When Ted Turner put his WTBS on the satellite to beam into millions of homes, big things were planned, but one thing couldn’t be messed with, The Andy Griffith Show would remain a stalwart on the channel. Other than I Love Lucy, Andy Griffith is probably the most watched show in syndication around the world; then and now. Ironically, the show was filmed at Desilu, the production company owned by Lucille Ball.
Two hundred and forty-nine episodes aired, 159 in black and white, the rest in color over the series’ last three seasons. There are lots of books written on the show, so I’ll leave it at that. The eternal charm of the show is in the characters and the idyllic view of small town America, particularly now when that view has faded into our history. The producers made a decision early on for each show to be entertaining and funny, but also to possess a lesson or moral, even if it was a lighthearted one. Many of the shows (through the first five seasons) focused on the relationship between Andy and Barney, or between Andy and his son Opie. Andy was sage and wise, but he was sometimes on the learning end of a story, and that emphasized the point that we all should be humble and realize we’re all human.
Of those 249, here are my favorites and why. There are many fine programs not on the list. Most point out the ups and downs of relationships and what we learn along the way.
The Merchant of Mayberry (season 2, episode 22). Starring Sterling Holloway as Bert Miller, a traveling salesman, who ends up being in competition with the big department story run by misery Ben Weaver. Andy and Barney decide to set Bert up with a merchandise stand in a vacant lot. It gets the ire of Ben Weaver, so Andy and Barney decide to have a little fun and turn the stand into a fixed booth with a lot of merchandise, which really makes Ben Weaver mad. To help Bert, Andy convinces Ben that out-of-town merchants are backing Bert in his new venture, enticing Ben to buy Burt’s stand and give him a job in his store. Andy very much is for the underdog and balancing the scales.
Citizen’s Arrest (season 4, episode 11). Barney issues a ticket to Gomer for a traffic offense, much to Gomer’s dismay. Barney then executes a U-turn and is chased by Gomer yelling “citizen’s arrest!” A crowd gathers and Barney is forced to write himself a ticket. Angrily, Barney resigns in protest, locks himself in jail in an act of refusing to pay the ticket. To get Barney to reconsider, Gomer stages a fake robbery that Barney cannot resist responding to. Gomer is happy that Barney is back, but Barney responds by getting mad over the stunt and writing out a new ticket for Gomer. The law applies to everyone, but it can be applied heavy-handedly, and no good deed goes unpunished.
The Guitar Player (season 1, episode 3). Jim Lindsay is a local boy who really knows how to play the guitar. A hip jazz group comes through town and Andy has the notion of hooking Jim up with the band, who couldn’t care less about the squares in Mayberry. Andy arranges it so that the band has to hear Jim play, but he won’t until they finally insult him enough that he comes out playing, and that impresses them. They offer him a job on the spot. Later in the season, Jim returns to Mayberry but he isn’t with the band. He’s driving a sports car and has fancy clothes, saying that he outgrew the band and is on his own. Life is very good he says, but he leaves IOUs all around town and Andy begins to see holes in Jim’s story. He makes a call to Bobby Fleet, the leader of the band and learns that Jim got a big head and departed for greener pastures, which have failed to occur. Andy arrests Jim for failing to make good on his debts. Bobby Fleet shows up and agrees to pay Jim’s debts and give him a raise. Jim realizes his ego has gotten the best of him and is thrilled to be able to rejoin the band. Many lessons here, take your pick.
Opie’s Hobo Friend (season 2, episode 6). Buddy Ebsen stars as a hobo who blows into town and captures the attention of Opie. The hobo fills Opie’s head with the grandeur of being a hobo and that it’s okay to take things from people and shirk your responsibilities to go fishing and enjoy life. Andy confronts the hobo, strongly suggests that he move on, and tells him how much trouble he has caused in Opie’s thinking. The hobo arranges to be arrested for stealing a handbag of Aunt Bea’s. He is arrested by Barney and Opie finally sees that the hobo has done wrong. Andy knows that the handbag is one Aunt Bea threw out and that he understands what the hobo did to no longer be a hero in Opie’s eyes. Andy releases him from jail so the hobo can jump the train leaving town.
Andy and Opie, Housekeepers (season 1, episode 23). Aunt Bea has to leave town to visit a relative. She is concerned about leaving the boys alone. Andy and Opie have a hard time batching it and leave the house in a mess. When they know Aunt Bea is coming home they quickly tidy up the house. Then they decide that the house shouldn’t look cleaned up or Aunt Bea will not feel needed, so they mess up the house. While they are out picking up Aunt Bea, Clara, the friend of Bea’s discovers the house is a mess and clean it up. Aunt Bea, Andy and Opie discover the house all clean. Aunt Bea begins to feel she isn’t needed, so Andy retreats to the kitchen where they start to mess things up, but he and Opie are caught in the act, and Aunt Bea feels like they weren’t able to get the entire house in order so before she returned. Aunt Bea now feels needed again.
Stranger in Town (season 1, episode 12). A stranger comes to Mayberry and seems to know about everyone in town, but no one knows who he is. At first they are just confused but begin to become concerned and angry that this stranger knows them, tries to purchase a business and court a young lady. Finally, they confront him and he admits that he read about them all from his buddy’s letters. His buddy grew up in Mayberry and the stranger like the town so much he wanted to move there and be a part of it. In the end, the town folks relax and welcome him. This episode has a weird vibe about dealing with people who are new to town. We are welcoming to a point but down deep, somewhat suspicious.
The Pickle Story (season 2, episode 11). Aunt Bea loves making pickles but they taste awful. Not to disappoint her, Andy and Barney eat them anyway. Aunt Bea senses encouragement and decides to enter them in the county fair, which is usually won by her friend Clara. Andy and Barney decide to replace Aunt Bea’s awful pickles with those purchased from the store, but they find out how much winning the contest means to Clara, so they get rid of the store-bought pickles and replace them with Aunt Bea’s pickles. Even though Aunt Bea doesn’t win the fair, she is appreciative of how much the boys love her pickles so she makes a double batch of her “kerosene pickles” as Andy calls them. The theme of this episode is all about the responsibility and burden of honesty.
The Keeper of the Flame (season 2, episode 14). Opie and his friends have a secret club and hold meetings in Jubal Foster’s barn. He chases them out and complains to Andy, who defends Opie from Jubal’s accusations. Opie and his club use a candle to hold their meetings, and Opie is the keeper of it. They are chased out of Jubal’s barn again, but this time Jubal accidentally causes a fire that destroys his barn. Jubal again accuses Opie and his friends of being present there and starting the fire. Opie denies they started the fire but Andy finds the candle. He expresses great disappointment in Opie and says he will get a whipping. Andy and Barney go out to Jubal’s to make good on paying for the barn. Barney accidentally discovers Jubal’s still and drinks some of it, becoming intoxicated. He tries to tell Andy but can’t, but Andy gets the message and arrests Jubal for burning down his own barn. Andy makes up with Opie and apologizes for not believing him. He also replaces the candle with a battery lantern so he can continue to be keeper of the flame.
Andy and the Woman Speeder (season 2, episode 3). Jean Hagen stars as a woman who gets caught speeding through town. She refuses to pay the speeding ticket and is hauled before the justice of the peace, Andy. She objects and is held in contempt, so she must stay in jail. She charms Barney, Opie, Aunt Bea and others while in custody so when the trial gets underway, no one will testify against her. Andy concedes he is beat but expresses great disappointment in his friends and family for turning against the truth. She is found not guilty and feels bad for what she’s done. To make up for it she speeds out of town again and is caught. Instead of fighting, she pays up and for the previous fine.
Opie the Birdman (season 4, episode 1). Opie is warned about using his slingshot to shoot at birds. He does anyway and kills a mother bird, who has a baby. Andy is very upset with Opie and tells him what he’s done. Rather than whip him, which was customary back then, Andy makes his think about things and listen to the crying baby bird who won’t ever see it’s mother. Opie responds by becoming a surrogate mother to the bird, feeding and caring for it until it is old enough to fly away. Opie’s proud look is only surpassed by Andy’s look.
The Shoplifters (season 4, episode 21). The local department store owner complains that he is being picked clean by thieves. They set up a nighttime surveillance but decides the theft must be done during store hours. Barney sets up his own surveillance disguised as a mannequin. Andy discovers Barney, who springs into action to accuse a little old lady of shoplifting. She denies it and the store owner is upset and asks Andy and Barney to leave to avoid any further embarrassment. Outside, Andy thinks he knows who the thief is, and surprises Barney and store owner by again accusing the little old lady. The store owner is livid but Andy has Barney retrieve a bathroom scale. He asks the lady to stand on it, and everyone is surprised at the weight. Andy then has her open here coat to reveal all the merchandise hung inside her coat. Andy says she “clanked” she he bumped into her and not to accuse a shoplifter until they are outside.
The Cow Thief (season 3, episode 5). A rash of livestock thefts is concerning the Mayor. As the thefts continue, he asks for help from the state, who send an investigator. They use scientific police methods to develop a theory. Barney is impressed and lends his support to the Mayor and state investigator. Andy is cool to their theory and somehow believes a local junkman is involved. Plaster casts are made after one theft showing the shoe prints of three people. Andy wants to know where the cow prints are. No one has an idea. Andy decides to set a trap by circulating news of a farmer with a new cow. He sets up a surveillance. Barney joins in because he realizes his loyalty is really to Andy. They discover the junkman has been putting shoes on the cows he steals, but this time he tried to steal an ornery bull.
Mr. McBeevee (season 3, episode 1). Opie shows off his imagination with fanciful tales. Andy isn’t concerned, even when Opie tells about meeting a man who walks in the trees. It is dismissed as an active imagination until Opie shows up with money that he says McBeevee game him. Andy doesn’t believe him and wants him to fess up to where he got the money. Opie holds to the story. Opie takes Andy to where he has seen Mr. McBeevee but he’s not there. Andy is upset and disappointed in him. Andy then takes a walk back to the area. Talking to himself he calls Mr. McBeevee’s name. This time he answers and climb down from a telephone pole he’s been working on. He has a metal hat and jangles with hooks and tools, just like Opie described. Andy is overjoyed at meeting him and realizing how he didn’t trust his own son. This is one of several good episodes where Andy’s trust in his son has slipped when Opie was telling the truth but in a way Andy didn’t understand.
Bailey’s Bad Boy ( season 2, episode 15). Bill Bixby stars as a spoiled rich kid pulled over for reckless driving, sideswiping a farmer in his truck. He doesn’t think the act is any big deal and expects his dad to get him out of the jam. The kid must stay in jail until the case is heard. He gets a taste of small town life, a dinner at Andy’s house, and a talk with Opie on the front porch where Opie admits to busting out a neighbor’s window. Andy says he isn’t mad but hopes Opie isn’t mad when he learns he won’t get any allowance until the window is paid for. The rich kid asks Andy why he didn’t cut the kid a break since it was only a window. Andy says he has to teach him a lesson now, or he’ll think he can get bailed out every time, especially as the problems get bigger. When the kid’s lawyer appears, he has convinced the farmer not to testify and even to concede it might have been his fault. The rich kid says that’s not what happened and against his lawyer’s advice, admits guilt, wanting to stand on his own two feet.
Aunt Bee the Warden (season 2, episode 23). Andy brings in four prisoners, dislodging Otis from his usual cell. Andy takes Otis to his house to sleep off the rest of his sentence. Aunt Bea takes offense to Otis wanting to stay in bed. She makes him get out of bed and work. He tries to escape several times but she finds him out. In the meantime, Barney, in his effort to rehabilitate the four prisoners, give them craft kits. When Andy goes by his house to pick up Otis, he is well-dressed and clean-shaven. He can’t wait to get away from “the rock” as he calls it, and Aunt Bea snapping her fingers to get him to obey. Barney arrives to tell Andy that one of the prisoners made a pass key from their metal craft set and they escaped. Later, they are captured and brought over to Andy’s house where Aunt Bea is waiting for them with mops and brooms. They’ve heard of her and aren’t too happy to be in “Bloody Mary’s” custody.
Barney and the Choir (season 2, episode 21). An opening develops for a tenor in the Mayberry choir. Barney wants to fill the opening but they soon learn that Barney can’t sing. No one has the heart to tell Barney, so the choir chooses other locations to practice without telling Barney, but he seems to find out. They are scheduled to give a performance and they last thing they can do is let Barney sing. Andy has a solution. He gives Barney a solo, instructing him to sing into the microphone but he has to sing soft, to the point where nothing is coming out of his mouth because the microphone is so powerful. The night of the performance, as Barney opens his mouth for his solo, a deep baritone is heard that surprises even Barney. Off stage, another singer is singing Barney’s part into a microphone. After the concert, Barney is congratulated and given a money awarded for his performance, but Andy tells him that now makes him a professional and he can’t sing with the choir anymore.
Otis the Deputy (season 2, episode 31). Otis gets a letter that his brother is coming to visit. This is the brother that was always held up as a good example. Otis is not looking forward to his visit, in part because he bragged to his brother that he was a deputy. Andy decides to help him out by pretending he is a deputy while his brother is there. In the meantime, Otis must toe the line and the first act is to dump out all of his liquor, which about kills Otis to do. Ralph the brother arrives and finds it hard to believe that Otis has amounted to anything, let alone become a deputy. When they are alone, Ralph asks if Otis has any liquor, which Otis says no. Ralph always thought Otis liked a snort and is surprised at how much he’s changed. Later, Otis admits to Andy that he doesn’t think Ralph is buying the deception. About that time, Ralph staggers into the courthouse and locks himself in jail. It’s what he does back home because he’s the town drunk. Otis tells Ralph that he’s embarrassed by him and what he’s done in front of his friends. Ralph takes it to heart and says that he can change, dropping his bottle of liquor crashing on the floor.
The Bed Jacket (season 3, episode 12). Aunt Bea’s birthday is approaching and Andy wants to get her something nice. She has been admiring a bed jacket in the window of a store. Secretly, she is hoping Andy will notice. Meanwhile, the Mayor is admiring Andy’s lucky fishing reel and tries to buy it. Andy declines even though the Mayor keeps after him. Andy decides to buy Aunt Bea a set of handkerchiefs, because he believes she values practical gifts. When she opens the package, she’s overcome with tears and leaves the room. About that time, her friend Clara arrives to see the bed jacket that Aunt Bea believed Andy had purchased for her. Andy realizes his oversight and goes to the store, but finds out the jacket has been purchased and there isn’t another one available. He discovers the Mayor bought it for his wife. He talks the Mayor into trading it for the fishing reel and presents the jacket to a surprised Aunt Bea who is all aglow with it. Opie asks where the fishing reel is and is surprised Andy would part with it since it meant so much to Andy. Andy says it means even more now as he takes delight in listening to Aunt Bea describe it to Clara on the phone.
Man in a Hurry (season 3, episode 16). A traveler in a big car has engine problems and is waylaid in Mayberry. Unfortunately, he will have to stay so that Gomer and Goober can figure out what’s wrong with it. In the meantime, Andy invites him to spend Sunday at his house. Opie is delighted at company because he can sleep on the ironing board between two chairs. The man is frustrated that he can’t get to his destination, and the party line is tied up by two women talking about their various ailments. He doesn’t understand life in a small town. Aunt Bea prepares a nice dinner and they later adjourn to the porch where they will make homemade ice cream. He doesn’t understand going to all that trouble when you can buy it in the store. Andy takes great delight in peeling an apple with the peel all connected. Such simple things as that, and Barney talking about going to Thelma Lou’s is lost on an important man in a hurry. When Gomer shows up with the car, that they worked on Sunday, he seems happy to get going. Aunt Bea has packed him chicken and a piece of pie. Everyone has been so nice to him. Suddenly he gets out of the car and says it doesn’t sound right. It seems to sound fine, but then Andy says he “hears” the problem too. The man tells Gomer to take the car back and have Wally work on it to make sure it gets fixed. That means he will be spending the night, which everyone is delighted to hear. Later, Andy and Barney are sitting on the front porch that evening, talking about going uptown to get a bottle of pop. They ask the man if he wants to go. He’s asleep in the chair, holding an apple that has been peeled in one piece.
The Loaded Goat – A goat eats dynamite. They have to get him safely out of town. Not a very deep story, but a funny one.
The Bookie Barber – Floyd gets a second barber who turns the shop into a betting parlor. Floyd takes for granted the increase in business, but a good thing is too good to be true.
A Medal for Opie – Convinced he will win a medal in a school race, he doesn’t and can’t deal with failure. Another episode where father and son have a bump in their relationship.
The Manicurist – Floyd reluctantly hires a young manicurist who delights the men but stirs up jealousy with wives. Not just a battle of the sexes episode. It was however, reflective of the times and of traditional men and women roles.
Ellie for Council – Ellie Walker decides to run for city council, turning the town upside down. Unthinkable for a woman to run for public office.
Opie’s Charity – Andy thinks Opie is being cheap when he only gives a few pennies to a charity. Later he learns Opie is saving to buy another child a winter coat. Sometimes a parent underestimates their child’s intent.
Gomer the Houseguest – Gomer is fired for being too friendly with customers and moves into Andy’s house. All of the filling station customers come to see Gomer at Andy’s. Late at night, much to Andy’s displeasure. The customers were loyal to Gomer and Wally came to learn that he had to compromise to get Gomer to come back.
My Fair Ernest T. Bass – The rock throwing mountain man comes to town. Andy is in charge of teaching him manners and finding him a date. Sometimes you can’t change a person’s nature, and there is a mate out there for everyone, no matter how unusual.
Dogs, Dogs, Dogs – A group of found dogs must be taken elsewhere as a state inspector is to arrive to review a request for more funds. Andy and Barney were trying to do the right thing by collecting these stray dogs, but were afraid the inspector would not take kindly to it. Surprisingly, he was a big dog lover and approved their request for more funds. It turns out, the dogs weren’t strays when the owner came to get them.
Barney and the Governor – Barney tickets the Governor’s car and is afraid he’ll be fired. He gets nervous, especially after the Mayor is convinced the Governor is upset about it. it turns out the Governor wants to thank Barney for his public service.
High Noon in Mayberry – An ex-con arrives in town to pay Andy a visit. Barney recruits Gomer and Otis as deputies to protect Andy. Comedy ensues even as Andy becomes a little concerned about whether the ex-con wants revenge. It turns out he wants to thank Andy for helping his change his ways and wants to give Andy a gift of thanks.