Before Andy Griffith had his own show with his name as the title, he was appearing alongside other actors that had already made it to that point in their career.
In fact, “The Danny Thomas Show” is responsibly for kickstarting “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Advice from Sheldon Leonard
While his future show would end up being a groundbreaking part of television history, Andy Griffith nearly gave up television before the show started.
In a 1998 interview with Television Academy, Andy Griffith talked about his working relationship with people like Sheldon Leonard and Danny Thomas. While he was appearing on the show, Griffith hated the environment that was present. The stars of the show and the crew were constantly yelling at one another.
Andy Griffith approached Leonard one day and said, “If this is what television is, I don’t think I can handle it.”
Sheldon Leonard then responded, “Andy, the star dictates what the attitude will be on the set. Danny likes to yell, so we all yell. If you don’t want to yell, nobody will yell.”
A simple piece of advice, but it kept Andy Griffith from abandoning his dreams in television. Leonard is informally credited with using one episode of a series as a “backdoor pilot” for a new series. He had appeared as a producer in shows like ‘The Danny Thomas Show,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.,” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”
‘The Andy Griffith Show’ and ‘The Danny Thomas Show’
During the seventh season of the show, Andy Griffith makes his appearance. Danny Thomas is arrested by Sheriff Andy Taylor and then spends some time locked up in the small beloved town of Mayberry. He mistakenly went through a stop sign while rushing through town to get to New York.
Fittingly, the episode is simply called “Danny Meets Andy Griffith.” It first aired on February 15, 1960. “The Andy Griffith Show” then premiered on October 3 of that same year.
“The Danny Thomas Show” was also the bridge to “The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour” and “The Joey Bishop Show.” This form of a television pilot is rare, however, it proved to be very effective. It allows one show’s audience to be introduced to a brand cast and show. It also helps create a more unified and connected world between fictional shows.
In his first appearance, Sheriff Andy Taylor’s personality is quite different. He is meaner than he grows to be on his own show. He appears more calculating and spiteful than viewers associate with the good-natured and gentle sheriff.