‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Was It More or Less Popular Than ‘M*A*S*H’?

The Andy Griffith Show is one of the most famous TV shows of the 1960s. M*A*S*H is one of the most popular TV shows of the 1970s and 1980s. This raises an interesting question: Which show was more popular? Let’s look at which one lasted longer and which one was part of the larger franchise.

Andy Griffith, Ron Howard, and Frances Bavier at a table
Andy Griffith, Ron Howard, and Frances Bavier | CBS via Getty Images

‘The Andy Griffith Show’ and ‘M*A*S*H’ have very different origins

The Andy Griffith and M*A*S*H franchises have very different origins. The Andy Griffith franchise began as a show. On the other hand, the M*A*S*H franchise began its life with a novel called MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors. The comedic book was by Richard Hooker, a pseudonym used by authors H. Richard Hornberger and W. C. Heinz. The book was followed by a pair of sequels: M*A*S*H Goes to Maine and M*A*S*H Mania. While The Andy Griffith Show‘s tone, humor, and milieu bear some similarity to Mark Twin’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Andy Griffith Show is not a direct adaptation of any work of literature.

The Andy Griffith theme

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Which franchise gave the world more television spin-off series?

The Andy Griffith Show lasted eight seasons. In addition, its spin-offs, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. and Mayberry R.F.D. lasted for five seasons and three seasons, respectively. That’s a total of sixteen seasons of television across the entire franchise.

M*A*S*H cast wearing jeans
M*A*S*H cast | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

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On the other hand, M*A*S*H ran for 11 seasons. Famously, the show lasted longer than the Korean War, the war which served as the show’s setting. In addition, the show’s spin-offs, Trapper John, M.D., AfterMASH, and W*A*L*T*E*R, lasted for sevens seasons, two seasons, and one season respectively. Altogether, that’s a staggering 21 seasons of television. 

‘M*A*S*H’ and ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ go to the movies

Before the M*A*S*H franchise made it to television, there was a M*A*S*H theatrical film. Box Office Mojo reports the movie earned $81.6 million against a budget of $3.6 million. In addition, the film garnered Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. The film lost the first two awards to the General George C. Patton biopic Patton but won the latter.

A version of the M*A*S*H theme

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The Andy Griffith Show inspired a movie, however, it was not a theatrical film. Instead, it was a TV movie called Return to Mayberry. Return to Mayberry is a relic of a bygone era where the casts of television shows would return for one or more television films years after the show was cancelled. The Los Angeles Times reports Return to Mayberry was the most-watched television film of 1986 with over 21 million viewers. That is impressive, however, Return to Mayberry never made it to the big screen like M*A*S*H — and Gomer Pyle and company never got anywhere near the Oscars. While the public embraced The Andy Griffith Show, it embraced M*A*S*H more.