Ron Howard once explained why Opie's attitude changed after the first season of The Andy Griffith Show
Rance Howard's note: How about if Opie actually respected his dad?
The first time we see Opie on The Andy Griffith Show, he’s cutting off his dad as Andy officiates the wedding of the Taylors’ housekeeper to her new husband. “I know why they shouldn’t be married,” Opie says. “I’m speaking now so’s I won’t have to forever hold my peace.”
Barney comes up to the boy and says nervously, “You’re not supposed to speak!”
“Then why did he ask?” Opie asks, showing a little extra attitude that fans of the show might not immediately recognize in the young boy after watching the full series. At this point in the episode, after Andy tells Opie it’s just part of the ceremony to give folks a chance to speak up, but nobody ever speaks, Opie shoots back, “Well, I’m gonna.”
Emotions ran high for Opie in "The New Housekeeper," as Andy's only son must navigate losing the closest thing he's had to a mother in the former housekeeper Rose. Still, the barbed tongue of Opie in The Andy Griffith Show premiere episode found him sullen over Aunt Bee's fried chicken, fussing and leaving the table to run off to his room. It sees Opie contradict Andy at nearly ever turn of advice, even after Andy tells Opie that Aunt Bee raised him, Opie injects a surprising amount of fire in his retort, "That doesn’t mean that she’ll raise me good."
The question of how Opie Taylor will be raised is at the heart of The Andy Griffith Show, and everybody who knows the show knows that any time Opie had a serious question, he took those matters straight to his Pa to hear the straight truth. The respect Opie has for Andy is an idyllic father-son dynamic that in many ways sets The Andy Griffith Show apart from other sitcoms where kids were expected to deliver snappy comebacks more than heartfelt father-son moments. But you wouldn't know this from watching the earliest episodes of the show, and in an interview with the Archive of American Television, Ron Howard once explained why Opie was so different in the first season:
"Early on, they wrote Opie a little differently," Howard said. "More like the typical sitcom kids who were always having the wise comebacks, jokes, punchlines. Later, I heard that my dad was talking to Andy about this, the Andy/Opie relationship, and Andy was talking to my dad about our relationship, because my dad and I were very close." It was these talks between Opie's real dad and his TV pa that led writers to change the way Opie was portrayed on the show, mostly because Ron said, Andy liked this bit of Rance Howard's logic:
"My dad was around the set quite a bit, and somehow my dad said, ‘What would happen if Opie knew that Andy was smarter than him? How about if Opie actually respected his dad? I just thought it might be different.'" Rance was right and it was different, but Ron offers another hypothesis, suspecting his dad might have had some understandable ulterior motives, "I dunno if my dad was really thinking that he, you know, dreaded my getting into a pattern, thinking that those comebacks were the right way to deal with a parent or not. I never asked him, but Andy really took to that, and that’s how they began to write on the show. That relationship, I think it was influenced in some way by my relationship with my dad.”
That's why in later episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, Howard said the writers wrote his character a little different. So if you like Opie with a little attitude, we'd recommend heading back to the very first episode of the show, which concludes with Opie, Andy and Aunt Bee at the fishing hole, where Opie's arrived with jokes. The episode ends with Opie tossing out this barb, uncharacteristically questioning Andy and zinging Aunt Bee, "If she’s such a good fisherman like you been telling me, pa, how come she fishes with her bait out of the water?”