Andy Griffith’s death today at the age of 86 reminds us of a time when television was cleaner and simpler. Family values, small-town values were American values, not subject to controversy and stereotyping. Andy Griffith was, for all intents and purposes, the quintessential American television actor. Between The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock, a show which upheld the virtues of the American justice system, Griffith gave millions of Americans the feeling that the country stood for all the right things. And he was a great ambassador for America, too — my wife, who grew up in Israel, grew up on Matlock. No wonder she was so eager to achieve her citizenship last year — who wouldn’t want to join a country represented by people like Andy Griffith?
Griffith was also a tremendously underrated actor. His performance in A Face in the Crowd (1957) is one of the great underrated screen performances in history; he’s riveting as Lonesome Rhodes, an Arkansas drifter who becomes one of the most powerful media figures in the country.
Later in life, of course, Griffith let his personal leftist politics out of the closet, as was his right — he famously cut a commercial on behalf of Obamacare back in 2010. But that Griffith was not the Griffith that resonated with people. We’ll all remember Sheriff Andy Taylor and Benjamin Matlock. And we’ll be warmed by that memory.
— Ben Shapiro is author of Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV.