‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Aunt Bee Showed Viewers the Downside of Being a Game Show Winner in This Episode
In a season 6 episode, fans of The Andy Griffith Show got to see a sobering reality about winning game show prizes. When Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier) hit it big on a game show while the Taylors are vacationing in Hollywood, she had no idea she would have to part with some money from her own pocket. Like most game show viewers, she assumed she would just enjoy her winnings but soon discovered the prizes came with a price.
‘The Andy Griffith Show’ featured an appearance by the IRS
In episode 10 of the sixth season, Aunt Bee scored $4800 worth of prizes on a game show. Her lucky run included a dishwasher and a full-length mink coat, which she didn’t hesitate showing off to her neighbors in Mayberry. Aunt Bee’s friends in town soon grew tired of her bragging about her winnings and began to distance themselves.
Another unwelcome result of Aunt Bee’s game show winnings was a visit to Andy from the IRS. Apparently, those prizes came along with taxes that Aunt Bee would be required to pay. Since she had taken everything she won from the show, she had to fork over $1100 to the government.
Aunt Bee ended up selling her prizes in order to pay the IRS. Ridding herself of the possessions also humbled her a bit, putting her back in the good graces of the Mayberry community.
Where ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ was a bit off
Taking a more professional look at this particular episode, law professor Lawrence A. Zelenak from Duke University pointed out a few areas in the plot line that would be considered inaccurate in the real world.
“First of all, the agent shows up a week after she’s been on the show in the same year that she was on the show, so she hasn’t even had a chance to file a return,” Zelenak told Forbes in 2020 after viewing the episode. “Secondly, he doesn’t talk to Aunt Bee. He talks to Andy, which is very peculiar.”
Still, Zelenak revealed that even today, many people don’t realize the tax costs that come along with game show prizes.
“The point of it is all of these things — she won the washer and the dryer and the free trip and all that,” he commented, “they’re all taxable, which was news to her.”
Some game show winners pass on the prizes
In 2015, the New York Times wrote about the tax factor on game shows and described how The Price Is Right makes sure that contestants are aware of the costs.
“The show sends a letter to every winner — they call it the ‘tax letter,'” NYT writer David Segal explained, “which totals up the taxes that must be paid on all the goodies before they can be delivered. Yes, those prizes are taxed, just like other income.”
According to former The Price Is Right executive producer Mike Richards, some choose to forego their winnings and keep the cash they already have.
“There are contestants who never send that letter back in, Mr. Richards said, because they’d rather keep their money than pay taxes to collect their prizes,” Segal wrote.
The Andy Griffith Show not only provided entertainment in the episode “Aunt Bee on TV”, but also some food for thought the next time someone tries their luck on a game show.