How Ted Koppel’s trip to ‘Mayberry’ turned into one of 2021’s most striking moments of TV

Amused

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This is seriously disturbing and depressing. The level of absolute denial of reality ahs NEVER been higher in America.




How Ted Koppel’s trip to ‘Mayberry’ turned into one of 2021’s most striking moments of TV
The veteran newsman and “CBS Sunday Morning” contributor explains how a seeming puff piece about “The Andy Griffith Show” turned into an unsettling snapshot of an angry America


At the height of the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns, veteran journalist Ted Koppel was working out on the treadmill when he came across an episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” — it caught his attention because of something he heard earlier that day while listening to WMAL, a Virginia-based conservative talk radio station. A listener had called in to explain that they used to live in the Washington area, but couldn’t stand how “woke” it had become, so they fled to the South. They said something along the lines of, “We moved down here to the Carolinas, and boy, life is just wonderful. People are so lovely. They’re so neighborly. Everything is so nice.”

Koppel, 81, started thinking about how “The Andy Griffith Show” was also set in the Carolinas, in the fictional town of Mayberry, N.C. After his workout, he went online and discovered that the CBS comedy was an even bigger hit than he remembered; the series, starring Griffith as the good-natured sheriff and Ron Howard as his adorable young son, was one of the most-watched shows from its debut in 1960 until it went off the air in 1968. And, more intriguingly, while Mayberry was not real, the city of Mount Airy, N.C., claims to be the prototype on which it was based, and still draws thousands of tourists every year looking to relive their beloved show.

So Koppel, the former ABC “Nightline” host and now a senior contributor to “CBS Sunday Morning,” called his producer, Dustin Stephens, and suggested that they travel down to Mount Airy. Koppel was curious: What made the show so popular? And what was it about this community that makes people want to come visit decades later?

What started with those general questions wound up evolving into one of the most striking TV segments of the year, as Koppel was visibly taken aback by the fierce nostalgia for a time and place that literally never existed — and how it connects to the misinformation that has infiltrated America’s politics.


“People looking back at that program seem to confuse the program with what reality was like in those days, wishing that we could only restore some of the good feelings, some of the kindness, some of the decency,” Koppel said in an interview. “But what they’re really reflecting on is not what was going on in a particular North Carolina community. What they’re reflecting on is what was going on in the creative minds of a bunch of scriptwriters out in Hollywood.”
On a base level, Koppel understands why people connect — and cling to — the show about a friendly small town where any minor issue was resolved in 30 minutes with commercial breaks. It’s the same reason people now repeatedly binge-watch “The Office” and “Friends” and “Seinfeld”: When life is a nightmare, TV comedy is an excellent escape.


Similarly, “The Andy Griffith Show,” a viewing experience that Koppel compared to “chomping down on a marshmallow,” was an antidote to everything going on in the world at the time, which never showed up on the sunny series: Tens of thousands of American troops killed in Vietnam War. Race riots throughout the country. Assassinations.

“If there’s any period that matches our current period in terms of how terrible things were and how difficult things were, the 1960s were it,” Koppel said.

Koppel’s 13-minute segment, which filmed in June and aired in September on “CBS Sunday Morning,” starts out looking like a pleasant feature about Mount Airy embracing its role as a stand-in for Mayberry, even though its only connection to “The Andy Griffith Show” is that Mount Airy was the real-life Griffith’s hometown. (It is debated whether Mount Airy was the inspiration for Mayberry, as many fans claim.) Randy Collins, president of the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce, explains to Koppel the origins of re-creating Mayberry: When the North Carolina tobacco and textile industries faltered, business owners needed another way to bring in revenue.

Kicking off with the cheerful, whistled theme song, cameras show the Andy Griffith Museum and a vintage police car and other replica hot spots from the series, including Wally’s Filling Station, the Snappy Lunch and Floyd’s Barber Shop — all packed with tourists. The piece takes its first hint of a darker, more serious turn as Koppel interviews one man who says our “godless society” could use a dose of the good old days. “Back when neighbors were neighbors, and they provided for everybody else,” the man explained.

“What you’re saying is true of certain people,” Koppel tells him. “If you were Black in the ‘60s, things were not all that good.”

“That’s true,” the man admits. (The segment notes that in the entirety of the show’s eight-season run, only one Black actor had a speaking role.)

Koppel also interviews a Black family who had lived in Mount Airy for decades, and as of the early 1970s, were turned away from eating in certain restaurants. Yet the siblings had all returned to their hometown. “Somehow Mount Airy becomes more complex with each conversation,” Koppel said, adding that the town “is a place where fantasy and reality intersect.”

This segues into the segment’s defining scene, on a tourist trolley: Koppel decides to “wave the political thermometer across the forehead of Mount Airy” and asks how many people there thought the 2020 presidential election was a fair one. Only two out of about a dozen people raise their hands.

“I think there was a lot of voter fraud,” one tourist says. “I think it’s more the mail-in ballots. You don’t know how much of those were duplicated, triplicated, the whole bit.”
“Look how many dead people voted for Biden,” another adds, referring to a false and debunked conspiracy theory.

The discussion continues as one person claims the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was a “staged” event with “BLM people.” (“I don’t understand why they’re focusing so much on that one issue, when there are so many cities being burned down every day by protesters.”) Others chime in to call the media the enemy of the people and profess their love for Donald Trump.

Koppel and his producers just let the scene speak for itself. At one point, a tour guide jumps in: “This conversation about politics and division is what people come here to get away from. We don’t care what color you are. We don’t even care what your politics are. We just want to be good neighbors and treat everybody alike. And that’s why they’re coming here.” The tourists yell “Amen!” and applaud. “That’s what America should be,” one says. Koppel’s voice-over concludes the segment: “And when the script was written in Hollywood, that’s the way it was.”

After it aired, Koppel heard lots of positive feedback from those who loved that he dug deeper; although some residents in Mount Airy and viewers in Southern states took issue with how the town was portrayed. Koppel had a phone conversation with Collins, the Chamber of Commerce president; and while Collins was very nice and didn’t “actively complain” (Mount Airy did get an enormous infusion of publicity with millions of “CBS Sunday Morning” viewers), Koppel got the impression that plenty of folks in town did.

“Speaking nationally, people either loved it or hated it,” Koppel said, though he pushed back on viewers who called it a “hit job.” “To the degree that it was critical, it was not critical of the show. It was not critical of the community. It was simply saying, 'You do need to understand that what you’re looking at here is not the original community that the show was — the show was not shot here. It wasn’t about this place.’”

Ultimately, Koppel emphasized that was the point: It’s fine if you want to escape reality on television. But conflating it with the real world can produce damaging results. One part that stuck out in his mind from the segment was one of the tourists at the end who said, “I just hope when this airs it won’t show Southerners as a bunch of dumb idiots.”

“That truly was never the intent,” Koppel said. “It was just — to the extent that people go to Disneyland and confuse Disneyland with reality, they need to be reminded of the fact that it’s a place that was created to sell tickets to a lot of rides and to make money. ... There’s nothing evil about that. There’s nothing wrong with that. But people shouldn’t be hurt if somebody reminds them that they’re not dealing with reality.”
 
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pauldun170

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"But what they’re really reflecting on is not what was going on in a particular North Carolina community. What they’re reflecting on is what was going on in the creative minds of a bunch of scriptwriters out in Hollywood."
"But what they’re really reflecting on is not what was going on in a particular North Carolina community. What they’re reflecting on is what was going on in the simple minds of a bunch of people on Facebook"
"But what they’re really reflecting on is not what was going on in a particular North Carolina community. What they’re reflecting on is what was going on in the simple minds of a bunch of people on Twitter"
 

vi edit

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Ultimately, Koppel emphasized that was the point: It’s fine if you want to escape reality on television. But conflating it with the real world can produce damaging results. One part that stuck out in his mind from the segment was one of the tourists at the end who said, “I just hope when this airs it won’t show Southerners as a bunch of dumb idiots.”

So some are capable of self reflection. So that's a start.
 

hal2kilo

Lifer
Feb 24, 2009
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Just lump all these shows in the mid 50s to mid 60s as fantasy plays about the "real American life".
Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best. No wonder kids turned out disillusioned in the late 60s when the reality of their family life had absolutely nothing to do with what you were experiencing in your family.
 

ivwshane

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Reality appears to be something the right cannot handle. I’d ask why that is but when conversations all involve right wing talking points, we know what the issue is.
 
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dawp

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“That truly was never the intent,” Koppel said. “It was just — to the extent that people go to Disneyland and confuse Disneyland with reality, they need to be reminded of the fact that it’s a place that was created to sell tickets to a lot of rides and to make money. ... There’s nothing evil about that. There’s nothing wrong with that. But people shouldn’t be hurt if somebody reminds them that they’re not dealing with reality.”
that is the problem, they refuse to deal with reality because it doesn't fit with their world view and has been driven into their minds for the last 40 years or longer.

they keep insisting trump lost to voter fraud when most that has been found has been on the right and refuse to acknowledge that.
 
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Moonbeam

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Personally, what all this reminds me of is the ego. It is the false pride of self identification with some so called external good, some form of sacred cow that exists as fantasy self worth to replace the real natural self worth we would feel if we had never been put down and made to feel worthless as children. In this sad sad world all real happiness for so many lies in the past, echos of a time before we learned to hate ourselves.
 
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Moonbeam

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This is why the country is doomed.
Feelings of doom are a projection of our inner state. We were all psychically murdered and would rather dwell on the hopelessness of our condition than remember the real source of our pain. The only doom that exists is the fact that we were forced to believe we are worthless and that not knowing it and not ever wanting to know it the feeling of doom becomes our permanent psychological state. Some people escape and immediately become invisible.
 
Mar 11, 2004
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Reality appears to be something the right cannot handle. I’d ask why that is but when conversations all involve right wing talking points, we know what the issue is.

They're indoctrinated from birth to eschew reality, so its not surprising that as problems arise they choose to frame things in a way to appeal to how their brains have developed to view the world.

It seems that we should maybe start looking to build Truman Show esque bubbles for them to live in, built off their imaginary fantasylands, like Mayberry.
 
Mar 11, 2004
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"But what they’re really reflecting on is not what was going on in a particular North Carolina community. What they’re reflecting on is what was going on in the creative minds of a bunch of scriptwriters out in Hollywood."
"But what they’re really reflecting on is not what was going on in a particular North Carolina community. What they’re reflecting on is what was going on in the simple minds of a bunch of people on Facebook"
"But what they’re really reflecting on is not what was going on in a particular North Carolina community. What they’re reflecting on is what was going on in the simple minds of a bunch of people on Twitter"

I actually think you're missing the most profound aspect. They don't understand that the Hollywood they're demonizing and calling pedophiles that created a global conspiracy of sex trafficking children are the ones that created their imaginary fantasylands that they desperately want to live in.

The dumbest part is they can actually see it. The media does manipulate and distort things, but they're actively glamorizing that (Hollywood fiction) while demonizing it when it doesn't.
 

sportage

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Feb 1, 2008
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And so.... Aunt Bee "was" putting funny stuff into her pies.
And the reason no blacks appeared in Mayberry was because Barney locked them up in jail.
Then, the mighty meteor hit Mayberry and no one survived except Opie, who went on to make movies.

Sounds like the plague of Mayberry has spread across the entire country, with Donald Trump as the new sheriff in town, and it's all Andy's fault.
 

MtnMan

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Jul 27, 2004
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This is why the country is doomed.
It is like an aggressive cancer that has metastasized throughout the body. It's only a matter of time, and it is going to get more and more painful until the country is done.
 
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hal2kilo

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And so.... Aunt Bee "was" putting funny stuff into her pies.
And the reason no blacks appeared in Mayberry was because Barney locked them up in jail.
Then, the mighty meteor hit Mayberry and no one survived except Opie, who went on to make movies.

Sounds like the plague of Mayberry has spread across the entire country, with Donald Trump as the new sheriff in town, and it's all Andy's fault.
You saw a black person on the Andy Griffith show?
 

HomerJS

Lifer
Feb 6, 2002
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So they want to return to a "kinder" time, yet flock to the GOP and Trump?

Huh?

And the party of "f*ck your feelings" and anti-PC also worries about being portrayed or stereotyped as "dumb southerners?"

Huh?

Irony is dead.
I guess that's why one of the women interviewed didn't want to reveal her source for truth in news.
 

MrSquished

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I am amazed people think we can survive in a nation where so many states have a majority of people that think like this and have so much power in the federal system. It's just not workable.
 

ivwshane

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May 15, 2000
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I am amazed people think we can survive in a nation where so many states have a majority of people that think like this and have so much power in the federal system. It's just not workable.


When a populace isn’t educated democracy ultimately fails.

In fact I wonder if we can plot a countries population likeliness to be susceptible to conspiracies and misinformation with the overall health of their democracy? That’s probably too subjective to be meaningful though.
 
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Ajay

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WaPo said:
This segues into the segment’s defining scene, on a tourist trolley: Koppel decides to “wave the political thermometer across the forehead of Mount Airy” and asks how many people there thought the 2020 presidential election was a fair one. Only two out of about a dozen people raise their hands.
WaPo said:
“Speaking nationally, people either loved it or hated it,” Koppel said, though he pushed back on viewers who called it a “hit job.” “To the degree that it was critical, it was not critical of the show. It was not critical of the community. It was simply saying, 'You do need to understand that what you’re looking at here is not the original community that the show was — the show was not shot here. It wasn’t about this place.’”

So, Ted lit the touch paper and and then stood back and said, hey, it wasn't my fault. Koppel isn't that dumb. So glad he went their to drag a bunch of people out of their fantasy, for crying out loud, that's what they were there for. So in the end, Mount Airy will be more popular than ever and we get smacked over the heads again with the American political divide. Like on Twitter and Facebook - angst sells, and Koppel knew that. Thanks for telling us what we already knew Ted, glad you could cash in on that. The duplicity is just too strong here to ignore.
 

BUTCH1

Lifer
Jul 15, 2000
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It is like an aggressive cancer that has metastasized throughout the body. It's only a matter of time, and it is going to get more and more painful until the country is done.
Sadly, I agree, these people didn't want to look "dumb" but when asked about 01/06 they brought out the "dumb" cannon,
"oh! they showed buses full of BLM people that were brought in", huh?, sweetheart, did you miss the lack of ANY black people there that day?. Any excuse, ANY to avoid trump having one iota of responsibility for what happened or the fact he got legitimately beat in the election, how could "their" guy ever possibly lose?. You can tell these losers listen to Hannity and watch tucker every single day.
 

HomerJS

Lifer
Feb 6, 2002
36,370
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So, Ted lit the touch paper and and then stood back and said, hey, it wasn't my fault. Koppel isn't that dumb. So glad he went their to drag a bunch of people out of their fantasy, for crying out loud, that's what they were there for. So in the end, Mount Airy will be more popular than ever and we get smacked over the heads again with the American political divide. Like on Twitter and Facebook - angst sells, and Koppel knew that. Thanks for telling us what we already knew Ted, glad you could cash in on that. The duplicity is just too strong here to ignore.
Maybe duplicitous but something that needs to be exposed. Don't cha think?
 
Mar 11, 2004
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So, Ted lit the touch paper and and then stood back and said, hey, it wasn't my fault. Koppel isn't that dumb. So glad he went their to drag a bunch of people out of their fantasy, for crying out loud, that's what they were there for. So in the end, Mount Airy will be more popular than ever and we get smacked over the heads again with the American political divide. Like on Twitter and Facebook - angst sells, and Koppel knew that. Thanks for telling us what we already knew Ted, glad you could cash in on that. The duplicity is just too strong here to ignore.

Yes, let's bury our heads in the sand and ignore it, that's been working so much better. :rolleyes:

Actually, what the fuck? Your entire post is basically nonsense. Koppel didn't say it wasn't his fault, I mean you only fucking quoted where he admitted deliberately seeing what response he'd get. Further, how are the responses his fault? Just more bullshit mindless "blame the media" fucking garbage. I hope you realize you're making the exact same bullshit argument that the morons in that segment are. If you don't like having your dumbass opinions called out then either learn something and change your opinions so they aren't stupid or you do what you want others to do and shut the fuck up instead of furthering the divide by spouting off every dumb fucking thing that pops into your head.

Oh, so no credit given to Koppel for helping get people interested in Fakeberry? And meh, let that podunk town basque in its glory of fetishizing a fantasy world while it can. The number of people that even know what Mayberry was, let alone have a fondness for it are dwindling. I'm guessing when tourists stop coming to see their lame bit of nostalgia they'll blame that on liberals and not them being forward looking. Then again, they'll probably be devastated by some natural disaster and blame that on liberals vis a vis an angry god.

Indeed it is, its just a goddamn shame you don't seem to realize you're looking in a mirror when saying that.

You know how often I hear city folk talk about rural America? Not very often, and its usually either "oh yeah I'm from a small town" with not much malice (often pride even), or its about some glamorized version from Hollywood. Yet, we constantly hear how they're demonized, but it sure seems to me that every time we talk to them they're bitching about cities, liberals and everyone they don't identify as. Maybe if they spent less time spewing hate every time anyone dares to open the window of the world upon them, they wouldn't be viewed as hateful sonsofbitches? Yet they, and people like you, demand that everyone else stop being mean to them, when no one was, they just lashed out like petulant fools, and then get embarrassed about it. Either learn some self control (that they demand of everyone else), or maybe learn that all the hate is coming from within and work to change that? Nah, why do that when you can just scream like children when you decide to open your mouth revealing the fool that you are, and blame everyone else for your own behavior?
 
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