For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.
Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on ATVN with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.
This winter, the Astound TV Network is debuting The Andy Griffith Show as part of a rotation of some of the best classic television shows of all-time on ATVN’s Classic TV Showcase.
Typically, when a show makes its first-ever appearance on our network I usually delve into my personal library of classic programs and/or do other research to find the early origins and facts about a sitcom’s very beginnings and behind-the-scenes challenges involved in just getting a show on the air. Often, this reveals lengthy backstories of early versions of programs that sometimes vary quite a bit from what eventually becomes a successful entity.
However, I’m going to do something a little different for this week’s entry.
It’s pretty common knowledge that Griffith guest-starred on The Danny Thomas Show in a skit in which he played a hick sheriff in a fictional North Carolina town and had unconventional techniques in keeping law and order. (In the skit, Thomas was arrested for speeding).
The response was so positive that Thomas helped create a spinoff series with Griffith in the starring role and the program was an instant success.
However, there are a number of “little known facts” (“LKFs”) about the popular program…and that’s what we will tackle in today’s blog entry.
- Andy was NOT the “straight man” that he turned out to be.
When you watch early episodes of the program, you’ll notice that Andy has most of the funny lines and, in fact, seems like just one of the other somewhat strange characters in the town. Griffith had revealed in many interviews that after the first few episodes, he felt the show would be stronger if he was the “normal” one and at the center of all the craziness and quirky Mayberry citizens that were all around him. In turn, he slowly suggested more of the funny bits should go to his supporting characters.
- Don Knotts’s Barney Fife was never intended to be a regular character.
It seems impossible to believe but Barney was only intended to be in the first episode, playing Andy’s cousin who he helps out by giving him a job. Even after the quick developing chemistry between Griffith and Knotts was apparent after the first episode, only a single-season contract was offered to “Barney” and the original intent was to bring in different deputies throughout the show’s run. (Dick Van Dyke’s brother Jerry was offered the role to replace Knotts but turned it down.)
Fortunately, this plan was abandoned and Knotts was offered a multi-year contract which lasted until he decided to leave after the fifth season.
- Elinor Donahue WAS intended to be a long-serving cast member.
The popular actress from Father’s Knows Best was the producers’ favorite for being the long-term love interest of Andy. For creativity sake, they wanted to establish other characters on the show first (mainly Ronny Howard’s Opie and Francis Bavier’s Aunt Bee) before introducing her into the cast. In the fourth episode Donahue made her debut and they even put her name in the show’s opening sequence (more on that in a moment).
Unfortunately for Donahue, the delay in bringing her aboard hurt the chemistry that quickly developed amongst the cast. Elinor revealed in later interviews that jokes originally intended for her wouldn’t “work” as well as they did for other cast members and Griffith would suggest giving her lines to other actors. Eventually, Donahue asked to be removed from her long-term contract and left the show.
- Speaking of the show’s theme song….
Griffith actually became known for his singing before appearing on TV. The popular instrumental theme song to his show actually had words written for Andy to sing. Upon hearing “The Fishing Hole” with co-writer Earle Hagen whistling the melody in the background, the producers felt the non-vocal version was more appropriate to open the show. However, Andy’s vocal rendition was added to a very popular vinyl record that was released early in the show’s run, which included “The Mayberry March,” “Sourwood Mountain,” “Aunt Bee’s Theme” and other popular songs used on the program.
There are many more “LKFs” about this show, like…
Did you know that is actually NOT Ronny Howard skipping the stone across the pond in the show’s opening sequence?
…but we’ll address that and other trivial bits in a future edition of “The Showplace.”
In the meantime, you can see The Andy Griffith Show, as part of a rotation of some of the best classic television shows of all-time on ATVN’s Classic TV Showcase, Tuesday at 12 noon on the Astound TV Network.
To view the complete rundown of classic programming on ATVN, check out the weekly listings here.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.