The Andy Griffith Show needs no introduction – although that won’t stop us from giving it one anyway.
The iconic and groundbreaking series ran for 249 episodes on CBS. It premiered on October 3, 1960, and wrapped up 8 seasons later on April 1, 1968.
We don’t even think it’s too much to say that The Andy Griffith Show was one of the greatest classic television series of all time. Think about it. Do you know ANYONE that hasn’t at least seen one rerun of the beloved series? The mere mention of the series typically gets people whistling it’s infectious theme song.
Andy Griffith starred as Andy Taylor, the sheriff of a sleepy little North Carolina town called Mayberry. His loyal, albeit bumbling, sidekick Deputy Barney Fife played by Don Knotts. Over the years, the show has continued to enjoy a great deal of popularity with viewers. In fact, it’s probably done better rerunning in syndication than during it’s initial run.
Die-hard Andy Griffith fans can probably name a few of their favorite episodes off the top of their head. You have classics like ‘Opie the Birdman’, ‘The Pickle Story’, and ‘Barney’s First Car’ just to name a few, but there are plenty of others that standout as being particularity outstanding.
If you head on over to the Internet Movie Database, however, you’ll find that one episode is rated best among all others. Join Facts Verse as we take a look a back on this top-rated episode while exploring a few of the reasons why fans of the series think that it deserves the top spot.
IMDB’s Top-Rated Andy Griffith Show Episode: Convicts-at-Large
This episode was the eleventh to air during the show’s third season. In it, most of the action took place just outside of town in a cozy little country cabin. The episodes started off with three female prisons busting out of the county jail.
Andy was doing some paperwork at the Mayberry courthouse when he learned of their breakout via a radio bulletin that stated that while the women weren’t armed, they should still be considered dangerous.
The radio announcer went on to say that the leader of the outfit was someone named Big Maude Tyler, who was 5 feet 6 inches tall with dark hair and a weight of 175 pounds. He then listed off several of her aliases, including Clarice Tyler, Maude Clarice Tyler, Annabelle Tyler, and Ralph Henderson.
Barney and Mayberry’s barber Floyd had been out fishing together. On their way back to town, they ran out of gas. In their moment of vulnerability, they got caught by the convicts and taken hostage in the cabin.
Floyd seemed to all but enjoy his ‘visit’ held captive. Eventually, however, the escaped prisoners gave into their captive’s demands to go out in search of food. Barney then tried, although without success, to escape his captors.
Back in Mayberry, Andy ran into the owner of the cabin and realized that something fishy was happening. He then proceeded to help orchestrate the escaped prisoner’s capture and his friend’s release.
Enjoying this video so far? If so, take a second to show us a little love by giving it a like and by subscribing to our channel.
Why Convicts-at-Large Is The Top Dog
The episode holds a 9.3 rating on IMDB, thanks in large part to actor Howard McNear’s unforgettable performance as Mayberry barber Floyd Lawson.
McNear’s performance is funny because he constantly sees things in an eccentric way. And delivers his disconnected lines with perfect timing. Throughout the series, his character known as friendly, easily riled up, and a bit gossipy. The way that McNear tapped into all of these qualities in this episode was downright masterful.
He had the right look too. A kind of funny-looking man who always getting startled by the mundane events happening around him. In Convicts-At-Large, Floyd pretty much made himself at home in the middle of a pretty dangerous situation. His naive, yet innocent cluelessness was downright golden!
At one point, one of the captors forces Barney to get up and dance with her. McNear as Floyd simply sits back and peels and eats a banana while watching them admiringly; seemingly oblivious to the danger that he and Fife were in. Like a child, he gets all caught up in the music while losing sight of the gravity of the situation.
Floyd Was One Of The Most Loved Characters On “Griffith”
After Opie and Aunt Bee, the most beloved Andy Griffith Show character, the gossipy yet dedicated town barber, Floyd. His shop was where all the local men of Mayberry gathered for a trim-up. But it also served as one of the town’s most significant social hubs.
Howard McNear brought on to the show during it’s first season and stayed with it until his tragic and untimely death in 1967. McNear’s portrayal of Floyd was, without a doubt; one of the best comedic characterizations seen on TV at the time – or ever since.
McNear Suffered A Major Stroke
In 1963, just one year after Convicts-At-Large made, Howard suffered a stroke that left him almost fully paralyzed on the left side of his body. The actor was unable to continue working on the series for a little under two years. But eventually he returned back to the cast of The Andy Griffith Show.
On just about any other series, such a catastrophic medical event would have forced an actor into an early retirement – and it almost did for McNear as well, but Andy wouldn’t allow it. He knew how much McNear’s role meant to him, and he didn’t want to take that away from him.
For quite some time, The Andy Griffith Show focused on what Griffith called ‘soft shows’ – episodes that focused mainly on Opie and Aunt Bee – but they desperately needed comedy scenes to break things up. What they really needed was McNear.
After some time, Andy got in touch with McNear’s wife, who agreed that it would probably be good for him to get back to work. Due to McNear limited to just one side of bodily mobility, however, Griffith and company wrote him into the scenes in ways that worked around his limitations. They came up with scenes where he could stand behind the barber chair while using his good hand. Even though he was dealing with a physical disability, his mind was still just as sharp as it ever had been.
After suffering his first stroke in 1963, McNear was able to return back to work on The Andy Griffith Show two years later in 1965. Just two years after that, however, he suffered yet another stroke that ultimately claimed his life.
Jack Dodson, the actor who played Howard Sprague, later would write about the scene that would prove to be McNear’s last. Dodson recalled how there was a point when everyone realized that McNear couldn’t go on anymore. He could no longer remember his line despite going over them repeatedly. He became very frustrated with his limitations.
Dobson said that seeing McNear’s despair and anxiety was one of the most painful experiences that he ever had. After that, McNear wasn’t able to come back and continue working.
After his death, most of the show’s cast attended McNear’s funeral. Legendary TV producer Richard Linke described the event the only funeral he had ever attended where the “laughs exceeded the tears”.
A Few Convicts-At-Large Fun Facts
We call our channel Facts Verse for a reason, you know. We’re pretty much obsessed with obscure facts about classic television shows! Here are a few of our favorite’s from what’s generally considered as the best Andy Griffith Show episode.
As we already alluded to, Covicts-At-Large was the last appearance of Howard McNear before he had the stroke that would render half of his body paralyzed and force him to leave the show for the better part of the two years.
One of the convicts, Naomi, played by actress Jean Carson who also played ‘Griffith’ Fun Girl, Daphne.
Reta Shaw, the actress who played Big Maude, would make another appearance on the series in the season 4 episode ‘The Song Festers’. Shaw portrayed Eleanora Poultice, Barney Fife’s vocal coach.
In the market scene, the signs that are hanging in the window change from the time that Floyd leaves the store to the next scene when Mr. O’Malley and Andy meet. There are also shoppers out front of the store where there weren’t any just moments before.
Early in the episode, Floyd and Barney are alerted to the fact that someone inside Mr. O’Maley’s cabin by smoke rising out of the chimney, but when we see the inside of the cabin, logs are shown but no fireplace.
And remember how Floyd’s car ran out of gas? Well, when Sally and Floyd go to the market to fetch food, they take that very same car. No explanation ever given on how they managed to find enough gasoline to get to town and back.
It really is a shame what happened to Howard McNear, but instead of mourning his death, he would have probably preferred if we celebrate his life’s work. At least he got a chance to be a part of television history. Not only did he he portray a fan-favorite Andy Griffith show character but he got the chance to appear in what’s considered to be the series’ very best episode.
What is your personal favorite Andy Griffith Show episode? And do you think that Convicts-At-Large deserves it’s impressive 9.3 IMDB rating? Let us know in the comments.
Before you move on to watching another one of our facts-packed videos, take a moment to show us a little support by giving this video a like and by subscribing to the Facts Verse channel if you haven’t already. Tap the bell to turn on notifications. That way, you can keep up with all of our latest and upcoming videos as soon as they drop.
As always, thanks for watching. We’ll see you soon with more videos covering some of your favorite classic television shows, films, and actors.