The Andy Griffith Show first
aired on CBS in 1960. For those of you too young to
remember, this classic situation comedy was packed full
with characters not unlike those found in any small town
in the U.S. The lead character, Sheriff Andy Taylor,
played by Andy Griffith, was a widower bringing up his
son with the help of Aunt Bee. Although he was Sheriff,
Mayberry NC was already crime-free. This allowed Andy
plenty of time to deal with the various situations that
arose - and Mayberry's many odd-ball characters.
One of the characters,
introduced three years into the show's long run, was
dim-witted gas pump attendant, Gomer Pyle. Like many of
the show's characters, he had his own quirky ways and
his own catchphrases like "Shazam!". Gomer, played by
actor and, to this day, highly accomplished singer Jim
Nabors, was so popular he was given his own show, Gomer
Pyle USMC. This was a time when the tv spin-off was a
very rare thing.
As the life of a gas pump
attendant may produce limited story lines, it was
decided that Gomer Pyle would enlist in the marines. The
contrast between Gomer's limited abilities and the drill
sergeant, Vince Carter's abruptness and impatience was
the backdrop to the many funny lines penned by various
screenwriters under the watchful eyes of the show's
Midas touch creator Aaron Ruben and highly successful
producer Sheldon Leonard.
Gomer Pyle was a constant pain
in the side of Sergeant Carter (played by Frank Sutton).
He would often misunderstand the instructions that
Carter gave him and generally botch even the simplest of
tasks. He would more often than not get himself and his
sergeant into all kinds of scrapes and sometimes would
(often unwittingly) save the day.
Sergeant Carter's attempts to
knock the bumbling Gomer into shape constantly
back-fired to the point where the sergeant himself was
at his wits end. Despite this constant battle, Carter
obviously developed a sneaky regard for Gomer and this
only added to the depth of the comedy.
Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. is a classic
comedy from 60's television. Some say that this remains
the best situation comedy to come out of that decade.
Many spin-offs do not live up to the promise of the
original host show. In this case it certainly matched
the wonderfully gentle but wacky Andy Griffith Show from
which it emerged.
As with most of the work
produced by Sheldon Leonard, the show had a long stay as
a top-rated show and ended its run in 1969.