A rare dated reference in The Andy Griffith Show pondered the moon landing
"Ohhh, that's the finest thing in the world, settin' on a porch on a moonlit night..."
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The Andy Griffith Show put a lot of work into inviting the audience to look back on their own childhoods, and it succeeded by not being obviously set in any day or age. Instead, the show embraced anachronisms and everybody on set gathered around between scenes to hear stories from Andy Griffith and Don Knotts about their childhood days. From these gab sessions, the writers cleverly captured the feeling of the stars' fond memories by shifting the way they wrote dialog to mirror the tone they so loved from these moments. Sharing pieces of their pasts, the stars elevated the show to a comedy that felt both timeless and old-timey. It didn't matter when it was The Andy Griffith Show was supposed to be taking place; it felt like home to watch.
That's why you won't hear very many references to events that happened in the Sixties while you're watching the show. But it does seem there was one aspect of living through the Sixties that did manage to get a subtle nod during one of Griffith's poignant monologues: the notion of putting a man on the moon.
In 1959, the Soviet Union launched a spacecraft called Luna 2 that became the first human-made object to land on the moon. By 1961, the United States was determined to put the first man on the moon, and public fascination in the idea meant it got a lot of media coverage. You could say it was such a big deal that even The Andy Griffith Show got in on the act of staring at the moon and pondering about the possibility of sticking a man on its surface.
In the 1962 episode "The Manicurist," Andy's in the barbershop when another customer says, "People are in too much of a hurry nowadays. What happened to the fine art of setting', just settin' and starin'?"
Andy responds, "Ohhh, that's the finest thing in the world, settin' on a porch on a moonlit night, starin' up at the sky. That's what probably folks will do when they get to the moon — they'll set on the porch up there and stare down here."
It's a way of looking at the moon landing that's distinctly Mayberry. Of course, it took until 1969 for those historic first steps on the moon to be taken by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, but you can bet everybody in Mayberry took notice of the occasion.
The next year in what's been hailed by fans as the best episode of The Andy Griffith Show, "Man in a Hurry," the show made an even more direct reference to the space race when fast-moving businessman Malcolm Tucker gets stuck in Mayberry and at one point shouts that scientists have been launching rockets in space but the town's only phone remains tied up by two ladies discussing how feet fall asleep.
Andy's pondering from the previous season proves even after Tucker leaves town, Mayberry hasn't forgotten about the advancing world that exists around its audience. It just chooses instead to show you a different world, so you can set and stare for a short while, instead of rushing into tomorrow.