‘The Andy Griffith Show’: How Was Barney Fife Related to Sheriff Andy Taylor?

by Jon D. B.
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While some sharp Andy Griffith Show fans may think they know the answer straightaway, the show’s canon is less straightforward than it should be.

It’s a question that comes up often when discussing the magnificent on-screen duo that was Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith) and Barney Fife (Don Knotts). Vague recollections exist within all of us of these two being… Somehow related after years of enjoying reruns. They had to be, right? How else would someone as hilariously unqualified as Barney become a town’s deputy? Even in sleepy little Mayberry?

Thankfully, we’ve found as concise of an answer as possible. Through a bit of digging, we Outsiders came across this Q&A column from the Winston-Salem Journal.

After a session on The Andy Griffith Show, the paper used their “Ask Sam” column to answer questions from readers about the show in October of 2019. At the very top of Sam’s list is the question on everyone’s mind:

“Were Barney and Andy really related on the show? Once I heard Andy say they were cousins.”

L.M.

And Sam has the answer. Well, Jim Clark does, more precisely. Clark is the “Presiding Goober Emeritus” of the Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club,” and besides this being the best position title we’ve ever heard – Clark has answers, too.

According to Clark, “References are made to Andy and Barney being cousins in three of the first six episodes to air.” Those episodes are:

  • “The New Housekeeper”
  • “The Manhunt”
  • “Runaway Kid.”

In short: Yes, Andy and Barney are related. In fact, they’re cousins!

Everyone’s Family on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’

“Making Andy and Barney cousins was a way to explain how someone as seemingly unqualified as Barney got to be deputy. It was also a device to get some easy laughs,” cites the Winston-Salem Journal.

Not so fast, however. This seemingly final answer isn’t where the story ends!

“Once the producers realized what a key character Barney was going to be — and once they had used the cousin joke about all they could for laughs — they dropped the cousin references,” the paper continues.

What? Why? Once cousins, always cousins! Right? According to Jim Clark, our “Presiding Goober Emeritus” of the Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club (and as sharp fans will recall who remember later episodes of the show) – “The references evolved to Andy and Barney just being good friends since childhood.”

Apparently, the “cousin” bit was exactly that – a bit. As The Andy Griffith Show went on, it became too much of a convenient stretch.

So if you don’t remember Andy Taylor and Barney Fife being related… At all… You’re not crazy. The show sort of retconned its own continuity – a common occurrence in classic television. If anyone ever asks this question, though, you’ll be prepared to answer it with a fascinating, multi-layered response.

And it’s all thanks to “Presiding Goober Emeritus” of the Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club, Jim Clark.

Outsider.com