wove a thread of kindness through the stories that speaks perhaps more loudly to me today than even the laughter.
Andy Griffith lived 86 years and contributed far more than the eight years of that program, five of which still stand for me as some of the greatest entertainment television ever produced. He was about far more than that.
But as I think about his passing, I'm sure I'm not the only one for whom those first five black and white seasons will always be golden, will always transport me back to childhood, will always be intertwined with a younger life and time. And I'm sure I'm not the only one grateful that laughter and innocence they evoke live on even after the man who gave them voice has fallen silent.