After a pilot episode aired on The Danny Thomas Show (“Danny Meets Andy Griffith,” airdate: 2/15/60), The Andy Griffith Show landed on CBS’ following fall schedule, debuting on October 3, 1960. It led to a group of successful “rural-themed” sitcoms (The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres) that populated the CBS schedule through the ’60s. Nominated for several Emmy Awards, it brought five consecutive Emmys to ensemble player Don Knotts (as “Barney Fife”), but surprisingly Andy Griffith never saw a nomination. Perhaps this resulted from Griffith’s own realization early on that his character, Sheriff Andy Taylor, should not be played for laughs, but remain the voice of reason among the off-center denizens of Mayberry. Mayberry itself became the center of the show and landed in the pop culture annuls— leading audiences to believe it was a real town (as noted in The Musuem of Broadcast Communications’ Encyclopedia of Television, “over the years the writers fleshed out the geography and character of the town with a degree of detail unusual for series television.”) The Andy Griffith Show was followed by two spin-offs (Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. and Mayberry R.F.D.) and a highly-rated reunion TV movie Return to Mayberry (1986). Andy Griffith was later seen on Matlock, Don Knotts on Three’s Company, and little Ronny Howard was just getting started when he starred in follow-ups The Smith Family and Happy Days. Andy Griffith, now 84 years old, has recently appeared in such feature films as Waitress (2007) and Play the Game (2008).
“I knew that Don should be the comic and I should play straight for him. And that made all the difference. All the difference. Then Mayberry became a living town.” — Andy Griffith
“Mayberry was a little town of yesterday… where everybody knew everybody, and it was full of these funny characters.” — Don Knotts
“Andy used to say that even though we’re making the show in the ’60s, Mayberry is really the town I grew up in the ’40s. So there was something nostalgic about it already. It wasn’t trying to be current. It more reflected his memory of the south that he grew up in.” — Ron Howard
The Archive of American Television interviewed many of the talents behind The Andy Griffith Show, including a rare interview with executive producer Sheldon Leonard (1907-97) in 1996. Among the many others featured on the Archive’s The Andy Griffith Show show page, include: Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, Ron Howard, Howard Morris, Elinor Donahue, producer Aaron Ruben, writer Everett Greenbaum, composer Earle Hagen (who not only composed the theme, but whistled it, too!), and director Richard Crenna.