There's a good reason why The Andy Griffith Show was so fond of Gunsmoke
VIDEO: Our favorite Gunsmoke jokes on The Andy Griffith Show!
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When The Andy Griffith Show premiered in 1960, it took the small town feel of Westerns and turned it into a sitcom. Viewers tuned in to follow the good-natured Sheriff Andy Taylor and his loyal partner Barney Fife, upholding the law in North Carolina's sleepiest town and trying to teach his young boy to do right, raising him on his own after his mother passed away. There was no need to draw a gun in Mayberry, but that didn't mean the sheriff wasn't kept busy by all the little issues that arise in a tightknit community.
At that point in time, Gunsmoke had been on air for five years and was the No. 1 show in the country. So it would make sense that by The Andy Griffith Show's third season, the sitcom was referencing the hit TV Western, with jokes on the show in episodes like "Barney's Lawman" and "Aunt Bee's Medicine Man." Watch the video below to see highlights from all the Gunsmoke jokes told on The Andy Griffith Show.
But it wasn't just the nature of The Andy Griffith Show to joke about the popular Western, it was also that The Andy Griffith Show actually shares a lot of history with Gunsmoke. Two of Mayberry's most memorable characters, Floyd the Barber (Howard McNear) and Mayor Roy Stoner (Parley Baer) both voiced major Gunsmoke characters in the radio drama that inspired the TV series. McNear voiced Gunsmoke's Doc Adams and Baer voiced Chester Goode, essentially creating the molds that Milburn Stone and Dennis Weaver would fill out as TV characters.
The connections between the shows go even deeper, of course, if you consider the fact that Denver Pyle, the actor who originally was slated to play Matt Dillon on TV, is also the partial namesake for The Andy Griffith Show's Goober Pyle, and appeared in multiple episodes of both shows (notably recurring in Mayberry as Briscoe Darling). And Denver Pyle's not the only actor to be an alumni of both shows. The Andy Griffith Show stars Ron Howard ("Charlie Noon"), Hal Smith ("Old Flame") and George Lindsey (six in total!) all featured in Gunsmoke episodes, too, as well as guest stars on The Andy Griffith Show like Burt Mustin, Hope Summers (Clara Edwards), Roy Engel, Ken Lynch and Clint Howard (Leon).
So while plenty of other shows used Gunsmoke as a punchline or plotline (including early TV hits like Make Room for Daddy, Car 54, Where Are You? and Mister Ed), The Andy Griffith Show had arguably the greatest connection to the long-running Western, and potentially the most license to poke fun.