Whether you’re old enough to have watched it in its original run or if you caught it on TV after it went into syndication, almost everyone has watched “The Andy Griffith Show” at least once. There aren’t many sitcoms that have had the kind of cultural impact that this show did. In 2012, the titular star of the show did an interview with the Archive of American Television. In that interview, he discussed the early episodes of the show.
The First Episode of “The Andy Griffith Show”
In the interview, Andy Griffith looks back on his earliest days in Mayberry. According to Griffith, it was only him (Andy Taylor), Francis Bavier (Aunt Bee), and Ron Howard (Opie) along with Danny Thomas (Danny Williams). His show was a spinoff of “The Danny Thomas Show” and Thomas was there to introduce the town of Mayberry and its citizens.
At the time, Andy Taylor was acting as sheriff, justice of the peace, as well as editor of the local paper. In the interview, Andy Griffith said that he could see the show lasting about two weeks with that format. In his eyes, the show didn’t really have a hook.
Before the first day of filming was over, Andy Griffith was thinking about quitting. Griffith said, “That day, I didn’t have much to say at all. Artie Stander, Danny Thomas, and Sheldon Leonard yelled at one another all day. I asked Sheldon if I could talk to him at the end of the day and he walked me to the gate. I said, ‘If this is what television is, I don’t think I can handle it’.”
Sheldon Leonard was quick to comfort Griffith, though. He told him that the star dictates the attitude of the set. They yelled at one another because that was how Danny Thomas communicated. The show as well as the set would mold itself to Andy’s personality. From that day forward, there was no yelling on set.
Mayberry Comes Alive
Don Knotts (Barney Fife) saw the pilot and called Andy Griffith to ask if there was a place on the show for him. After learning that Knotts was out of work at the time, Griffith told him to call Sheldon Leonard, the showrunner. Knotts joined the cast on the second episode of the show.
Don Knotts coming onto the show as Barney Fife, according to Griffith, is what made the show a hit. On this, he said, “The second episode was called Manhunt and I knew by that episode that Don was the comic and I should play straight for him. That made all the difference.”
It was through the addition of Knotts to the show that Andy Griffith discovered his love for playing the straight man to comic relief characters. Something he would do for the rest of the show’s run. According to him, it was this that allowed Mayberry to become a living town.