Trying to describe the impact of a man like Nabors, and the shows that he was a part of, is difficult. Television back during his heyday of the 1960’s was a very different world than where we are now in 2017. Both The Andy Griffith Show (which first introduced the character) and Gomer Pyle, USMC received more than 25% market shares in the Nielsen ratings during the time in which they were on the air. The only programs that do anything close to that today are major sporting events / awards shows / the occasional series finale. These shows were doing it weekly and were both incredibly popular. When Gomer Pyle, USMC went off the air it was still one of the most-watched series on television.
Nabors first played the Gomer Pyle character in 1962 and played him on the spin-off show in 1969. Following that, he did reprise the character on a couple of different occasions — the 1986 reunion movie Return to Mayberry and then also the short-lived sitcom Hi Honey, I’m Home. His last credit as an actor was in The Carol Burnett Show in 1991, though he continued to make appearances at various awards shows and honoree ceremonies as late as this past decade. He also did participate in some other popular programs of his era, including The Love Boat and The Lucy Show, where he made an un-credited appearance as Gomer Pyle. He lived out the final years of his life in relative privacy, largely cherishing a career that brought him great success and popularity among a group of people who loved him dearly.
We’d equate (in some ways) the 1960’s to the 1990’s as a golden age of sitcoms. These were shows designed to spread love and happiness, and there’s a reason why so many people yearn to recapture the feelings that they brought to the table. They bring back wonderful memories and make you feel like a part of a community. Gomer Pyle, both the show and the character, did a lot for military communities. Nabors was often honored by the Marines as a result of that.
Our thoughts go out to Jim Nabors and everyone who loved him through what must be an incredibly difficult time. (Photo: CBS.)