Andy Griffith, Don Knotts and Jim Nabors made 'Return to Mayberry' with heart, not nostalgia

A testament to timeless humor and enduring friendship.

CBS Television Distribution

To read it in their 1986 profile in The Courier-News, by all accounts, Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, and Jim Nabors didn't need to do a reunion show. Instead, the three took their time ensuring this was unique in the TV landscape. So many actors come back together years later for a quick cash grab. But Return to Mayberry was different, as was everything else about The Andy Griffith Show.

"Jim has this ranch where he lives in Hawaii," said Griffith. "Mr. Jesse Donald Knotts has his own career. Ronnie Howard is releasing a $15 million movie."

So, it's not like any featured players relied on Return to Mayberry to revitalize their Hollywood clout. They were all doing pretty well for themselves in the wake of the beloved sitcoms.

So, why would they disrupt their lives with the inconvenience of a made-for-TV reunion movie? The answer, of course, was that The Andy Griffith Show stood apart from so many other television series. Its humor made it a hit, and its heart made it a classic.

"The reruns seem to be more popular than the show was in the beginning," said Griffith. 

Nabors attributed the show's success to its title star.

"As I found out when I started doing my own show, as Andy says, the script is the most important thing. We used to sit around a table and Andy contributed more to the scripts than sometimes the writers did. And he'd just pound it out [...] and I guarantee you that script was good."

For his part, Griffith knew pretty quickly that he and the cast had something special.

"By the second show," said Griffith, "which featured the character Barney, I recognized something that was golden for us, that Barney should be the comic and Andy should be the straight man."

Don Knotts shared his costars' enthusiasm and could see clearly how a Return to Mayberry would stand out among the crowded TV lineup in 1986.

"Back in the days when they'd hand a production company a star like Andy and say 'Build a show around him,' a lot of care went into that —and time and effort," Knotts said.

"And they gave us the time. I think people cared more about their own show, about their own work...

"Almost everything they're doing today is what you would really have to label farce comedy. And so, there's too many farces around."

Griffith added, "So far as I'm concerned if you shoot comedy with one camera, then you develop character comedy, which does not depend on having a joke every few seconds. you can go for pages without a joke, I mean, a real joke."

The difference is clear, and Return to Mayberry was a fitting extension for this cherished sitcom.

Watch The Andy Griffith Show on MeTV!

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11 Comments

Runeshaper 22 days ago
The cast cared about the series and it showed (-:
McGillahooala 23 days ago
I love the show, hate the reunion movie. It doesn’t have the same feel with a different set and no laugh tracks. Not the same show.
My feelings exactly...
FLETCH 24 days ago

One of television's most warmly remembered comedies, 'The Andy Griffith Show' follows a small town sheriff and his bumbling but well-meaning deputy. It may be quiet and relatively crime free in Mayberry, and its sheriff's demeanor may appear easygoing, but Andy Taylor is always on the case. The warm stories and subtle humor of this universally adored television classic continue to charm and captivate audiences more than 50 years after its original airing.
harlow1313 FLETCH 24 days ago
Did you write this? If not, a source credit is appropriate.
FLETCH harlow1313 23 days ago
The Andy Griffith Show is an American sitcom television series that was aired on CBS from October 3, 1960, to April 1, 1968, with a total of 249 half-hour episodes spanning eight seasons—159 in black and white and 90 in color.

The series originated from an episode of The Danny Thomas Show. It stars Andy Griffith as Andy Taylor, the widowed sheriff of Mayberry, North Carolina, a fictional community of roughly 2,000–5,000 people. Other major characters include Andy's lifelong friend, the well-meaning and enthusiastic but bumbling deputy, Barney Fife (Don Knotts), Andy's aunt and housekeeper, Bee Taylor (Frances Bavier) and Andy's young son, Opie (Ron Howard). The townspeople round out the regular cast
harlow1313 FLETCH 23 days ago
Taking credit for another's written work is known as plagiarism.

It is a matter of honor and integrity.
FLETCH harlow1313 22 days ago
The Andy Griffith Show is a syndicated family situation comedy series created by Sheldon Leonard and Aaron Ruben, which was broadcast on CBS for eight seasons from 1960 to 1968. Episodes involve Sheriff Andy Taylor (played by Andy Griffith) and his family and friends' life in a small rural town called Mayberry, North Carolina.
harlow1313 FLETCH 22 days ago
Your lack of character saddens me.
FLETCH harlow1313 22 days ago
Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. is an American situation comedy that originally aired on CBS from September 25, 1964, to May 2, 1969. The series was a spinoff of The Andy Griffith Show, and the pilot was aired as the finale of the fourth season of The Andy Griffith Show on May 18, 1964. The show ran for five seasons and a total of 150 episodes.
FrankensteinLover 24 days ago
It was great getting the Cast back Together, the writing could have been better but I was happy and sad to see them all back once again. Hard to believe they have all pretty much passed on.
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