‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Was a Spin-Off From Another Less Successful Series

An instant hit with viewers when it appeared on American screens in 1960, The Andy Griffith Show got its start on another show entirely.

In fact, it was something of a spin-off.

The 60th anniversary of ‘The Andy Griffith Show’

Andy Griffith, left, and Ron Howard in a scene from 'The Andy Griffith Show'
Andy Griffith, left, and Ron Howard in a scene from ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ |
CBS via Getty Images

The sitcom set in the fictional town of Mayberry premiered in 1960. Featuring Andy Griffith, who was also the star of the 1957 film A Face in the Crowd, the series about a single father who also serves as sheriff of a quaint, small town won viewers’ hearts.

Author Richard Kelly had this to say about the series in his 1981 book, The Andy Griffith Show, “Unlike so many programs that begin with a slick pilot and then degenerate, the Griffith Show actually improved with time. Beneath its simple rustic setting lies a high degree of sophistication.

“The acting, writing, production, directing, and scoring were painstakingly worked out and blended to produce one of the more popular and artistic creations of the 1960s.”

‘The Andy Griffith Show’ was a spin-off from ‘The Danny Thomas Show’

Danny Thomas wins Best Actor Emmy, 1955
Danny Thomas wins Best Actor Emmy, 1955 | Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Andy Griffith’s show was given a pilot episode on The Danny Thomas Show, starring singer, actor, and producer Danny Thomas. Clearly, Griffith’s performance was an impressive one because, before long, his own show was given the green light by CBS.

Griffith told Kelly about the jitters he experienced working with Danny Thomas.

“I came out [to Los Angeles], did the pilot – and I remember a lot of that, too, because Danny Thomas made me very nervous,” Griffith recalled. “So when we started the show a lot of people were talking and wondering why they had me out here. Because I was wooden, very wooden. And as the show progressed I got looser and looser and when they brought the audience in, I was on top of it. And the show, in fact, did sell.”

Ron Howard recalled performing the pilot episode of ‘The Andy Griffith Show’

Ron Howard in 1960
Ron Howard in 1960 | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

One of the show’s characters by Griffith’s side from the start was 5-year-old Ron Howard. Now a celebrated director, Howard recalled shooting the pilot in a 2006 conversation with the Archive of American Television.

“I don’t remember anything like an audition for The Andy Griffith Show,” Howard said. “I just remember doing the first pilot on The Danny Thomas Show. That was done in front of an audience. It was the first time I remember being in front of an audience. But it didn’t seem to bother me.”

Howard described his general feelings about working on the sitcom.

“I liked it, I just liked it,” he said. “Blessing, complete blessing. I thought it was fun. When I got a little older, once in a while, I thought it would be a drag having to learn the lines. I was having a lot of fun.”

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