When Did Barney Fife Take Over the Police Department?

The old Andy Griffith show (1960-1968) is naive and simplistic by today's standards, but it is a classic. I find the world seems to be divided into those who are intimately familiar with the show and others with at most a vague recollection of hearing about it, so here is a quick synopsis: Sheriff Andy Taylor (played by Andy Griffith) maintains order in the small, idyllic North Carolina town of Mayberry. Sheriff Taylor is notable for refusing to carry a gun; he relies instead on quiet confidence and homespun wisdom to resolve threats to the town's peace and quiet (which never reach the level of serious violent crime).

The best years of the show were the early ones with the character of Barney Fife, Andy's deputy. It was a running joke that Barney was the one obsessed with pomp and police procedure, and all the weaponry he could find an excuse to wield (generally limited to a revolver and a single bullet carried in his breast pocket). In fact Barney was bereft of talent for police work or any real courage (his single outstanding character virtue being his unshakable loyalty to Andy). A recurrent scene was Barney quaking with fear as he faces some imagined threat while fumbling for the bullet in his breast pocket.

The following bit of by-play is typical:

Unfortunately, for some reason nowadays a lot of people take Barney Fife as a role model. They don't get that he's a joke.

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