From 1960 to 1968, “The Andy Griffith Show” was a family favorite and became a beloved show long after it stopped taping new episodes.
With Andy Griffith playing widowed Mayberry sheriff Andy Taylor, Griffith’s role put him at the forefront of the entertainment industry in the ’60s and ’70s.
Despite the notoriety that came with the character of Andy Taylor, Griffith actually preferred playing another role.
His Mayberry character was the picture of wholesomeness and morality. In contrast, when he took on the role of criminal defense lawyer Ben Matlock in 1986, Griffith was given a chance to pursue a darker side in his career.
After years of playing Andy Taylor, Grtiffith wanted to stretch his wings on “Matlock.”
“Andy harbored enormous ambitions for Matlock,” Daniel de Visé wrote in his 2016 book, Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show.
“He envisioned Ben Matlock as a sort of antihero, more complex than Andy Taylor, vain, uncultured, cheap, and vaguely unlikable.”
Andy Griffith Clashed With the ‘Matlock’ Creator
Griffith wanted to pursue the character’s rebellion and addiction tendencies, but the show’s creator, Dean Hargrove didn’t have the same vision.
“[Griffith] imagined Matlock struggling with alcohol addction, getting thrown out of court, tossed into jail,” de Visé explained. He wanted Matlock to jam with Atlanta bluesman. Andy approached Dean – and later, [producer] Joel [Steiger] – with hundreds of ideas for Matlock. Some they liked; most they didn’t.”
“The Andy Griffith Show” had been off the air for nearly two decades before Griffith began his “Matlock” career.
At the time, sitcoms started included the voices of a younger generation, which Griffith commented on in the book.
“When I was doing the Griffith Show, the network was only your host,” Griffith recalled in de Visé’s book. “They came down once a year to say hello. When the network gained control and they put all these children in these offices, it all went to hell then. It was all so easy in the early days.”
“On the Griffith Show, Andy was accustomed to rewriting his lines he didn’t like,” de Visé added. “Now, Andy found that the balance of power had shifted. And he found himself clashing with Hargrove, the man who had rekindled his career.”