To this day, one particular episode of The Andy Griffith Show reigns as the best in Mayberry history. And the cherished classic TV story aired all the way back in 1960.
With eight seasons’ worth of wholesome stories to choose from, it would seem impossible that fans across the globe could unanimously choose only one as the most loved. But with an IMDB rating of 9.2, it looks like it was an easy choice.
The installment is titled Christmas Story. And it aired during the show’s first season.
In the heartwarming story, a pretentious, mean-spirited businessman named Ben Weaver demands that Sherriff Taylor arrest local moonshiner Sam Muggins.
But the sheriff feels like a scrooge locking a man up on such a cherished holiday. So to make things right, he invites Sam’s entire family to the jailhouse for a Christmas party.
When Muggins witnesses the love between the family, he has an epiphany about compassion and the holiday spirit. And he realizes that he wants to experience the same yuletide feelings that the Muggins’ and the Mayberry PD are feeling.
So in an effort to get invited to the tinsel-filled celebration, he sets out to get himself arrested as well.
The ‘Andy Griffith’ Christmas Episode Gave a Sitcom Star His Directorial Debut
And The Andy Griffith Show episode also has an interesting backstory. As MeTV wrote, it was directed by three-time Emmy nominee, Bob Sweeney.
When the festive story was in the making, Sweeney was fresh off his short run on Love and Marriage. And because he was friends with Andy Griffith creator Sheldon Leonard, he had a nice segue into the soon-to-be classic.
According to the 2016 book Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show, Leonard hired Sweeney “on a hunch.”
“He had never directed before,” Sweeney’s daughter Bridget told author Daniel de Visé. “He read every book he could get on the subject.”
Don Weis had directed the first nine episodes of the show. But the producers didn’t think he had enough chemistry with Andy Griffith and Don Knotts. So, he gave Sweeney a shot at greatness. And his first test was the coveted holiday special.
When he walked out on the set that day, he immediately charmed the actors by saying “Sweeney’s the name, comedy’s the game!” But the book noted that his nerves got the best of him when he then yelled “Cut!” instead of action.
However, we all know that everything turned out great for the director since his first attempt turned into the highest-rated episode of all.
And Bob Sweeney went on to build quite the career for himself. He stayed on with The Andy Griffith Show for 80 episodes. And after, he went on to work for other classics like The Love Boat, Hawaii Five-O, and That Girl.