The Andy Griffith Show

The Andy Griffity Show

Every week, a father and son from Mayberry meandered down to the old fishing hole, while countless television viewers whistled along, on the beloved 60s sitcom, The Andy Griffith Show. Overflowing with small town country charm and featuring a wonderfully funny ensemble cast, this beloved sitcom is still earning new generations of fans.

The lives and times of the simple folk of Mayberry, North Carolina, proved a popular tonic for the tensions and social upheaval of the 1960’s, and Andy Griffith’s Sheriff Taylor set an indelible standard for the laid-back but wise and compassionate father figure.

Andy Griffith had made an impression as a master of folksy monologues, and he showed a flair for comedy in No Time For Sergeants, as well as dramatic skill in A Face In The Crowd. In 1959, The Danny Thomas Show introduced its viewers to Mayberry, when Thomas’ character was pulled over by Sheriff Andy Taylor and spent a day in the courthouse. The episode proved popular, and The Andy Griffith Show was launched in 1960, one of the earliest TV spin-offs.

Sheriff Andy Taylor is a single father, raising his red-headed son Opie (Ron Howard) with the help of his loving Aunt Bee (Francis Bavier). He gently asserts his authority over the local population, aided by his deputy, the over-eager Barney Fife (Don Knotts), a man who goes strictly by the book, even when it makes no sense to do so. He also has a pronounced tendency to get himself and Andy locked into their own jail cell, and accidentally discharge his firearm.

Mayberry is populated with a wonderful collection of eccentrics, including the dim but big-hearted mechanic Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors), the absent-minded wheezy barber Floyd Lawson (Howard McNear), lovable drunk Otis Campbell (Hal Smith), and gun-totin’ mountain man Ernest T. Bass (Howard Morris).

Most of the crises in Mayberry can be solved by talking them out, so Sheriff Taylor rarely carries a gun, though he allows Deputy Fife to keep a single bullet in his breast pocket just in case. But don’t let this bucolic image fool you. More than a few bank-robbers, frauds and small-time crooks stumbled across Mayberry, and came to grief by assuming that these simple folk were too dumb to catch them.

Andy’s duties also extend to Justice of the Peace. He officiates at marriages, moderates for bickering couples, and counsels the lovelorn, particularly Barney Fife, ever in trouble with his intended, Thelma Lou (Betty Lynn). Andy often uses sly psychology, allowing people to discover their own mistakes and save face. He also provides loving guidance to Opie, whether giving him a comic rundown on Romeo and Juliet, or encouraging him to care for the baby birds whose mother Opie accidentally killed.

Mayberry saw its share of changes over the years. Gomer Pyle joined the marines (and got his own spin-off, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.), to be replaced at the garage by his cousin Goober (George Lindsey). Teacher Helen Crump (Aneta Corsaut) became Andy’s girlfriend, and eventual bride. Most significantly, Barney Fife moved to Raleigh to become a detective. (Don Knotts left at the end of the 1964 season to pursue his own film career).

Beginning in 1965, The Andy Griffith Show was broadcast in color. A new deputy was brought on board for a brief time, (Jack Burns as Warren Fergusen), but this new sidekick disappeared without explanation mid-season. Local lonely heart Howard Sprague (Jack Dodson) became a regular fixture in later years.

In April, 1968, Andy Griffith left his namesake show while it was still #1 in the ratings. The folks of Mayberry would trudge forth in his absence on the newly titled Mayberry R.F.D. with Ken Berry as the new star. This redo lasted for three seasons.

The lasting appeal of The Andy Griffith Show came from a fortuitous combination of perfect cast and quality writing. Griffith supervised scripts along with producer Sheldon Leonard and writer/producer Aaron Ruben. Their easy-going take on small town life was so engaging, tourists through North Carolina began to ask locals how to get to Mayberry. (Rumor was that Mayberry was inspired by Griffith’s hometown of Mount Airy, an association which that town still encourages to this day).

Andy Griffith went on to further TV success as the star of Matlock. Don Knotts earned matinee god status in The Incredible Mr. Limpet, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, and The Apple Dumpling Gang, among many other films. Ron Howard found fame as Richie on the smash series Happy Days before he became one of the most successful directors in Hollywood history, with Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind to his credit.

The Andy Griffith Show was a huge success when it aired, and its popularity lives on today, with the show still capturing the imagination of new generations of fans. Seems that quaint old country charm still provides a peaceful remedy to the cacophony of the modern world.

If you are a fan of The Andy Griffith Show, we’d love to hear all of your memories, favorite episodes and any other thoughts in our comments section below as we tip our hats to this iconic sitcom.

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