Mark Hamill made his screen debut alongside Andy Griffith
The 1970-71 season was a breakthrough for the Star Wars star — and a struggle for Sheriff Andy.
Image: The Everett Collection
Luke Skywalker met Sheriff Andy Taylor and there is not a single image to show for it. How could that be? Two pop culture icons shared the screen in 1970. More importantly, for young Mark Hamill, it would be his screen debut.
One might think that following the success of The Andy Griffith Show, Andy Griffith himself continued his hit streak on television. Not so. Perhaps being pigeonholed as the folksy Mayberry man, Griffith struggled to find another smash series throughout the Seventies.
His first attempt at a second act was Headmaster, a dramatic sitcom along the lines of Room 222. Griffith played the headmaster of the Concord School, an elite private school in Mayberry. It was a far cry from Mayberry Union High School. Jerry Van Dyke played the hapless football coach in a role that was essentially a dry run for his time on Coach.
In one episode called "The Experiment," headmaster Andy Thompson sends a group of teens into the woods to "start a society" as a social studies exercise. One of those kids is "Allan," portrayed by Hamill, a drama major from Los Angeles City College.
Alas, this historic debut is nowhere to be seen on the entirety of the internet. There is, however, a CBS preview of Headmaster on YouTube.
Two months later, Hamill popped up again as a high school student in an episode of The Bill Cosby Show (not The Cosby Show, this was still 1970). A spunky Hamill throws a punch at a kid twice his size in a hallway scrap at the opening of the story, "The Poet."
A few weeks later, Hamill turned up in an episode of The Partridge Family. Look for him sharing scenes with Susan Dey in "Old Scrapmouth," late in season one.
Meanwhile, Headmaster had already been expelled — because of The Partridge Family. The singing family crushed Headmaster in the ratings on Friday evenings. CBS quickly retooled the program and retitled it The New Andy Griffith Show, scrapping the California school premise and sending Andy (now "Andy Sawyer") back to familiar North Carolina.
At the end of the 1970s, both actors were in outer space. Hamill, of course, was an action figure in the Star Wars universe. The mind-boggling success of that blockbuster altered all of pop culture. Everyone wanted a piece of space action. So, Andy Griffith hopped aboard a spaceship for his 1979 series Salvage 1. Alas, that only lasted 20 episodes.