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I have always known that if I were to become addicted to any substance, it would be one with sedating, rather than stimulating, properties. I am sufficiently nervy already, thank you very much, without taking something that would make me peppier and full of a burning need to conquer the world of 90s advertising.

I am also, however, tediously law-abiding, and so will never be in a position to lay my hands on whatever my dental surgeon gave me when I got my wisdom teeth out.

So what I needed was to find something non-pharmaceutical that would recreate that post-de-toothing bliss, that calm, carefree, unbothered serenity.

In the end, I found two things: Murder She Wrote and Matlock.

It started innocently enough. Murder She Wrote aired on A&E every few hours when I was younger, before that network was taken over by shows about what Jessica Fletcher would be like if she never went out and spent her time arranging her belongings into teetering, dangerous piles and alienating her family. One day, I caught just the last few moments of it - what I call the "Fletcher freeze-frame." At the end of every show, the camera focuses and then freezes on Angela Lansbury's face while she does something like laugh indulgently, shake her head regretfully, or look generally smug. It was so outrageously awful, I had to watch a whole show. In each and every show, children are innocent and sometimes poor and in need of a free bicycle, an easily-identifiable and generally straightforwardly-Biblical motive leads to murder, and some stupid, stupid person thinks an elderly retired schoolteacher probably doesn't have what it takes to solve a crime.

Before long, I was watching it all the time. 

During grad school, when I was in a vulnerable and susceptible state, some station in Kingston started running Matlock at two in the morning. Did I have room in my heart for another folksy old person who brought order to the chaotic modern
world by solving many murders that somehow often involved Patrick Swayze's slightly less successful brother Don? It appeared I did, because before long I was watching as much Matlock as I could get.

It never ceases to amaze me that it was Murder She Wrote and Magnum P.I. that had the cross-over episodes, and that Jessica and Ben never shook their heads complacently at one another and then brought someone unscrupulous (inevitably played by a guy who also guest-starred on the Love Boat, or Don Swayze) to justice.

When I watch either show, my heart-rate slows and I feel like I am being hugged by a loving grandparent who compulsively brings criminals to justice. I used to tell myself that I watched these programs ironically and so made a point of chortling knowingly to myself during each episode. But how many times can you watch Andy Griffith play his ukulele or trick someone out of money to buy himself a hotdog before your cold, unforgiving post-modern heart is conquered by a warm, forgiving, pre-modern kind of love? 

So I am profoundly grateful for Angela Lansbury and Andy Griffith, even if they have inspired unrealistic expectations about how when I'm older, I'll be really successful and happy while all around me, people drop dead.

Also, I've been planning to write about these shows for days and days, but the post ended up being unexpectedly, and regrettably, timely.
            

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Andy Griffith June 1, 1926 – July 3, 2012


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Comments

07/05/2012 20:10

--there should be some sort of mortality waiver for nice
people like Andy...

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