The Andy Griffith Show premiered in 1960 and became a massive success, garnering millions of viewers and launching Andy Griffith into the Hollywood history books. The show stretched across 8 seasons before Andy Griffith left for new experiences, and remained popular until the very end. That said, the classic show did have one major critic: Andy Griffith himself.
Though ratings would disagree with him, Andy Griffith expressed distaste for the early episodes of The Andy Griffith Show. According to Griffith, his early performances were so forced and heavy-handed, he couldn’t even watch them.
North Carolina native Andy Griffith spoke with a natural southern accent, but added even more of a twang to his speech in the beginning of TAGS. As Griffith initially found fame with his “What It Was, Was Football” comedy routine, he fell back into the familiar pattern of playing the hillbilly in The Andy Griffith Show. Once he got a bit more comfortable in the role of Andy Taylor, however, he dialed the accent back and spoke in his normal voice.
‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Star Don Knotts Speaks on Early Episodes
In an interview with The Television Academy Foundation, Andy Griffith’s The Andy Griffith Show co-star, Don Knotts, gave fans some insight into the show’s earlier episodes. “Andy, in the beginning, I think laid on his Southern dialect more than he really had,” Don Knotts said. “But he pulled that way back as he went on.”
“Originally, I think he was doing the character he did in No Time for Sergeants. So I think he was being the funny guy, and as he said later, ‘It turned out, I wasn’t the funny guy; Barney was the funny guy.’ So he said, ‘My job was to play straight.'”
“So that’s what he did; he pulled the character way down,” Knotts continued. “And just played it as a normal guy. He has a natural Southern accent, anyway. He didn’t have to add any more on.”
In his 1981 book The Andy Griffith Show, Richard Kelly echoed these thoughts, saying that both Griffith and Knotts laid the accents on a little too thick in the early episodes.
“In a few of the early shows, Knotts attempted to give his speech a Southern flavor by occasionally saying ‘right cheer’ for ‘right here,'” said Kelly. “But he soon dropped that because it sounded fake. Andy, too, abandoned his exaggerated Southern accent for his natural speech by the end of the second year of the series.”