You dont pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger and you dont mess around with Andy.
Barney was issued one bullet at a time, but fans of "The Andy Griffith Show" are fully armed, as television stations discover when they tinker with favorite episodes of the beloved sitcom.
David Hart is the general manager of WRBL-TV. Five days a week at 5:30 p.m., his station airs the warm comedy that has been part of our culture for more than 50 years. To fit in more commercials, Channel 3 sometimes cuts portions of the original show and as one local fan wrote, "This is really doing violence to the show which always has a moral or lesson, and it needs to be shown as it was produced in order to get the full benefit."
Followers of this show aren't your typical viewers. They savor every moment and every line in the original script. During their original airings from 1960 to 1968, shows ran exactly 24.5 minutes -- not counting commercials. Most syndicated prints run 22 minutes, allowing stations to sell more spots. The show moved at a lazy pace, as Mayberry would have. There was time for Andy to pick and sing or time for Barney to lock himself in a cell. A problem was presented in the first segment and solved in the second. The morale of the story came during the wrap-up.
Like most serious fans, the local viewer knows what has been lost. In an email, he cited a recent episode about Andy being put to bed with the flu. Goober was the substitute sheriff. He was writing tickets all over town and twice wrecked the squad car.
The show ended with the sound of the second crash. The closing segment was missing.
"In it, Andy, Aunt Bee and Opie are at the dinner table. Andy is well and Aunt Bee is telling him that all of the folks who bothered him so much while he was sick were coming down with the flu. It tied the show together but all we saw was commercials," the longtime fan wrote.
Hart said WRBL tries to be consistent in its edits. "We don't want to destroy the story line of the show," he said.
His goal is to deliver what the station promises advertisers and viewers, and he said harsh editing occurs accidentally. Hart invites people with complaints to write him at email@example.com. Hart has to remember that Andy fans aren't like people who watch "Two and a Half Men." When Griffith died in July, the world stopped. He was Opie's dad. He got his hair cut at Floyd's and bought his gas from Gomer. He was our neighbor. And when Channel 3 edits Andy, it is editing scripture.
-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. He is also found at www.richardhyattcolumbus.com.