Andy Griffith didn't like watching the Andy Griffith Show's first season

While the first season was a success, the star himself couldn't stand to watch it.

The Everett Collection

When The Andy Griffith Show hit airwaves in 1960, to say it was a smash success would be an understatement. The spinoff from a Danny Thomas Show episode never dipped below seven in the Neilsen ratings during its original run. It was a home run from the very beginning.

That doesn't mean that it didn't have its share of early season woes. It isn't uncommon to hear people these days recomend a sitcom and say something like "the first season isn't great, but it gets really good after that". TV shows often need some time to figure out what works, what doesn't, and what audiences respond to.

One of the early season critics for The Andy Griffith Show was... Andy Griffith!

Griffith told the show's producer, Aaron Ruben, that he just couldn't watch himself in the early episodes of TAGS. Apparently his performance was too forced, and he couldn't stand to see it.

In early episodes, both Don Knotts and Andy Griffith played up their natural southern accents more than their natural level. Griffith had risen to fame, after all, with his comedy routine of "What It Was, Was Football". In this now-famous routine, Griffith lays on a heavy accent as a country bumpkin witnessing his first ever football game. So it makes sense that he would try to bring some of the country charm that had worked so well before.

"In a few of the early shows, Knotts attempted to give his speech a Southern flavor by occasionally saying ‘right cheer’ for ‘right here,'" said Richard Kelly in his 1981 book The Andy Griffith Show, "but he soon dropped that because it sounded fake. Andy, too, abandoned his exaggerated Southern accent for his natural speech by the end of the second year of the series."

“Andy, in the beginning, I think laid on his Southern dialect more than he really had,” Don Knotts said in an interview with The Television Academy Foundation. “But he pulled that way back as he went on. Originally, I think he was doing the character he did in No Time for Sergeants."

As the show went on, Griffith realized that the magic happened when he let Don Knotts go over-the-top and Griffith himself played the straight man. "So that’s what he did; he pulled the character way down, and just played it as a normal guy," Knotts said. "He has a natural Southern accent, anyway. He didn’t have to put any more on.”

So it turns out that what people wanted from Andy Griffith was for him just to be himself. 

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62 Comments

northlight 2 months ago
Season one is still, without a doubt, my favorite, hands down. It's generally a writer's quirk and a consistency issue...with every show written. You start your storyline strong out of the gate and as you progress either members of the writing team (writers in the room come and go) or they lose their "flow"
The storyline will wane with time...the longer the series runs the harder it becomes to carry a strong story arc.
Yes, I'm a writer and I speak from experience....but having said that.. in season one we have "cousin Barney" and the original Floyd the Barber ..Ellie Walker.... literally the best girlfriend Andy ever had.
and Andy himself, who frankly was not clowning as they state...or bumbling...far from it.
To me, he was sweet and vulnerable and very, very lovable....I never found him "Lincoln-esque".....that description was embarrassing and laughable. I had great respect for Andy.....but comparing him to one of the greatest presidents of all time. No Sir!
Come on folks.
To quote Andy...
"That's a pickin your peaches before they're all fuzzed up"
Noooo, Season one just was heart warming in a way that is purely indescribable. I return to it over and over much like driving home to see family when I'm heartsick for home and hearth.
So much drops off after Season Two....and slowly leaks away... By Season Four it's just gone, in my saddened opinion.
In the first season....it's rich and precious.
Fred_Clampett 26 months ago
It wasn't just the accent that Griffith changed, IMO. In the later seasons, Andy Taylor was a southern gentleman from a rural area. In the first season, he was the smartest hayseed.
gmail 26 months ago
I guess the one thing I've noticed and I'm guilty of it as well, we are reviewing and commenting as an adult, forsaking our childhood feelings. It's easy to allow it to happen. As an adult, well I agree the accent was way out there. And his attitude after Barney left, was terrible. Fortunately, I've only seen those on METV once.
I'm patiently waiting for them to start over, Opie's Charity just tears me up along with the Pickles.

As a child, I loved it!
sullivanbear 26 months ago
My favorite MeTv,show is M*A*S*h
jeopardyhead 26 months ago
When I read "The first season isn't great, but it gets really good after that," the first example of which I think is The Brady Bunch.
WordsmithWorks 26 months ago
I completely agree with Griffith. The cornpone level was turned up to 11.
TownOfMayberry 26 months ago
I with the person that wrote this article knew proper punctuation. The period goes before the end quotes! This is stuff everyone learns in middle school. It’s sad that sounding that writes an article doesn’t know something so simple.
Maybe everyone everyone else learned it in middle school, but we learned it in grade school.
Also, I now see that in most cases, this article put the period before the quotation marks.
LoveMETV22 TownOfMayberry 26 months ago
It helps when those being critical of MeTV's articles, ( for what purpose, who knows?) on an occasional punctuation, grammar or spelling error check their own for the same. What does
" I with the person" mean? or "It’s sad that sounding that" mean?
Pretty simple concept.
Zip 26 months ago
I liked "early Andy". He had more of a "down home" country feel to him in season one. Not that I don't like the subsequent Andy's of season two and beyond. At least up to the 5th season.

What I don't understand is how Andy Griffith could say he "couldn't stand to watch" his season one performances, but doesn't say anything about his grumpy, sighing Andy after Barney left.

Maybe he just wants to avoid talking about that at all. And I wouldn't blame him.
bbtrixie 26 months ago
I actually love the 1st season simply because Opie was such a little cutie!
Beta6 26 months ago
That put on accent they had Andy do stood out like the provberbial sore thumb and I disliked hearing it. I noticed that almost more than the story line. He does have his accent, and that is sufficient. I am so glad a halt was called to that overdone effort. (Don Knotts didn't have an accent. He came from West Va., and they don't usually sound anything other than almost mid western.
WGH Beta6 14 months ago
I lived in different parts of West Virginia and people from the northern part of the state sound midwestern. Southern West Virginians have a very thick Southern accent.

Barney was from Morgantown which is about an hour south of Pittsburgh. Almost no accident
Lightworker5555 26 months ago
I never liked the exaggerated Southern accent either. There's nothing like genuineness!
Chuck772 26 months ago
This is the best announcement about the Andy Griffith show. It proves my theory that the show was dysfunctional from the beginning.
TurboVicki77 26 months ago
The first season they tried to make Andy "country dumb" for laughs so I agree
PatrickRegan 26 months ago
One episode of Andy is better for children than ten episodes of any shows that are on TV today ! : }
decades1913 PatrickRegan 26 months ago
I completely agree. Some of today's TV trash for kids is really upsetting.
anthony decades1913 26 months ago
For adults too.
MichaelZvirblis 26 months ago
The more I read about him, Andy was not a pleasant person.
PaulFitzpatrick 26 months ago
As the years went on, Andy Taylor became way too straight and sullen. The good-natured, clever and even fallible Andy Taylor is the character that sold the series in the first place.
JHP 26 months ago
1st season - AG's accent was painful to listen to - and BARN's yelling was right up there with Howard Cosell's rants
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