Eight years is a long time to spend at one place, even Mayberry. Andy Griffith may have created an iconic and long-lasting character in Sheriff Andy Taylor. But by 1968, he was ready to move on to new projects.
Griffith wore the badge for eight seasons in a show that explored small-town living. But much about the show’s formula had changed by 1968. For one, Taylor was minus his loyal deputy Barney Fife. And Griffith was minus his screen partner Don Knotts.
Their chemistry made up the heart of the show and its popularity. But Knott left the show after Season Five and only made infrequent guest appearances in the show’s last few seasons.
Like many shows of its time, “The Andy Griffith Show” also moved to color and lost some of its charm. Plots focused less on small-town living and more on zanier things like Hollywood and movie productions.
“[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’s manager, Richard Linke, also agreed that Griffith was tired. “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.
Andy Griffith Returns to Mayberry
The rest of the cast wanted to continue in their roles. Griffith helped executive produce a spinoff called “Mayberry R.F.D.” about the Mayberry gang. He appeared as Taylor in the first few episodes where he got married and eventually moved away, creating a smoother transition. The show ran for three years and was popular ratings-wise but was still canceled by the network.
Griffith and Knots would reprise their roles once again in 1986 for the “Return to Mayberry” special. The special reintroduced the citizens of Mayberry years later. Despite moving on to new projects, “The Andy Griffith Show” remains one of Griffith’s most popular works. It’s still broadcasted to this day in syndication where other shows of its era have been forgotten.