“The Andy Griffith Show” marks 60th anniversary

The pilot episode of the landmark TV series debuted at the end of the 1960 season of “The Danny Thomas Show” and was titled, “Danny Thomas Meets Andy Griffith.” The script plot consisted of Danny Thomas driving through a small town called, “Mayberry,” and being arrested by the local sheriff (Andy Griffith) for speeding.

On Oct. 3, 1960, the spinoff premiered on CBS. The episode was entitled, “The New Housekeeper,” which introduced Frances Bavier as Aunt Bee to the Taylor household. In the beginning, she had trouble relating to the youngest motherless boy Opie (Ronny Howard). He can’t adjust to the new housekeeper, Aunt Bee, but at the end of the episode they resolve their differences.

Sheriff Andy Taylor had a unique way of law enforcement. He didn’t carry a gun. However, he allowed his Deputy Barney Fife {Don Knotts) to carry a gun, but the bullet was kept in his shirt pocket.

The courthouse also served as the jail. Oftentimes, Otis Campbell (Hal Smith) would check himself into a jail cell after becoming drunk. Now, I wish more drunks would take the time to have themselves locked up for the night.

Just down the street from the courthouse was Floyd’s Barbershop. Howard McNear played the barber until he died of a stroke in 1967. Barbara Eden (“I Dream of Jeannie”) while under Desilu Studios made an appearance as manicurist in one episode. All the Mayberry wives refuse her manicure service at Floyd’s Barbershop, because they were jealous of her.

At Wally’s filling station, Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors) worked as a gas station attendant until fall of 1964 when he joined the Marines and got his own sitcom “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” George Lindsey took over as Gomer’s cousin Goober at the filling station.

Aunt Bee’s church-going friend Clara Edwards (Hope Summers) was on hand for the gossip. She was also a Satanist in Roman Polanski’s 1968 horror movie “Rosemary’s Baby.” A different kind of role, wouldn’t you say?

During the first season, Elinor Donahue (“Father Knows Best”) came on as Ellie Walker, the town’s druggist, as Andy’s girlfriend. However, the chemistry wasn’t right. Miss Donahue later asked to be let out of her contract, which was granted.

Various actresses were brought in to fill the void, but it wasn’t until Aneta Corsaunt was cast as Opie’s schoolteacher Helen Crump that the problem was solved about Andy’s girlfriend.

Another problem came when Don Knotts left to do his own variety show. Stand-up comedian Jack Burns came in as Deputy Warren. His parody of the Barney Fife character was little improvement for the show. Eventually, he was let go. However, Don Knotts did make a few appearances in later episodes.

In the fall of 1968, Andy Griffith decided to quit the show. His character married Helen Crump and moved away in the last episode, which opened to a new show, “Mayberry R.F.D.” Ken Berry came in as Sam Jones, a widower raising a young son Mike (Buddy Foster). Many of the original cast continued with this series until 1971.

CBS dumped its rural sitcoms when Norman Lear’s hit series “All in the Family” came about. TV viewers wanted more realism with their programs. In 1986, Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, and Ron Howard came back for made-for-TV movie, “Return to Mayberry.”

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