Griffith wore the gun and badge for eight years. For five of those seasons, however, he had his faithful deputy by his side. But Don Knotts, a comedy icon and break-out star then, left as offers for other projects rolled in. It was the first of many changes that soured the show for Griffith.
“[Barney Fife actor Don Knotts] was gone, and the show had gone into color from black and white,” Griffith said. “And it was getting like a regular situation comedy. And I was afraid I wasn’t holding up my end of it any longer. Also, I wanted to try my wings outside.”
Griffith and Knotts were a classic pairing. One of television’s best comedy duos ever. So, losing Knotts was a major blow to the show. And producers and studio officials wanted to make major changes. But The Andy Griffith Show wasn’t built for the over-the-top premises that were popular in television then. It had always been about the peccadillos and peculiarities of small-town life.
And switching from black and white to color also created issues for Griffith. It removed some of the charm and quaintness of the world. It was now just another sitcom, nearly indistinguishable from the others.
Griffith’s friends knew he was serious about ending the show, as well. He had clearly been struggling in the final years to handle the changes and continue.
Griffith’s manager, Richard Linke, said Andy felt the character had reached its natural end. “Andy had gotten to the point where he was physically and mentally tired and felt he couldn’t add any more to the character,” he said.