October 2010 marks the 50 year anniversary of “The Andy Griffith Show.” It has been half a century since America first heard the catchy whistled tune when the first episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” aired in October 1960 on CBS. The program about wise town leader Sheriff Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith), his bumbling deputy, Barney Fife (Don Knotts), his son Opie (Ron Howard) and Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier) and the townspeople of Mayberry, was an instant classic and never dropped lower than 7 on the Nielsen ratings during its 8-year run. During its final year on the air, “The Andy Griffith Show” was the highest rated show on network television, an achievement only met by two other shows in television history — “I Love Lucy” and “Seinfeld.”
Fifty years later, “The Andy Griffith Show” remains extremely popular, having spawned popular spinoffs, merchandise, DVDs, festivals, discussion boards, cast reunions, Mayberry poetry books, and other Mayberry memorabilia.
“The Andy Griffith Show” Spin Offs & Sequels
“Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C” – One of the most beloved characters on “The Andy Griffith Show” was backwoods mechanic, Gomer Pyler. Although George Lindsey (who later played Goober) was originally cast for the role, Andy Griffith saw the one-man show actor Jim Nabors was performing in a night club and cast Nabors instead of George Lindsey. The innocent backwoods mechanic with the odd gait and quaint expressions had a moral backbone that could not be bent, and he became such a popular character, Andy Griffith worked hard to get Jim Nabors his own series, and “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C” was born.
“Mayberry R.F.D.” – When Andy Griffith made the decision that he would be leaving “The Andy Griffith Show” to pursue other options, while remaining part of the executive team, actor Ken Barry was hired to become a lead character. Several of the original cast members from “The Andy Griffith Show” stayed on, and Mayberry remained the same. “Mayberry R.F.D.” was a popular series until CBS decided to cull all rural shows and go after a more affluent demographic.
“Hee Haw” – While “Hee Haw” was not a spin off of “The Andy Griffith Show,” the recurring skit “Goober’s Garage” was, and George Lindsey has stated that he had to get special permission from Andy Griffith (who owned the rights to all things Mayberry at the time) to continue his character in “Hee Haw” after “Mayberry R.F.D.” was pulled in 1971. On “Hee Haw,” George Lindsey looked, talked, dressed and acted the same as his Mayberry character and continued to portray Mayberry’s Goober, working on cars in humorous skits with other cast members.
“Return to Mayberry” – When “The Andy Griffith Show” continued to be a popular phenomena in the 1980s, the prudent decision was made to capitalize on the show’s continued success by producing a movie. This time NBC helmed the project, and it was rumored to be a possible series pilot. Sixteen of the original cast members participating in the movie including Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, Ron Howard, Aneta Corsaut, Betty Lynn, Jim Nabors, George Lindsey and Jack Dodson. “Return to Mayberry” aired in April 1986, and was the highest-rated made-for-TV movie of 1986.
Mayberry Festivals and Andy Griffith Show Cast Reunions
“The Andy Griffith Show” continues to inspire new generations today with its wisdom, family values, humor and generous application of “The Golden Rule.”
Mayberry Days – The most popular Mayberry festival is the annual Mayberry Days in Mount Airy, North Carolina, which is Andy Griffith’s real home town. Since much of Mayberry was based upon Mt. Airy, some of the names of the occupants sounds familiar as do some of the locales. This year one friend who attended said he heard the count for the 2010 Mayberry Days attendance was close to 100,000 visitors.
Andy Griffith Show Cast Reunions – In addition, there have been several cast reunions in places including Nashville, Pigeon Forge, Alabama and Indiana, and two of those shows were filmed and aired on CBS in 1993 and 2003.
“The Andy Griffith Show” may have gone off the air in April 1968, but its theme song is still a popular ditty in 2010 in TV and radio commercials when an advertiser wants to convey nostalgia, traditional values and family. The show remains a beloved fixture on TVLand, and the entire series was recently released on DVD. Books continue to be written about the show, characters and Mayberry, and Andy Griffith has been busy penning his own memoirs with author Jim Clark. In fact, since the show and subsequent reruns have continuously been aired since “The Andy Griffith Show” first aired, it can be said that program has never left the air since October 1960, fifty years ago.
See more Mayberry articles by this writer.
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of ‘The Andy Griffith Show’
Andy Griffith – Old Wood and Wine
Cast Reunions & Interviews
The Mayberry Poem – A Tribute to Mayberry A Great Gift for Any Mayberry Fan
Profile: Jim Nabors – Actor, Singer, Comedian, Transplant Survivor, American Icon
Remembering Don Knotts
Mayberry USA – a Great Place to Visit on the Web!
Mayberry Articles & News
A Touch of Mayberry Comes to Nashville
Jim Clark: Author, Mayberry Authority and “Head Goober”