The prospect of a movie being filmed in Mayberry has the town leadership suspicious at first. Floyd the barber and Orville the mortician/television repairman are concerned that the movie will be disrespectful to the town. Andy convinces the Mayor and the council to give him a chance to test the producer of the film, known only as Mr. Harmon. Andy takes him on a tour around town so Harmon can scout the location and Andy can make sure he will portray the town in a positive light. Both tests are passed with flying colors. Harmon goes back to Los Angeles planning to make his movie in Mayberry and Andy vouches for his intentions.
With a film crew on the way all the glitz and glamour of Hollywood goes to the people of Mayberry’s heads. All the storefronts are gussied up and advertising the Tinsel Town lifestyle to patrons who are dressed to the nines. Even young Opie is lured by the Hollywood lights; perhaps feeling that he has a future behind the camera. Andy is the only one to keep his feet on the ground and no one is willing to let him bring them back down.
When Harmon returns he is met by an entirely different Mayberry than the one he left. He is literally greeted by a celebration complete with a band, a banner, several plates of deserts and a song by the mayor’s daughter. When two men start to take a saw to an old oak tree Harmon plans to put in the movie but the Mayberrians consider an eyesore, albeit one with great emotional resonance, a line is crossed. Harmon expresses his disappointment but promises he will still make his movie in town as long as it returns to the way it was before. He gets his wish and Mayberry resists the urge to change, just like it has for decades apparently.
- Ellie doesn’t appear in this episode (the second in a row). It seems she has yet to be inaugurated into the city council.
- There are many references to famous actors.
- Barney mentions Gary Cooper, who is perhaps best known for playing a sheriff in High Noon.
- He also brings up Gabby Hayes, an famous for playing goofy sidekicks in Westerns. One might compare the noble, dignified figure of Cooper to Andy and the comical Hayes to Barney.
- Aunt Bee has a crush on Rock Hudson. The producer, who is likely in on the Hollywood gossip, is nice enough to not tell her she has even less of a chance than she thinks.
- This is the first appearance of Mayor Pike, the first Mayberry local we’ve seen who outranks Andy.
- Orville Monroe, the mortician who protested Jim Lindsey’s street performance, returns as a member of the town council. It is revealed that he also repairs televisions.
The Moral of the Story
Fortunately, Andy learned the dangers of pride in time to resist the vanity that rest of the town falls prey to. While at first skeptical, once Mayberry gets a taste of potential fame the town loses sight of its identity. The people are willing to change their hair, clothes, and anything else just to make the camera love them. They almost cut down a sacred, beloved tree without a second thought just in the hopes of pleasing the filmmakers. When superficial concerns and more enduring values come into conflict Mayberry learns what is really important.
By its very nature politics is largely about appearances. A politician’s job security is dependent on people liking him or her. Senators and congress members are specifically elected by the people to represent the will of the people. No political system can work if it’s members lack diplomacy and maybe even a little vanity. (I can’t tell you how frustrating I find it that anyone thinks a politician should be “politically incorrect.”)
However, positions of power tend to require one to make difficult decisions. That can sometimes mean doing things that don’t look good from the outside, things that might upset voters. As has recently become much too apparent to many the electorate isn’t always right. I imagine many elected officials struggle with whether it’s more important to do what’s right or what the voters want them to do. I know President Jed Bartlet did in at least one episode of The West Wing. With a prisoner set to be executed in 48 hours Jed is torn between a regard for life partially inspired by his Catholic faith and the mandate of the American citizenry, 71% of which supports capital punishment according to the fictional President. Ultimately, he allows the prisoner to be executed then gives a confession his childhood priest, who he has invited to the White House to advise him on the issue.
I imagine, in my more optimistic moments, many Republicans feel a similar internal conflict about healthcare. Hardly anyone would argue that improved access to healthcare doesn’t lead to more people living longer and yet every attempt in the recent past to replace or alter Obamacare would result in a major decrease in the number of people who have coverage. That’s one reason every attempt fails, because moderates in the party are afraid of their constituents losing coverage (but also because the extremists feel not enough people would lose coverage). They keep trying because for almost a decade they have been railing against President Barack Obama’s healthcare plan and they would seem pretty silly if they didn’t do something about it now that their party controls the executive branch and both houses of congress. Eventually they’ll have to choose between what seems best and actually is best. Maybe cutting down the tree isn’t as good an idea as it seems.