A mere mention of the Andy Griffith Show likely gets it’s iconic theme song whistling away in your head. It’s been years since it’s cancellation but it has remained in syndication ever since. And has done a lot better in reruns than it ever did during it’s initial run. Because of this, it almost feels as if Mayberry was forever immortalized in our collective consciousness. But even though it certainly feels like the magic that is The Andy Griffith Show has never ended, the series itself actually does have a pretty definitive ending.
The factors that played a part in the show’s cancellation less about it’s ratings and more about how Andy Griffith. The series titular star, had grown tired of wearing his sheriff’s badge. He was more than ready to leave Mayberry behind and set out on a new chapter of his career. While that might be oversimplifying things a bit, it’s true that he had already devoted much of his life to being Opie’s dad. And if he stuck any longer, it was becoming increasingly unlikely that viewers would be open to seeing him in any other role. Typecasting is a major problem for television stars. Once the public has you pegged as one particular character, it’s almost impossible to shed that persona.
Even though Andy’s desire to leave played a considerable part in the series end. It wasn’t the only reason why the iconic show eventually came to a close. Join Facts Verse as we explore some of the other reasons why The Andy Griffith Show inevitably scrapped. In the process, we’ll also delve into some of it’s behind-the-scenes secrets.
Don Knotts Saw His Chance To Leave And Took It
Another reason why Andy chose to pull the plug on the show that carried his name was the fact that his partner in crime – or shall we say law enforcement – Don Knotts, already had left. For many fans of the series, it never quite felt the same after Barney’s departure. Even though he would occasionally come back for a cameo.
Knotts decided to leave the show when he did because he was under the impression that it would be coming to an end after it’s fifth season. Griffith had been talking for years about how he only wanted his sitcom to be a five-season long offering.
In 1999, Griffith told the Archive of American Television that after Barney gone and the show had transitioned from black and white into color. It had very little setting it apart from any other sitcom. So, he had minimal hesitation about staying true to his word and ending it after season five. He also told the outlet that he very much so wanted to “try his wings outside” of the confines of the series.
But despite the fact that he had only ever intended for the show to last half a decade; network execs convinced him to keep it alive for another three. It went on to run for eight seasons before finally going off the air. But it’s not hard to imagine an alternate universe where Barney never left, the series never made the jump to color, and it went on to run for another decade or so. But when it inevitably did come to an end, it left on a relatively soft note. With the last episode being a backdoor pilot for a spin-off series that would prove to be quite popular as well.
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Mayberry’s Return Met Received Warmly By Fans
Andy may have wanted to make a graceful exit from Mayberry. But his fellow cast members weren’t quite ready to leave the ideal town behind. Mayberry RFD picked up where The Andy Griffith Show left off. Focusing on the town’s citizens following the departure of their beloved sheriff. Andy might have left in search of new horizons after getting married to the love of his life, but Mayberry seemed to be here to stay.
It would have been easy enough to assume that the spinoff was going to crash and burn as a failed experiment that wouldn’t resonate with fans, but it ended up becoming one of the top-10 rated shows on television for all three seasons that it was on the air.
What inevitably led to it’s cancellation was ultimately the so-called “rural purge” of the 1970s. The networks back then no longer wanted to feature shows that focused on rural living. They had become convinced that shows like The Beverly Hills, Green Acres, and even The Andy Griffith Show were “low-brow”. So in an attempt to attract a more educated viewer base, they pulled the chord on several of these shows, Griffith included, in order to focus more on urban series.
The Andy Griffith Show Perfectly Captured Nostalgia
It may have aired during the 1960s, but that decade wasn’t exactly the vibe that the series gave off. It felt somehow timeless – a throwback to simpler times. While the world was in a state of flux, reckoning with a great number of cultural changes, The Andy Griffith Show never touched on particularly controversial topics. You never saw an episode where Opie ran off with a bunch of hippies to experience San Francisco in all of it’s Haight-Ashbury glory days, nor did you ever hear any talk about the civil rights movements or women’s place in the workplace. No, it was a series that was far too lighthearted to tackle such touchy themes.
Griffith once quoted as saying that the show felt more like the ’30s, or some time gone by. The humor and the gentle life lessons it exuded all perfectly conveyed this sense of nostalgia that was unmistakable. In many ways, it was a much-desired reprieve from the divisive and polarizing issues that were trending back during it’s era. You didn’t watch The Andy Griffith Show hoping to see anything particularly groundbreaking. You watched it to take a little 30-minute trip back in time.
The Sitcom’s Theme Song Will Forever Be In Your Mind
What an incredible theme song! The Andy Griffith theme that we referenced at the start of this video the perfect lead-in to get us glued to our television sets. But were you aware that the tune has a name?
It composed by Herbert Spencer and Earle Hagen and is appropriately titled ‘The Fishin’ Hole’. Some of Hagen’s other credits include the themes for shows like I Spy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and The Mod Squad. He would later co-write the theme for the comedy-western Rango.
Spencer and Hagen first worked with each other on The Danny Thomas Show, but when they sat down and conjured up The Fishin’ Hole, that’s when they really had their first breakout moment. Spencer had previously earned his credentials working on Broadway musicals and film scores, and eventually, he even got the chance to do a collab with the great John Williams. You know, that guy that’s composed just about every movie score ever!
Here’s another fun fact, The Fishin’ Hole also has a set of lyrics – not that anyone actually knows them. They didn’t appear in the opening theme sequence, but Andy himself recorded the words.
Andy Butted Heads With The Show’s Producers
If Andy had his way, there wouldn’t have been a mayor of Mayberry. Sheldon Leonard, the series co-creator and executive producer, was the one who made a push to include Mayor Pike, or Mayor stone, depending on what season you’re watching. Andy didn’t want a boss. He wanted all the power and glory of being Mayberry’s sheriff and fearless leader without the hassle of having to report to anyone. But beyond that, he had a problem with the logistics of the whole deal. A sheriff is a county employee, while mayor is an official who leads a town, not a county.
Another problem that Andy had with the show was it’s laugh track. He really didn’t care for canned laughter, and Don Knotts didn’t either. Before coming to Mayberry as it’s bumbling deputy, Knotts had just been a part of a failed show called The Steve Allen Show, and he reportedly told Griffith that he believed that the shows failure was related to it’s obnoxious laugh track.
Andy wasn’t completely opposed to laughter being added, but he wanted it to be natural and organic. He proposed that the show would be shown to a live audience which would be recorded and then played back for broadcast, but apparently that approach would have been difficult to pull off and far too costly for the network to ever approve.
Andy Was Quite The Jokester
Andy was supposed to be the funny guy of the show, not the straight-laced enforcer that he became. But, since that never ended up happening, Andy decided to indulge his desire for comedy by playing practical jokes while on set.
On occasion, Andy would cut Don Knotts off while trying to speak by clanging a metal can on the floor. There was also reportedly a time when George Lindsey woke up from a little mid-afternoon siesta just to find a bunch of raw meat strewn about all over his dressing room.
While Andy loved pulling a fast one on just about anybody, Don Knotts was his preferred target. After all, Knotts had quite the reputation of keeping his cool even when pushed to the limits – which is great to hear because can you imagine a furious Barney Fife? It would be hard to take that guy seriously.
The Final Episode Was Nothing Special
The show that forever cemented Andy Griffith and Don Knotts as pop culture icons and launched Ron Howard’s career at a very early age left primetime TV just about as quietly and unassumingly as it arrived. We already mentioned earlier how the final episode of The Andy Griffith Show was basically just a backdoor pilot for Mayberry RFD, but for those of you that have never seen it, here’s a little recap.
In the finale, farmer Sam sponsors his old Army buddy Mario from Italy to come out to Mayberry to help him work on his farm. Unfortunately, Mario also brings along his sister and father without ever asking Sam for permission.
Right about the time when Sam is about to suggest that Mario and his family find someplace else to live in a nearby town, Andy comes along and talks Sam into letting the three stay with him. The newbies in town end up falling in love with Mayberry, and the townsfolk take a liking to them as well. The End.
Well, that about wraps up this video. But now it’s your turn to let your voice be heard. What was your favorite episode of The Andy Griffith Show? And what did you think about it’s finale? Let us know in the comments down below.
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