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TV Characters

Corky Cummings


My three all-time favorite television characters were Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show, Archie Bunker on All in the Family and Kramer on Seinfeld. I still watch reruns of the shows quite frequently because I find them much more entertaining than shows that are airing on TV now.

Barney was a lawman through and through in the fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina, but he was a bungling deputy who always seemed to have things turn out in a bad way. Andy, the Sheriff, would not let him carry any bullets in his gun because Barney would often discharge it accidentally. He was allowed to have one bullet, but he was required to carry it in his shirt pocket. 

Barney’s girlfriend, Thelma Lou, always saw the good in him and her affection for him very rarely wavered. I’m not sure why but the two never came close to getting married. I suppose the writers saw that they had a good thing with them being single, so why mess with a winning hand.

Mayberry was modeled after Mount Airy, North Carolina, where Andy Griffith grew up. There is a museum in Mount Airy where many of the props and clothes that the actors wore are on display. Patti and I visited the museum a few years ago, and one of the highlights was seeing the tweed suit that Barney wore on almost every occasion when he wasn’t in uniform. Betty Lynn, the actress who played Thelma Lou, moved to Mount Airy many years ago and up until her death would come to the museum every other week to talk with fans of the show and sign autographs. About 150,000 visitors tour the museum every year so the show had a lasting effect on many people. 

Archie Bunker was an uninformed bigot who thought he knew everything but actually knew very little about the many subjects that he would discuss with his family or neighbors. His explanations to his son-in-law, Michael, who he called “Meathead,” were hilarious because they were so far from being accurate. 

Archie had a dislike for all minorities, and he wasn’t afraid or reluctant to voice his thoughts on any particular race. Television censors would never allow a character like Archie to be on public TV today because the world is too politically correct. Fifty years ago we weren’t worried that everything we said or did would be taken as mean or disrespectful because things were much simpler then. Humor was allowed to exist without every word or sentence being evaluated as to whether it was acceptable and I guess that is one reason that I enjoy watching All in the Family.

Although Kramer was not the main character on Seinfeld, he stole every scene he was in because of his spontaneity and unorthodox way of doing things. Kramer would never knock before entering Jerry’s apartment but rather burst through as if the building was on fire. Whatever was on his mind would quickly become the topic of conversation because anything he was involved in took top priority. He was normally rattled about some insignificant experience that he had and needed to get off his chest. 

Kramer knew people all over New York although he didn’t work and had no visible means of support. People who had any dealings with him usually learned not to believe or rely on him because he wasn’t very rational. One of my favorite episodes was when Kramer adopted a highway and decided to make it better by painting the lane lines and changing it from a four lane to a two lane road. The result was a typical Kramer ending when it created one of the biggest traffic jams in New York City history. 

Kramer and the other Seinfeld characters all ended up in jail in the last episode of the series and millions of people who regularly watched the show hated the ending. However, to me the ending was appropriate because it was as unorthodox as Kramer was.