The show may have been called “The Andy Griffith Show,” but every fan knows that the real star of the sitcom was the town itself, Mayberry.
For that reason, series creator Sheldon Leonard wanted to change the name to Mayberry. If Leonard followed through, he would have effectively moved Griffith from the title of the show. Whereas some actors might have felt conceited and resisted such a change. Griffith remarkably showed his character as an actor and supported the name change for the show.
“Sheldon actually said one time, ‘I think we misnamed this show. It should’ve been called Mayberry to start with,'” Griffith told Television Academy Foundation in 2009.
For one reason or another, Leonard and the network decided not to change the name. Perhaps, they didn’t want to confuse audience members so early into the show’s run. They would have lost out on the brand recognition that they built up.
Andy Griffith and the Town of Mayberry
The title “The Andy Griffith Show” made a certain amount of sense early in the show’s life. When they filmed the pilot episode, Griffith performed different duties in the town. He had several different jobs in the community. And production expected Griffith to pull a bulk of the show’s comedy.
But only a few episodes into the series, Griffith and the rest of the crew realized that Sheriff Andy Taylor worked better as a voice of reason. They assigned most of the comedy and high-energy antics to Don Knotts as Barney Fife. Griffith worked better as a grounding element to Knotts’ flights of fancy on the show. The two quickly found a comedic chemistry together.
“By that episode, I knew that Don should be the comic and I should play straight for him, and that made all the difference,” Griffith said.
Griffith was still the main focus of the show, so the name still aptly applies. The show would be nowhere as beloved without his well-tempered, kind sheriff routine. But the colorful cast of townsfolk in Mayberry was what drew in viewers every week. The show often featured Griffith reacting to their off-colored brand of humor and antics.
It was a winning formula for the show that propelled it to the top of the ratings and made it a cornerstone of American pop culture. When Griffith decided to leave the show, Leonard finally got his wish in renaming the show to Mayberry. He called the spinoff show “Mayberry R.F.D.”