The Ten Best THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW Episodes of Season Two

Welcome to a new Sitcom Tuesday! This week, we’re continuing coverage on the best of The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968, CBS), which is currently available in full on DVD and Amazon.

The Andy Griffith Show stars ANDY GRIFFITH as Sheriff Andy Taylor, DON KNOTTS as Deputy Barney Fife, RON HOWARD as Opie Taylor, and FRANCES BAVIER as Aunt Bee.

The second year of The Andy Griffith Show, like most sophomore collections, directly benefits from the wealth of self-discovery and development that occurred in its predecessor. Because of One, Season Two has a complete understanding of its tonal intentions and can now use this awareness to continue building out the world of Mayberry, exploring the folks who make the inviting town a wonderful blend of fantasy and relatability that all of us would like to visit — a gentle place that’s not focused on big laughs, but does have room for them, primarily where guest stars and the Emmy-winning Don Knotts are concerned. However, the year is still evolving past Season One and shedding some factors that will be gone by Three — like regular script contributors Jack Elinson and Charles Stewart, great writers from Danny Thomas who tie these first two year together via their willingness to be narratively experimental. Meanwhile, Two is already down Ellie, Andy’s first recurring potential love interest, as Elinor Donahue asked to be let out of her contract and was obliged with no fuss. Fortunately, since the show didn’t know how to write for Ellie, her absence doesn’t feel like a loss, especially because the year’s scripts show such a fertile supply of story prospects with Barney, Otis, Bee, etc. And while the year will also see the last of early recurring players like Emma and Mayor Pike — and has yet to introduce more impression-leaving townsfolk, such as the spin-off-able Gomer and the dull but long-lasting Helen — the show’s command of itself, as it adds ideas that work and work well, keeps this era feeling as if it’s moving in a positive direction. Indeed, there’s more discovery ahead, and unsurprisingly, there will be even more episodic gems to come in both Season Three, which I’ve teasingly defined as the show’s peak (mostly for its number of classic installments), and in the still enjoyable, but perhaps less additive, Four. This notion of further improvement is an impressive one, for the series’ second year is already great, with at least ten offerings that deserve praise, thanks to scripts that not only feature incredible guests, but also utilize all parts of the series’ identity well — the family, the town, and the Barney. In fact, the deputy sheriff is particularly prominent here — Don Knotts won another Emmy — as you’ll understand below with my picks for the ten episodes that I think best exemplify this year’s finest.

 

01) Episode 37: “Barney On The Rebound” (Aired: 10/30/61)

Barney finds himself a new girlfriend, who’s also a con artist.

Written by Jack Elinson & Charles Stewart | Directed by Bob Sweeney

Kicking off a list of strong Barney entries is this memorable excursion — the best from the relatively sleepy first part of the year — in which a fight with Thelma Lou is sparked after Barney is caught flirting with a new lady (Beverly Tyler), who turns out to be a con artist looking to entrap him in a breach of promise suit with her crooked partner, played by the great Jackie Coogan, just one of many classic ’60s TV stars popping in for this guest star-heavy season.

02) Episode 43: “The Pickle Story” (Aired: 12/18/61)

Aunt Bee intends to enter her terrible pickles in the county fair.

Written by Harvey Bullock | Directed by Bob Sweeney

My choice for the season’s Most Valuable Episode (MVE), this popular outing, which was colorized and shown on CBS several years ago, is often regarded as one of the series’ gems. But I think there’s a tendency to inflate its comedic value, simply because we’re primed to inherently like the idea of funny actors making funny faces when they eat food that tastes bad. And yet, the reason I enjoy this show — and think it’s the year’s best — is that it’s the perfect encapsulation of the series’ identity in this era, with a story that combines family (Andy’s relationship with Aunt Bee) and the sweet tone that accompanies their bond (for instance, Andy loves her so much he doesn’t want to hurt her feelings, which yields the conflict), along with both the small town, where pickle-tasting contests occur at county fairs, and Barney, who isn’t the narrative’s focus but still gets time to steal several scenes. Ultimately, in a competition between all eight years’ finest, this is the one that would best represent Season Two.

03) Episode 44: “Sheriff Barney” (Aired: 12/25/61)

Andy lets Barney be sheriff for a day to see if he’s capable of doing the job.

Written by Leo Solomon & Ben Gershman | Directed by Bob Sweeney

“Barney as sheriff” is a recurring story template during the black-and-white years, for the character’s design ensures that whenever he’s put in a position of power, his ego will swell and his own neurotic insecurities will get the best of him. This is a standard entry in that category, but because it features Don Knotts so well, and in an era that’s embracing all that he has to offer, it is a seminal second season showcase. (The Otis/Barney scene is a standout.)

04) Episode 45: “The Farmer Takes A Wife” (Aired: 01/01/62)

A farmer comes to town for a wife and picks Thelma Lou.

Written by Jack Elinson & Charles Stewart | Directed by Bob Sweeney

Alan Hale Jr. is the guest for this outing, which finds him eerily in Skipper mode (although more jovial — there’s no Gilligan around to get the best of him), with the “little buddy” phrase already in tow, and I at first thought my affinity for this half hour was really an affinity for Gilligan’s Island. But with a plot that puts him in conflict with Barney, over the affections of Thelma Lou, this is but another example of Two polishing its crowned jewel: the deputy.

05) Episode 48: “The Manicurist” (Aired: 01/22/62)

An attractive new manicurist puts the Mayberry men in a tizzy.

Written by Jack Elinson & Charles Stewart | Directed by Bob Sweeney

The next iconic ’60s TV star to make her way to Mayberry is Barbara Eden, guesting in this offering as a manicurist who sets up shop at Floyd’s, intimidating the men with her beauty, and riling up the women, when all their fellas start hanging around her, getting manicured for the first time. It’s an amiable premise that uses the contained, easy-to-disrupt status quo of the small town comedically. So, beyond just the pre-Jeannie Eden novelty, it utilizes Mayberry well.

06) Episode 50: “Jailbreak” (Aired: 02/05/62)

Andy and Barney have to recapture a criminal that Barney let escape.

Written by Harvey Bullock | Directed by Bob Sweeney

Allan Melvin, future Gomer Pyle cast member — who often appears on this series as a bad guy — is the star criminal in this episode, where Barney’s own ineptitude once again creates the conflict, forcing the sheriff and his deputy to go re-catch what was already caught. You’ll remember this show as the one where Barney willingly goes into the jail cell with the crook, who bamboozles him, takes his gun, and switches places with Barney. It’s classic Fife foolery.

07) Episode 52: “Barney And The Choir” (Aired: 02/19/62)

Barney joins the town choir, but proves to be an awful singer.

Written by Jack Elinson & Charles Stewart | Directed by Bob Sweeney

If there’s any installment here that could rival my chosen MVE by being honored as the year’s best, it would be “Barney And The Choir,” the first of two great stories involving Barney and the town’s singing group. While the second will put his meek warbling in competition with the surprisingly glorious vocalizations of Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors, of course), this entry establishes the easily comedic premise wherein the townspeople and Andy — again reluctant to hurt anyone’s feelings, particularly someone he loves — can’t break it to Barney that he sings terribly, so they pull the ol’ Singin’ In The Rain behind-the-curtain gag, fooling everyone, and Barney especially. With lots of laughs, this is easily one of both the season’s and the series’ funniest.

08) Episode 55: “Aunt Bee, The Warden” (Aired: 03/12/62)

Otis has to serve jail time in the Taylor house.

Written by Jack Elinson & Charles Stewart | Directed by Bob Sweeney

Another favorite, this smart offering melds Andy’s personal and professional worlds when the overcrowded jail has no room for its most permanent inhabitant, Otis the drunk, forcing the sheriff to put up the inebriated bum in his own home, with Aunt Bee looking after the prisoner as “warden.” This is a job she takes seriously, as she whips him into shape with household chores. Boasting terrific hahas, it’s a great juxtaposition of two very different characters.

09) Episode 57: “Andy And Barney In The Big City” (Aired: 03/26/62)

Andy and Barney get mixed up with a jewel thief during a trip to Raleigh.

Written by Harvey Bullock | Directed by Bob Sweeney

Taking us out of the small town and into the big city — well, relatively — this episode enjoys its change of scenery because it allows for subtle commentary on the difference between rurality and urbanity, and gives the script an excuse to focus almost entirely on Andy, Barney, and the guests — including Allan Melvin, this time playing a hotel detective whom Barney, in his overzealous quest to catch a jewel thief, mistakes for the crook. Again, it’s Don Knotts’ show. (Note: Laugh-In‘s Arte Johnson has a small role as a hotel clerk.)

10) Episode 60: “The Bookie Barber” (Aired: 04/16/62)

Floyd’s new barber may be running an illegal gambling service.

Written by Harvey Bullock & R. Allen Saffian | Directed by Bob Sweeney

Barney dresses in drag to perform a sting in this memorable outing that finds Herb Vigran operating as a bookie out of Floyd’s barbershop. This won’t be the last time Mayberry’s deputy wears women’s clothes, but the stories are different enough that we can appreciate each without choosing a favorite. After all, the running theme of this year is the elevated use of Knotts, so this would have been a difficult entry to avoid — even if it wasn’t as funny as it is.

 

Other notable episodes that merit mention include: “Deputy Otis,” the closest to the above list and the only one I really wanted to highlight, for it gives some rare depth to Mayberry’s town drunk in a likable story that isn’t as funny as the ten above, but still makes time for worthwhile humor and pathos. Of more Honorable Mention quality are the year’s best Opie show, “Opie And The Bully”; a sweet offering that builds the Andy/Barney relationship, “Barney’s Replacement”; and two outings with notable guest stars — “Three’s A Crowd,” with Sue Ann Langdon, and the heavy-handed “Andy On Trial,” with Ruta Lee and Roy Roberts. I’ll also give citation to “Crime-Free Mayberry,” for its script by Paul Henning, and “Opie’s Hobo Friend,” which features Buddy Ebsen in an unfortunately humorless premise.

 

*** The MVE Award for the Best Episode from Season Two of The Andy Griffith Show goes to…

“The Pickle Story”

 

 

Come back next week for Season Three! Stay tuned tomorrow for a new Wildcard!

4 thoughts on “The Ten Best THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW Episodes of Season Two

  1. So many of my favorites in this season. I agree that “The Pickle Story” is the best of the crop. Also love “Aunt Bee, The Warden” (my favorite Otis episode) and “The Manicurist”. The series seemed to hit it’s stride in season 2. Don Knotts was such a gem. I thought the core cast worked so well together. Thanks again for the review.

  2. Excellent list from a very good season. Also noteworthy, not necessarily for the episode itself, is the appearance of Jean Hagen in “Andy and the Woman Speeder.” This provides a nice link back to the beginning of the Thomas-Leonard empire.

    • Hi, John! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Yes, and in a story practically cribbed from the backdoor pilot, with Hagen in the Thomas role.

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