‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Cleverly Pivoted a Side-Character After a Fan-Favorite Series Regular Left the Series

These days, more viewers than ever are turning to The Andy Griffith Show to help them remember a simpler, warmer time. The show, which ran for eight years in the ’60s and spawned a franchising empire, remains perennially popular with fans of all ages and still holds up after more than five decades off the air.

The Andy Griffith Show not only starred Andy Griffith and Don Knotts but a host of other talented comedians and performers — including Jim Nabors and George Lindsey, two actors who share a very distinct connection. 

Don Knotts as Barney Fife, Jim Nabors as Gomer Pyle, and Andy Griffith as Andy Taylor in a scene from 'The Andy Griffith Show'
Don Knotts as Barney Fife, Jim Nabors as Gomer Pyle, and Andy Griffith as Andy Taylor in a scene from ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ | CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

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Griffith was best known as a comedian and entertainer when The Andy Griffith Show premiered on television. He had earned acclaim for his work in the stage show “No Time for Sergeants” as well as the film that was based on the stage show. He debuted the premise for what would become The Andy Griffith Show in an episode of The Danny Thomas Show, and it was so well-received that Griffith ended up launching his very own show.

The Andy Griffith Show became very popular with fans almost immediately — thanks in part to the assist of the other talented stars Griffith had enlisted to star opposite him. Ron Howard, an adorable child actor at the time, played Andy Taylor’s son Opie, while distinguished character actor Frances Bavier played Taylor’s Aunt Bee. Another fan-favorite performer on The Andy Griffith Show was Jim Nabors, a singer and comedian Griffith had spotted in a stage show. 

Jim Nabors played Gomer Pyle on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’

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Nabors had struggled to gain traction in the entertainment industry for years before getting cast on The Andy Griffith Show. Nabors played Gomer Pyle, a sweet but simple gas station attendant. Initially, Gomer was a character who appeared sporadically on the series, but in short order, he became popular with viewers and was promoted to series regular.

Nabors enjoyed a lengthy tenure on the series, but in 1964, he took his career to the next level when he began starring in his very own spinoff, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. Nabors’ spinoff show ultimately ran until 1969, and while fans could get their Gomer fix there, his absence left a void on The Andy Griffith Show that showrunners struggled to fill — that is, until they decided to promote a secondary character to a more permanent spot on the show. 

Goober Pyle was introduced as Gomer Pyle’s cousin on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’

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According to a report by Closer Weekly, showrunners for The Andy Griffith Show were able to handle Nabors‘ absence from the series by bulking out the role of another character and establishing a familial connection to Gomer.

“The character of Gomer Pyle wasn’t on Andy Griffith from the beginning; he doesn’t appear until the third season, so the audience had a chance to react to the character and like him, but he wasn’t there long enough for him to become a regular,” Geoffrey Mark, a pop culture historian, explained. 

Mark added: “They were very wise in that they brought in his cousin, Goober (George Lindsey), while he was still on the show. They wrote an episode introducing Goober, whose name was Beasley at first. Eventually they rewrote history, because when Goober was introduced, Andy had never met him before. After Jim left the show, they changed his last name to Pyle and all of a sudden Goober had grown up with Andy and everybody had always known him. So they had the Goober character as a placeholder for Gomer and they had a good comedy actor.”

Mark stated that by doing this, viewers didn’t feel as though they were “robbed” of any of the characters that they had grown to love.