10 ways the Andy Griffith Show pilot was radically different from the show

Who is Henrietta Perkins and where is Barney??

Image: The Danny Thomas Show / SFM Entertainment / CBS

On February 15, 1960, television history was made in an unlikely place. It was the 20th episode in season seven of The Danny Thomas Show. It is rare for a sitcom to air a landmark episode that late in its run. The series formerly known as Make Room for Daddy had recently switched networks, but it remained one of the most-watched shows on television.

What made episode No. 205 so monumental was its guest star and its setting.

You see, the episode that aired that Monday evening was "Danny Meets Andy Griffith." It was the pilot episode for a rural comedy called The Andy Griffith Show. You are certainly familiar.

But this introduction to the world of Mayberry was entirely different, and not just because Danny and his family turn up in the small North Carolina town.

Some of the actors were familiar, but the characters aside from Andy and Opie were entirely different. And even the beloved father and son duo had some unfamiliar characteristics. Let's take a look.

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1. There was no Barney.


Don Knotts was nowhere to be found. In fact, the evening the pilot aired, Knotts was playing bridge over at his buddy Pat Harrington's house. They watched "Danny Meets Andy Griffith" together. The following morning, Knotts phoned up Andy, his former No Time for Sergeants costar, and asked, "Don’t you think Sheriff Andy Taylor ought to have a deputy?" He talked his way into a Mayberry job!

2. Frances Bavier was not Aunt Bee.


Everybody knows Bavier best as Aunt Bee, but in the pilot, the actress portrayed a local widow named Mrs. Henrietta Perkins. Henrietta shows up at the police station to file a complaint, as mean ol' Mr. Johnson has been gouging her on rental fees for a suit. She rented the suit for her husband's funeral. Unfortunately, he was buried in it. Two years prior. Meanwhile, Andy does mention a relative named "Aunt Lucy."

Image: SFM Entertainment / CBS

3. There was a different town drunk.


Frank Cady is most familiar to fans of classic television for his role in the Hooterville universe, having played Sam Drucker on The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres and Petticoat Junction. In the Andy pilot, however, he is Will Hoople, the "town drunk." That's right, he had the role before Otis Campbell. Here's the weird part — Cady later showed up on The Andy Griffith Show in "The Rehabilitation of Otis," playing Luke, the town drunk of nearby Mount Pilot.

Image: SFM Entertainment / CBS

4. The jailhouse had a different layout.


The jail set looked entirely different, from its more rustic interior design to the floorplan. The front entrance was on the opposite side of the stage. Andy's vintage desk with its antique phone sat in a different place. The pilot really played up the dated feel of Mayberry, as seen in this ancient coffee maker. Oh, Andy was promoting Maxwell House, which might seem unfamiliar to those used to Mayberry characters pushing sponsors like Sanka and Post Cereals.

Image: SFM Entertainment / CBS

5. Andy was much meaner.


The premise of the episode is this: Danny Williams is in a hurry to get back to New York for an interview on a big TV show. That's why he blows right through a stop sign in the sleepy town of Mayberry that he happens to be passing through. Andy pulls him over and arrests him. Danny curses Andy as a "rotten apple" and "imitation Wyatt Earp." Andy bites back and suggests Danny is attempting blackmail. Overall, the sheriff (and justice of the peace) showed a more calculating, spiteful persona.

Image: SFM Entertainment / CBS

6. Andy was also the editor of the local newspaper.


One of the running gags in the pilot is Andy wearing several hats. Mayberry being such a small town, Andy Taylor wields much power as the law and order… and the press. When Danny threatens to take Andy's corruption to the media, Andy answers the phone as the editor of The Mayberry Gazette. He did not have such a job on The Andy Griffith Show.

Image: SFM Entertainment / CBS

7. The mean old rich man had a different name.


We mentioned Henrietta Perkins' beef with Mr. Johnson, portrayed by Will Wright. You recognize him as a similar Mayberry character — he later played the wealthy and crotchety Ben Weaver on The Andy Griffith Show. Similar Scrooge-like character, different name and position in town.

Image: SFM Entertainment / CBS

8. Andy is constantly whittling.


Sheriff Andy typically strums a guitar when kicking back on The Andy Griffith Show. In the pilot, however, he frequently whittles away at some wood with a knife. We see him carving a bird of some sort (a goose, perhaps) and later you can see a hand-hewn squirrel sitting atop his desk.

Image: SFM Entertainment / CBS

9. The police cars were a different model.


On The Andy Griffith Show, the Mayberry police force cruises around in Ford Galaxie 500s. At the beginning of the pilot, however, Andy pulls up in more retro-styled 1959 Ford Custom 300. You can distinguish the car from its distinctive tail fins and chrome details on the rear.

Image: SFM Entertainment / CBS

10. Opie had a different pet.


There is one thing at the heart of the pilot that feels true to The Andy Griffith Show and that is, well, the heart. Andy parents Opie with love and affection, teaching him a lesson with a hug. That feels perfect. Opie enters the police station sad, as Mrs. Bolliver stepped on his pet turtle, Wilfred. The turtle died, which is why Opie had entirely different animals in The Andy Griffith Show premiere — Dickie the parakeet and Oscar the lizard. We hear Andy talk about the death of his wife here, too. "Who stepped on Ma?" Opie asks.

Image: SFM Entertainment / CBS

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Otis49 6 months ago
Just watched the episode of Danny Thomas' show. Andy was a little different from both Andy's I see on TAGS, In the early years, Andy did come across as a southerner but seemed to really overplay it, unlike the more mellow Andy of later years. Pardon me for saying it, but as a former English teacher, the grammar on that show must have made it very difficult for teachers of the day to undo all the country jargon used on the show. Nobody asked me, must my opinion.
RedSamRackham 19 months ago
* Andy was sheriff & justice of peace but Otis had to go elsewhere for a notary public? Golly Gee, Andy or Barney could've been the NP!
Pacificsun 31 months ago
Okay so a show's pilot is expected to be different than what finally gets picked up. For a lot of reasons. And often because of testing it within a focus group. The pilot (obviously) just visualizes the premise as a sales tool. The lead can carry on, especially if it their own production (like DT) but not the supporting characters, because that show gets adjusted by all kinds of input. And much of that comes from the conditions stipulated in order to get the show on the air. We can look back and say the improvements made in TAGs were well worth it. And it's important to make a series that's going to be able to last a long time for syndication value.

As every ST fan knows, it had 2 very different pilots and premiered with a different episode than those.
timtom1966 Pacificsun 6 months ago
Why you so mad?
SteveLancey 35 months ago
Well duh. If you ever watched the pilot episode on "Make Room For Daddy" you would already know this.
ncadams27 35 months ago
Don Knotts and Pat Harrington Jr recently moved to LA because they were on the Steve Allen Show which moved there from NY. Pat wanted to watch the Danny Thomas Show as he signed on playing Danny’s future son-in-law.
hootrs23 39 months ago
neither of the cars have windshields or back glass when they pull up to the courthouse since they didn't want the studio lights reflecting the light.
Pacificsun hootrs23 31 months ago
That's a common practice. There was no glass in the Brady Bunch sliding patio door out to the yard. And if you look closely a lot of supporting actors wearing glasses, aren't filled, but it makes them look more studious. Another trick is spraying anything shiny with a particular film, and greying out portions of mirrors, if they need a specific portion of the reflection but not the whole thing. The windows of businesses (and fake towns) are famous for revealing unintentional details from behind the scenes. And the more often a single frame gets frozen as a still, will reveal all kinds of stuff that was never intended to be seen. ST is famous for that.
tvnutt76 42 months ago
I knew all this and more. MeTV should offer me a job ( pay not necessary) as I'm a two-time Emmy nominated news producer with a Masters in journalism and I own the largest collection of William Windom performances ( audio, video) in the world. I'm working on a documentary now.
FLETCH tvnutt76 31 months ago
I am a journalism professor and Nobel Prize laureate nominee. I'm also a part-time Deodorant Tester. I poke my nose into other people's armpits to test the odour-fighting powers of deodorants. I don't own anything by William Windom.
RickBox 53 months ago
Danny Thomas calls him worse than an imitation Wyatt Earp - he calls him a Simon Legree!
AgingDisgracefully 53 months ago
Elsewheres...Ted was addressed as "Baxter" in early episodes. And the original Hogan's Heroes included a Russian prisoner.
Things change.
Sammama 53 months ago
Can you watch this episode?
JDnHuntsvilleAL Sammama 53 months ago
Theresa 53 months ago
I am the biggest Andy Griffith nerd on the planet and Ive seen every episode a hundred times. Lol but I don't think ive Ever seen this 1. I always assumed that Mom died while giving Birth bcause Opie was only a speck of a baby. & from what I understand Ford Donated the same model Car to the show with each model year change.
Runeshaper 53 months ago
Wow! I did not know that there were so many differences in this pilot vs. the actual show. I didn't watch the show all that much, but these facts are very interesting. I'm glad that Don won over Andy on the deputy idea :)
RedSamRackham Runeshaper 42 months ago
Andy's uniform in that pilot was cheesier. ♣
MitchellBerg 53 months ago
After Barney left and Floyd dies..show looks feels different...but still great...
Bradley 53 months ago
Danny Williams' defense in the pilot was that there was no actual road where the stop sign was.
Andrew 53 months ago
Here is the most info I could find on what happened to Andy's wife: Andy is a widower and father to one young son, Opie. In the backdoor pilot episode from The Danny Thomas Show, viewers learn Andy lost his wife when Opie was "the least little speck of a baby."
dordee 53 months ago
what did happen to Andy's wife?
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Thortwell Chucklehead 53 months ago
The reason I so vividly remember that episode is because Pat Boone portrayed the maniacal murderer from Mt. Pilot. And it was removed not because of the violent content, but because when Andy walked out onto his front porch to light a cigatrtte he rolled his own and he got the "tobacco" out of a clear sandwich bag which he had pulled out from under his mattress.
Chucklehead Thortwell 53 months ago
That's right, Pat Boone, how could I have forgotten. I remember the blood splatter on his white buckskin shoes. And yes, the famous smoking scene on Andy's porch...Barney became instantly paranoid and ended up pulling his gun on Andy. But of course it wasn't loaded!
Pacificsun Chucklehead 31 months ago
OMG, your comment made me laugh out loud (spitting coffee in the process). I think this is the one that MeTV Staff is calling a "rumor" in this thread, that they're talking about it a current thread. Hilarious!
Pacificsun Thortwell 31 months ago
Meaning they couldn't get any tobacco sponsor, big money in the day. Yeah, that anecdote makes the most sense. Thanks.
ETristanBooth 53 months ago
Andy's character was not mean and spiteful in this episode. Watch the interview at the end.
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