‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Why Andy Said It Wouldn’t Work for Sheriff Taylor to Have a Boss

by Caitlin Berard

Authority figures are a common addition to both film and TV series. From the reasonable authority figure whose job is to reign in the unruly characters around them to the antagonistic authority who thwarts the hero at every turn, creating a character who outranks the main character(s) opens the door to endless interesting storylines.

In rare situations, however, the addition of an authority figure simply doesn’t fit the story. The classic TV series The Andy Griffith Show is one of these situations, as an attempt to give Sheriff Taylor a boss fell flat almost instantly. In an interview with the Television Academy, Andy Griffith explained what happened.

“At the end of each season, Sheldon [Leonard, series creator] would have a week of story conferences,” Griffith explained. “Sheldon, Aaron, myself, and however many writers we could get in a room, we always met in Sheldon’s office. We would pitch stories. And I caused more of them to go out than anybody. Sheldon didn’t like that.”

“The only fight Sheldon and I ever had in my whole acquaintanceship with him was over a story idea,” Griffith continued. “He wanted to introduce a character that I knew wasn’t going to work. And it didn’t.”

Sheriff Taylor’s Forgotten Boss on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’

According to Andy Griffith, Sheldon Leonard’s determination to best him in Andy Griffith Show writing led to the addition of an authority figure for Sheriff Taylor who faded out after just a few episodes.

“It was the mayor,” Griffith explained. “They wanted me to have a boss figure. That’s a good idea, for the lead to have a boss figure. Like Lucy’s boss figure was her husband [on I Love Lucy]. They wanted me to have a boss figure and they said they wanted to introduce a mayor as the boss figure.”

“I told them before we started, that can’t work because the mayor cannot be the boss to the sheriff,” he continued with a grin. “The sheriff is a county official. The mayor is just a little local town official. So it didn’t work. He stayed on for one season and just did infrequent appearances.”

Apparently, that was the first and last time Sheldon Leonard tried to best Andy Griffith, as the Andy Griffith Show star revealed they never fought again. “But that’s the only fight Sheldon and I ever had,” he said. “We never fought, we never had reason to fight.”

Andy Griffith Explains How His ‘Andy Griffith Show’ Character Got His Name

Though Andy Griffith’s beloved sitcom is called The Andy Griffith Show, his character’s name was Sheriff Andy Taylor. At the time, the series’ creators were worried that audiences wouldn’t be able to separate Andy Griffith the person from Andy Griffith the character.

In real life, Andy Griffith was a married man with two children. In the show, however, Andy Taylor was a widower with one child, Opie (Ron Howard). They wanted to keep the option open for Andy Taylor to have a love interest in future episodes and thought audiences might react poorly if Andy Griffith was on TV flirting with someone else. With the name Andy Taylor, there’s no mistaking him as the real person.

In a 1996 interview on TNN, Andy Griffith explained how he chose the surname Taylor. “My grandma on my father’s side was Taylor,” he said. So while Taylor wasn’t his actual last name, it was still a family name for the Andy Griffith Show star.