The most popular The Andy Griffith Show episode of all time was inspired by a classic Western series.
The episode—Man in a Hurry—was voted the fan favorite twice over by in polls by The Andy Griffith Show Book, which is ironic because it steered far away from the general tone of the series.
In it, actor Robert Emhardt plays a rude and pompous businessman named Malcolm Tucker who breaks down in Mayberry on a Sunday. But because the residents of the idyllic town believe that the sabbath is the day of rest, they are in no rush to help the man get out of town.
After asking Gomer and Wally to fix his car “now, today, this minute,” the mechanics tell him he’ll have to wait until Monday because they have some relaxing to do. And their nonchalant manner pushes Malcolm past his breaking point.
Once that happens, the show takes a bizarre twist that showcases the modern man living in a sort of Twilight Zone. What most people found charming about Mayberry was actually the businessman’s hell. And he was willing to escape the torment by any means possible.
So, Malcolm Tucker commits grand theft auto.
In a desperate attempt to get out of dodge, he actually steals Gomer’s truck. And while he’s on the run, Malcolm leads Andy Taylor on a police chase. As most fans know, it wasn’t often that the Mayberry Sherrif actually had to fight crime—especially not on a Sunday.
The show doesn’t end up veering too far off its wholesome path, though. Once Andy catches the thief, he decides not to arrest him. Instead, he invites Malcolm Tucker over for dinner. And by the end of the story, Gomer fixes Tucker’s car way ahead of schedule.
But instead of speeding out to town, the now-friendly businessman stays with Andy and peels apples on the porch before taking a nice, long nap.
‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Episode Was Based on ‘Have Gun - Will Travel’
Interestingly, Man in a Hurry was based on a classic Have Gun - Will Travel episode that starred the same guest actor.
The installment titled Silent Death, Secret Death shows Robert Emhardt as Courtney Burgess. The character is a strange man who assumes a new identity after going missing. And as you’d expect from a man going by an alias, Burgess is also desperate to get out of town.
During the story, Burgess’ troubled sister hires Paladin to track him down. Once located, he tells the cowboy that “a man in a hurry is bound to pick up a few enemies.” And that actual scene is what inspired the entire The Andy Griffith Show episode.
Man in a Hurry aired one year later. And in an interview, Don Knotts explained the root of the plot. All people eventually succumb to the charms of the perfect small town.
“I remember that by the time [Malcolm] had spent a little time, everybody got him slowed down,” he said. “That was the way of Mayberry.”