Why ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Creator Regretted the Name of the Classic Series
Well into the run of The Andy Griffith Show, creator Sheldon Leonard realized that the classic TV series wasn’t about Sheriff Taylor, it was about the iconic and quirky town, and he regretted that the name didn’t reflect that.
As Andy Griffith once shared with the Archive of American Television, the 1960s series started out with a whole different story.
Firstly, Andy was intended to be a man of many professions. Not only was he the town sheriff, but he was also the justice of the peace and more. But after filming the pilot, Griffith realized that the concept was too goofy to be a hit.
So, the show began casting more actors to star as the many characters Andy would have played. And the first person it hired was Don Knotts as Barney Fife. The slap-stick deputy made his debut during the second episode titled The Manhunt. And he immediately completed Andy’s sensible demeanor.
“By that episode, I knew that Don should be the comic and I should play straight for him,” he said. “And that made all the difference.”
Leonard Believed ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Should Have Been Named After the ‘Star of the Show’
From there on out, Leonard saw the path for The Andy Griffith Show. And for eight years, fans watched as regulars like Goober and Gomer Pyle joined a revolving door of hilarious guest stars to help bring some flair to the wholesome town of Mayberry.
And those characters truly brought the town together. To this day, nearly everyone has heard of Andy’s hometown. It went down in history as the perfect place where cooky residents cause innocent antics, the weather is always perfect, and criminals never visit. And no matter what, there is always time for the fine townsfolk to enjoy a lemonade on the front porch.
“Mayberry became a living town,” Griffith said. “We had all the comic characters that came on, and I played straight for them. So Mayberry really was the star of the show.”
Because of that, the creator regretted naming the series after its lead player. Instead, he wished he had the foresight to see just how iconic Mayberry would become.
“Sheldon actually said one time, ‘I think we misnamed this show. It should’ve been called Mayberry to start with,” Griffith continued.
The ill naming never did affect the success of The Andy Griffith Show, however. The series went on to earn six primetime Emmys and three spinoffs.
And in 1986, Sheldon Leonard did end up getting his wish. That year, the characters reunited for a made-for-TV movie named Return to Mayberry.