GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – There’s a new analysis out that ranks the best television shows – this includes miniseries – “set” in North Carolina.
It would be easy to suggest that “The Andy Griffith Show” – still airing multiple times daily 45 years after its 249th and final episode on April 1, 1968 – along with “Mayberry RFD” and “The New Andy Griffith Show” – if you don’t remember that one, stay tuned – should take the top three spots on that list.
What shows have been more iconic settings from the state, even if the names are fictionalized (you know, Mayberry and not Mount Airy and “Mount Pilot” rather than “Pilot Mountain”)?
In fact, if you throw in a “Matlock” reference, maybe there should be a list called “Andy Griffith and Them Others,” to borrow from the author Dan Jenkins. This lineup appears a lot like the king and a court.
We also should recognize that several terrific and enduring shows “filmed” in North Carolina weren’t based here, although the promotional images used for “Outer Banks” show actual cliffs above the ocean, as if Asheville moved to the coast, or vice versa.
That said, this evaluation was completed by an organization called BetCarolina.com, where, you can wager, support and explain gambling without actually facilitating bets. Its analysts – should they be called “oddsmakers”? – employed data from Wikipedia searches, Rotten Tomatoes audience scores, ratings by IMDB.com and award recognition to set the line on the top 10. The only sure bet here is that you might want to argue about the rankings.
“The Andy Griffith Show” did in fact rank No. 1 on the list, but its spinoffs – the “new” version included Goober and Emmett playing themselves – didn’t get any notice. They were all on CBS in the 1960s and ‘70s.
Neither did “Homeland,” the great Showtime spy drama, which was filmed around Lake Norman but set elsewhere, like Washington and Iraq. Neither did “Sleepy Hollow” and “Under the Dome.”
And you don’t find a Hallmark production on the list, although the state invests in incentives to lure those productions to places such as Wilmington. Maybe the upcoming “A Biltmore Christmas” will make a future list.
Speaking of Wilmington, “Matlock” was filmed there, to be convenient to its star and area resident, Griffith, but that seersucker-wearing lawyer worked in Atlanta. The star-studded “Dawson’s Creek” likewise was filmed around Wilmington, but its setting was in coastal New England, for whatever reason.
The top 10
So here are the shows that BetCarolina decided most successfully depicted North Carolina:
- “The Andy Griffith Show” (CBS): Nothing more really needs to be said about a comedy based on Griffith’s hometown and spun from an episode of “The Danny Thomas Show.” There were also two “return” and “reunion” shows.
- “At Home With Amy Sedaris” (truTV): A comedy series about a crafty homemaker, who must live in NC. The show lasted three seasons. It apparently was a critical hit.
- “Eastbound & Down” (HBO): A washed-up professional baseball player (Danny McBride) retreats to his hometown in Shelby to teach PE. It lasted four seasons.
- “The Carmichael Show” (NBC): Another comedian (Jerrod Carmichael of Winston-Salem as himself), another family, another undisclosed location in the Tar Heel State. It was around for three seasons.
- “My Brother and Me” (Nickelodeon): Yet a third family comedy, about the Parkers from Charlotte, starring Arthur Reggie III and Ralph Woolfolk IV, among others. It was only aired for one season, in the mid-1990s.
- “Delilah” (OWN): This drama lasted for only eight episodes, starring Maahra Hill as a lawyer fighting for social justice in Charlotte. It’s unclear what elevated its ranking.
- “American Horror Story: Roanoke” (FX): This entry is a bit of a misnomer because this really was just Season 6 of an Emmy-winning anthology that has endured for 12 seasons and counting. This one dealt with an 18th-century haunted house and the supernatural in North Carolina (its title should not be confused with the city in Virginia).
- “One Big Happy Family” (TLC): This is a tragicomedy about a family of four – Shane, Norris, Tameka and Amber Coles – who weigh 300 pounds apiece and are trying to forge healthier lifestyles in Indian Trail. Their effort endured two seasons (although apparently only three of 10 original episodes aired).
- “Outer Banks” (Netflix): This is an ongoing drama series (the third season just aired) that is reminiscent of “Dawson’s Creek” because it deals with teens (Madelyn Cline and Chase Stokes star) and their angst on Roanoke Island (although not the location of the horror show). Tourism officials use it liberally, although the cliffs in the promo images befuddle.
- “One Tree Hill” (WB/CW): Another drama about young people in the fictional title town (although filmed around Wilmington), this award-winning series is based on half-brothers played by Chad Michael Murray and James Lafferty and their friends. It also uses basketball as a recurring element. It lasted nine seasons.
Arguments for Andy and friends
You can talk about those among yourselves, but the argument that “Mayberry RFD” deserves its own position could have merit. It aired for three years on CBS following TAGS and was successful until CBS’s famed “rural purge” of the early ‘70s.
BTW, “The New Andy Griffith Show,” which lasted only 10 episodes in 1971, also starred Lee Meriweather and featured Griffith as Andy Sawyer, the new mayor pro tempore of Greenwood, N.C. Goober and Emmett were in the pilot, as was Don Knotts, although not as Barney Fife.
Wikipedia also includes “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” on its list of NC-sited shows. If that is the case, then Jim Nabors et al in this “Andy Griffith” spinoff definitely would be on the list, too. Gomer was another big ratings hit that aired for five seasons.
But truthfully there was no clear setting, unless you think of Camp LeJeune. Andy, an on-the-lam Opie and Aunt Bee did drop by for cameos. So if it was only a bus ride from Mayberry….
How about these?
But, outside of the TAGS influence, we are at odds with Bet’s list, especially when you realize that miniseries and one-season wonders can be included. Therefore, we suggest a recalculation that includes these:
“In the Best of Families” (CBS): OK, maybe this is a stretch, but we are partial to this 2-part drama based on a real-life family from Rockingham County as depicted in the book “Bitter Blood” by News & Record reporter Jerry Bledsoe. This saga ended in a middle-of-the-road explosion on NC 150 in Summerfield. The cast includes Kelly McGillis, Keith Carradine and Harry Hamlin, among others. If you think this is cheating, it’s only one fewer episode than “One Big Happy Family.”
“The Staircase” (HBO/Max): A true-life drama out of Raleigh about the death of novelist Michael Peterson’s wife in 2001. There were newspaper accounts, books and documentary treatments on this story about his trial for killing her. Collin Firth and Toni Collette starred in this version, which had 13 episodes.
“Daniel Boone” (ABC): This is the story of a North Carolinian – Boone’s family came from the Yadkin River Valley – and it’s not the NBC show starring Fess Parker that was set in Kentucky for six seasons. This is a Disney product that starred Dewey Martin and Mala Rudolph in 1960. It aired for four episodes as part of “Walt Disney Presents.”
“Madhouse” (History): We are being homers again. This one-season production is a reality series based on the racing families who compete at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem. Airing in 2010, this series, like many of the races it depicts, had a controversial ending: Producers canceled before its final episode had aired.