‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Why Producers Had a Big Debate About How Opie Should Be Punished on Show

by Taylor Cunningham
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During the second season of The Andy Griffith Show, times we a’changin’, and the producers wanted to make sure they were staying current, which led to an interesting conversation about how the classic TV show should punish Opie on screen.

As the minds behind the family sitcom were planning their second run, they had a few interesting ideas. For one, they wanted to bring a younger and slightly more dimwitted Mayberry mayor aboard. That, of course, never happened, though.

And another thing they were worried about was the lead character’s personal life. Not only did they want to liven up his love life, but they also wanted to make sure he properly taught his son the difference between right and wrong.

“Bringing up Opie has us all talking,” director Bob Sweeney told columnist Charles Witbeck in 1962. “We all have our personal ideas on how it should be done. For instance, if Opie has disobeyed his father, does he get whipped?”

When it came down to it, Sweeney and producer Aaron Ruben decided the choice was ultimately up to Andy Griffith.

“Andy has to sit down with the boy,” the director continued. “And if he feels Opie must be spanked, that is what will happen… it can be done off stage and to a limited degree.”

Andy Griffith Decided it Would be Best to Leave Spanking out of ‘The Andy Griffith Show’

But as all avid watchers know, Sherriff Taylor took a gentler approach to punishing Opie on The Andy Griffith Show. Never once did he raise a hand to his son on-screen. The only time it was even mentioned was during a season two episode titled Keeper of the Flame. In it, Opie causes some ruckus in Jubal Foster’s barn. And Andy tells Aunt Bee that the boy was in for a whippin’.

The writers did hand out corporal punishment to another kid during season three’s Opie and the Spoiled Kid. But it happened off-screen, keeping with the show’s more wholesome theme.

However, the set didn’t always abide by the same kind of disciplinary measures as Andy Taylor. As Daniel de Visé wrote in his book Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show, Opie’s Ron Howard had a notable situation once that made his dad Rance so furious that he handed out a “whippin'” in front of the entire cast and crew.

“Everyone on the Griffith set witnessed the dynamic between Rance and Ronny in its full complexity,” he wrote.”… One day, Rance surprised everyone on the set by bending the child star over his knee and administering a spanking. It happened only once.”

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