Barney Fife was at my birth.
Okay, let me explain. I was born in the small city of Lebanon, Indiana in a small hospital called Witham Memorial Hospital. If you know me, you already know that I was born with spina bifida and Witham was far from equipped to handle a baby with such complex medical needs. To make matters even more challenging, on the way to the hospital my soon to be parents had a flat tire. They were rescued by a Lebanon city cop nicknamed, yes, Barney Fife.
Barney Fife and I made the front page of the local newspaper, the Lebanon Reporter, on the day I was born.
It's probably not surprising that I've loved The Andy Griffith Show my entire life.
Love is the overwhelming feeling that one gets from writer/director Chris Hudson's feature documentary The Mayberry Effect, a film that recently wrapped up its festival run and is now headed into streaming distribution courtesy of indie distributor Gravitas Ventures. The film wraps itself around Mount Airy, North Carolina's Mayberry Days, an annual festival that got canceled in 2020 but is set and ready to go from Sept. 21-26, 2021 with a planned screening of The Mayberry Effect on September 22 at The Historic Earle Theatre at 1pm and again on September 26th at 1pm.
The Mayberry Effect explores the enduring popularity of The Andy Griffith Show and its continuing influence on pop culture. It's hard to imagine there's a soul who hasn't watched the show. It's also hard to imagine a soul who doesn't absolutely love it.
The film includes interviews with scholars, pop culture experts, cast members, relative of cast members, and also includes interview clips with actress Betty Lynn, an actual Mount Airy resident who played Barney Fife's gal Thelma Lou on the show.
If you love The Andy Griffith Show, you'll love the affectionate and engaging The Mayberry Effect. Hudson mostly keeps things simple here and, in the ultimate respect for the show itself, the film practically splashes waves of nostalgia over you as you sit there watching old clips, interviews, and scenes of fans young and old enjoying Mayberry Days and other similarly themed festivals including one held annually in Danville, Indiana and organized by co-owners Brad and Christine Born of Danville's popular Mayberry Cafe.
Just to tighten my bond to the film a bit more, I'm also a former co-worker of Brad Born's and my very own mother used to sell Mayberry Cafe their food.
Maybe I really do live in a small town?
Comparable in terms of their passion to beloved Trekkies, or is it Trekkers, The Andy Griffith Show fans are festive, fun, extraordinarily kind, and nearly constantly in good cheer when it comes to the show that they nearly all agree is the best television show in history. There are a myriad of ways The Mayberry Effect could have gone wrong, but it never does largely owing to Hudson's own clear affection for the subject matter and his obvious appreciation for The Andy Griffith Show's fans.
Hudson is an Emmy nominated and Silver Telly Award-winning producer/director and working alongside producer, and wife, Angela Mabe Hudson, he's crafted a film that captures both the innocence and the layered complexity of a television show that was always saying much more than it was given credit for saying. The nearest comparison I can think of is Mister Rogers himself, a beloved star of a children's show who tackled really incredible subjects in a way that never felt threatening or offensive.
The Andy Griffith show did the same thing.
The film's highlights, at least for those of us true fans of the show, would likely be appearances by some of the folks who now bring the characters to life at various festivals even as so many of the original actors have passed away. These folks include David L. Browning (The Mayberry Deputy, though Fife-like he refuses to compare himself to the brilliant Don Knotts), Allan Newsome (Floyd the Barber), Kenneth Junkin (Otis Campbell), Jeff Branch (Howard Sprague), Phil Fox (Ernest T. Bass - Critic's Note: My own favorite show character!), Michael Oliver (Gomer Pyle), Christie McLendon (AndyLina), Eli Austin (Opie Taylor), Keith Brown (Col. Harvey), Michelle Bryson (Daphne) and Dixie Griffith (Skippy), and others.
And yes, it's true. There's not really an actual Andy Griffith player. Those in the film opine that it's partly because Andy was the most normal one on the show and partly because he's simply so iconic.
Personally? I wanted Aunt Bea.
There's so much to love about The Mayberry Effect, though perhaps more than anything it's Hudson's ability to truly capture the nostalgia without compromising a need to look at a few of the "controversies" around the show...for example, is it really based on Mount Airy? Why weren't there seemingly any Black characters? Were these really the "good ole' days?"
The Mayberry Effect explores these questions and others in a way that never lets go of the show's love and affection.
The Mayberry Effect had quite the successful festival run including picking up prizes at Prison City Film Festival (Best Doc Editing 2020), George Lindsey UNA Film Festival (Clyde "Sappo" Black Sweet Home Alabama Award), L.A. Shorts Awards (Best Doc 2020), Green Mountain Christian Film Festival (Best Doc 2020), Down East Flick Fest (Best Documentary Founder's Award 2020), Real to Reel International Film Festival (Best of NC 2020), Peak City International Film Festival (Best Feature Made in NC 2020), Twin Falls SANDWICHES Film Festival (The Ginny Award), Queen Palm International Film Festival (4th Quarter, 2020 - Best Director and Best Documentary), and a host of others.
Now, you can watch it for yourself.
The Mayberry Effect is a must-see for fans of The Andy Griffith Show and nearly everyone else ought to watch it. With warmth , affection, humor, and integrity, Hudson paints a beautiful portrait of a television show that truly is one of the best and most enduring television shows of all-time.
Now then, you'll have to excuse me. I hear Andy whistling. It's time to watch it again.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic