Like most people who live or work in Mount Airy, I’ve got a friend that can’t get enough of “The Andy Griffith Show.” He used to watch several episodes a day on broadcast or cable television, switching through the channels to find the channel where it was airing at any given time.
Then, he discovered it was on Netflix, and he could start at the beginning and watch it all the way through to the end, watching the episodes in chronological order. And then start over at the beginning — over and over again. He even watches the color ones.
It has been my experience that everybody in Mount Airy has a friend or a family member like this. Except for watching the color episodes. That’s an extreme case of obsession. If you don’t know this person, it’s probably because you are this person.
Since the Andy Griffith fiend in my life is using my sofa to get his Andy and Barney groove on, after we’ve watched a few episodes, I get to pick a show, and lately, I’ve been picking a British comedy called, “The End of the F***ing World” — that’s really what it’s called, placeholders and all. It’s based on a graphic novel that spelled things out but apparently, the United Kingdom’s famously loose rules for broadcast TV do have some boundaries.
My thought process was to balance all of that saccharine folksiness with some gritty post-modern nihilism, kind of like balancing salt with sugar. But surprisingly, the two shows are more alike than different.
The British show’s about a 17-year-old kid named James who’s convinced he’s a psychopath, grows bored with killing animals and decides to kill a human. The human he decides to kill is Alyssa, a troubled kid whose mouthiness is a perfect foil to James’ quiet brooding.
So it’s easy to see it’s a lot like “The Andy Griffith Show,” being a character-driven comedy and all, with two main characters who play off each other to comic effect; Andy’s solid sheriff plays straight man to Barney’s bumbling deputy in much the same way James is only able to reach his maximum potential as a budding psychopath by Alyssa’s surly vulnerability.
Were it not for the steering wheels being on the wrong side of their cars, one might not even notice they were different shows. Well, that’s probably an exaggeration, but you get my point.
And it seemed important to note that the steering wheels are on the wrong side, and it is disconcerting. Although the wrong side of the road isn’t much of an issue, because in the Britain of this show, there are only one-lane roads meandering through the countryside so the only place to drive is in the middle.
These two shows are very different on the surface, but fit together on a double bill very nicely, and I think it’s because they’re both well-written examples of a solid three-act structure, with a beginning, a middle and an end. A TAGS episode gives you those three acts in a half-hour episode and “The End of the F***ing World” takes an eight-episode season to do it, with each episode being a chapter in that story arc, but they’re both rock solid in their construction.
They both hide it, one under aw-shucks folksiness and the other behind nihilistic mayhem and dysfunction, but it’s still there.
The characters also are surprisingly similar. With the exception of Andy who is the calm at the center of the storm, every other TAGS character is a cartoon, plastered over by some ‘good old days’ whitewash of normalcy. On the surface they’re funny, but if you think about it, they’re funny because they’re a totally hot mess.
James and Alyssa also seem normal on the surface, just your average post-modern snot-nose teenagers. But down deep, they’re severely damaged by the circumstances of their young lives, and they also make it funny.
The similarities became clear to me last night when a bandleader that Andy had jailed on some trumped up charge to get one of his Mayberry pals an audition made a rude comment about Andy, and Opie hauled off and kicked him in the shin. Hard.
Andy dragged Opie off, yelling over his shoulder, “He didn’t mean it,” and Opie screams out, “I did, too, mean it.” It was exactly something a younger James would have done. Except James would have had a knife.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.