‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Why Andy Griffith Ended Up Leaving His Own Show
Here’s why the actor made the decision to leave the show and how it continued even in his absence.
‘The Andy Griffith Show’ ran for 8 seasons
Debuting in 1960, the show ran until 1968. Starring Andy Griffith as the sheriff without a gun in charge of the sleepy town of Mayberry, the series was a consistent ratings performer. It remained in the Nielsen top ten in each of its seasons on the air.
Author Richard Kelly noted the unflagging loyalty for the series by its fans in his 1981 book, The Andy Griffith Show. “The reruns of The Andy Griffith Show, which began in 1964, are still among the most watched daytime shows in the country,” he wrote.
“It is astonishing to think that a series with no sex and no violence has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of viewers.”
Why Andy Griffith left his own show
By the show’s eighth season in 1968, Griffith was ready to shed his Andy Taylor sheriff uniform for newer roles, as he told the Archive of American Television in 1998.
“[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 longtime manager, Richard Linke, told book author Richard Kelly, “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.
And so, after eight years, The Andy Griffith Show ended its run.
The show that came after ‘The Andy Griffith Show’
While Griffith was eager to leave the show, the rest of the cast were just as eager to carry on. And so, a new show was spun off from the Griffith Show, and it was called Mayberry R.F.D.
Characters such as Goober, Emmett, Howard, and Aunt Bee stayed on from the previous series. Replacing Griffith in the role of lead citizen of Mayberry was Ken Berry.
“Mayberry R.F.D., which essentially was Griffith’s concept, continued to affirm the basic values of small-town life. It remained in the top ten rankings for its three-year run and, remarkably, was number seven when it was canceled by the network,” Kelly wrote.
In his conversation with the Archive of American Television, Griffith said, “Ken Berry came on in my spot. Not as sheriff, but he was straight man for all the comic characters.”
Griffith, in the meantime, still had a soft spot for Mayberry and remained on as Mayberry R.F.D‘s executive producer.
“We’d go down and read the script, I’d give my notes and leave,” Griffith said of his producing role on the spin-off. “And I’d come back the following week.”
One notable mention from Mayberry R.F.D. was the marriage of Sheriff Andy Taylor to his longtime girlfriend Helen Crump. Eventually, the couple had a baby of their own and left Mayberry entirely, along with big brother Opie.