‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Why None of the Characters on the Show Had a Traditional Family
A must on the list of family-favorite programs, The Andy Griffith Show featured everything but “normal” nuclear families.
Its main character Andy Taylor navigated life with his young son Opie in the town of Mayberry with his dutiful aunt Bee by his side.
It seems the concept of family was in the eye of the beholder in Mayberry.
Marriage wasn’t common in Mayberry
One of the show’s regulars later on in the series was Jack Dodson who played bachelor Howard Sprague.
Dodson told author Richard Kelly for his 1981 The Andy Griffith Show book that marriage in Mayberry just wouldn’t have worked.
“Unless the series is going to be about marriage,” he explained, “it is a tremendous hindrance to the writer to have married characters because it deprives the writer of the freedom to create circumstances.
“A character needs to move from one environment to another,” Dodson added, “and he would not always be believable if he were married.”
Another actor agreed with Dodson’s assessment of the introduction of married life in Mayberry. Don Knotts who famously portrayed Deputy Sheriff Barney Fife discouraged Andy Griffith from having the character of Andy Taylor get married.
Knotts’ feeling on the topic was that if the main character married, it would change the show in every way.
Ron Howard says Mayberry was anything but traditional
In a 2006 interview with the Archive of American Television, Howard who played little Opie Taylor on the series, went below the surface of the show and revealed what he has always felt the show was actually about.
“I’ve come to realize that, in a greater sense, the show is about a community as family,” he said. “Because, ironically, none of the characters in the show have a traditional family.
“Andy’s wife passed away, which is dealt with in the Danny Thomas pilot. A new family is constructed when Andy’s aunt Bee comes to the role of mother of the household. But it’s not a traditional family.”
Howard offered examples: “Don [Knotts’ character] is a bachelor. The other characters are bachelors. Otis the drunk has a wife but you never see her. Ironically, it’s thought of as one of the ultimate family shows. But, ironically, what it’s really saying is a community can be a family. The town of Mayberry is a big family.”
Andy Taylor finally married
As much as The Andy Griffith Show put off marrying bachelor Andy Taylor off, he eventually did tie the knot with his long-time love, Helen Crump.
“Helen Crump solved the show’s problem with women,” according to author Kelly. “She was attractive, intelligent, warm-hearted, sensitive, and always very proper. She was not a sexual creature who needed to be dealt with in romantic terms. She was Andy’s ‘girl,’ but she could have been his sister.”
Andy and Helen married and had a baby, not on the Griffith Show, but on its spinoff series, Mayberry, R.F.D.