The Ten Best THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW Episodes of Season Three

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.

Season Three is simultaneously the hardest and easiest year from which to pick favorites — hardest because almost every episode is enjoyable, and easiest because the absolute must-includes are obvious. With at least ten outright gems, this is the most for any season of Andy Griffith and it’s mainly why Three is the series’ peak. However, the reason it’s so strong is that everything important about the show is on display here: not only are the primary elements of identity used well — the family, the town, and the Barney (Don Knotts won his third Emmy this year) — every seminal character is also featured, from affable, previously established Mayberrians like Thelma Lou and Floyd (before Howard McNear’s off-screen health necessitated a year-long break), to newcomers introduced below, like Gomer, a hilarious peripheral player who aids both Three and Four’s laughs tremendously (before getting his own spin-off), and Helen Crump, Andy’s occasionally sour-faced love interest who maybe isn’t a boon to the show’s narrative or comedic prospects, but is a vital part of the Andy Griffith we remember. In fact, she debuts late in Three, after an early arc with another attempted girlfriend, Peggy (Joanna Moore), a rich elite who, like Ellie, looks poised to clash against the small-town Andy in ways that could yield meaty plot, but doesn’t… because, once again, Andy’s love interests can apparently never be too individualized, for they’re intentionally secondary. Nevertheless, there’s a completeness with Helen’s inclusion because a regular romantic partner for Andy is something the series wants to have, and after this, no other new character is as additive. That is, even in Four, which introduces Goober, the series is merely supplanting and replacing, instead of truly building out its world… Speaking of which, the year also utilizes a new mayor (Parley Baer), a recurring antagonist for Andy; he doesn’t make for the best episodes, but he does represent a season that’s stuffed with story ideas and characters — like the Darlings and Ernest T. Bass (Howard Morris), who, again, don’t make for the best episodes, but collectively symbolize a heightened rurality that the show will abandon later on as it sheds its own flavor. So, everything in Three is still adding to the show’s understanding of itself — and we have the classics to prove it. Here are my picks for the year’s finest.

 

01) Episode 64: “Mr. McBeevee” (Aired: 10/01/62)

Andy and Barney don’t believe Opie’s tales about his new friend.

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

Keeping with the tradition to focus each premiere on Opie and Andy, Three claims one of the series’ best showcases for Ron Howard — the first of several this year where the kid actor is able to convincingly provide hahas and humanity with capable sincerity, offsetting the inevitable schmaltz that accompanies his stories. “Mr. McBeevee,” in which neither Andy nor Barney believe Opie’s tales about his new friend, can’t avoid this aforementioned schmaltz, but with some fine laughs — largely from Barney — and a believable chemistry between Griffith and Howard bolstered by a sensitive teleplay that, unlike some future Andy/Opie shows, doesn’t contort either for convenience, it’s a great sample of peak era Andy Griffith.

02) Episode 69: “Barney Mends A Broken Heart” (Aired: 11/05/62)

Barney steps in to help Andy get over Peggy.

Written by Aaron Ruben | Directed by Bob Sweeney

Best known as the episode that introduces “the Fun Girls” (Joyce Jameson and Jean Carson), this is also among the season’s few entries with Andy’s rich girlfriend Peggy, whose initial conflict-providing contrast to the sheriff has given way by now to more generic situational clashes. But with Barney stepping in to save the day via an ill-informed double date with two dames from the big city, this classic by head writer Aaron Ruben packs in some boffo moments. (The scene with Josie Lloyd’s Lydia Crosswaithe is also not to be missed!)

03) Episode 70: “Lawman Barney” (Aired: 11/12/62)

Andy boosts Barney’s confidence by hyping him up to a pair of bullies.

Written by Aaron Ruben | Directed by Bob Sweeney

Barney is the focus of this well-liked outing, also scripted by Ruben, as the nervous Mr. Fife is pleasantly surprised when a pair of menacing farmers with an attitude problem cower in his presence. Of course, what he doesn’t know is that Andy has instilled a false sense of fear in them about the deputy… a fact they soon learn, forcing Barney to eventually stand up to them on his own. It’s not a riot like the others here, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better show that encapsulates the Barney character and his relationship with Andy. Allan Melvin guests.

04) Episode 74: “Convicts-At-Large” (Aired: 12/10/62)

Barney and Floyd are captured by three escaped female convicts.

Written by Jim Fritzell & Everett Greenbaum | Directed by Bob Sweeney

My choice for the season’s Most Valuable Episode (MVE), this hysterical offering is credited to Fritzell and Greenbaum, former Mister Peepers writers whose names are on many of this year’s finest because they understand the components of the series’ identity and have an ability to display it all with a sense of humor that exceeds even this peak era’s elevated baseline. Indeed, it’s the outrageous laughs that make this my pick for the season’s best — it’s the year’s funniest, and there’s stiffer competition than usual — due to both a fun premise featuring three great broads as hard up lady convicts (Reta Shaw, Jean Carson, and Jane Dulo), all stellar character actresses with superb timing, and to the excellent work of Don Knotts and Howard McNear, the latter of whom finds his Floyd paired with Barney for the first time, after several shows where he sort of fills in alongside Andy as a proxy-Barney. It’s a shame McNear’s health kept him off the show for the next year, because, while his characterization never actually forms, he’s a funny, likable presence and works well with Knotts in the same way that Nabors’ Gomer can, and thus, he’s a positive — as this season, and this show in particular, proves.

05) Episode 76: “The Bank Job” (Aired: 12/24/62)

Barney insists on proving that the Mayberry bank has poor security.

Written by Jim Fritzell & Everett Greenbaum | Directed by Bob Sweeney

Jim Nabors’ Gomer Pyle makes an inauspicious debut in this entry, in which he appears briefly as part of the crew that helps remove Barney from the vault into which he’s accidentally gotten himself locked, after the deputy’s scheme to discredit the lax bank security goes awry. Once again, Barney goes undercover in women’s clothes, giving Knotts the chance to do more physical comedy, proving just how valuable the Emmy-winning actor is to the series’ comedy.

06) Episode 78: “Barney And The Governor” (Aired: 01/07/63)

Barney fears a visit from the governor after accidentally giving him a ticket.

Written by Bill Freedman & Henry Sharp | Directed by Bob Sweeney

Another showcase for Knotts, this installment utilizes a memorable premise (not to mention support from the season’s new mayor, played by Parley Baer) as the deputy sheriff frets over a visit from the governor to whom he has just given a ticket… unaware that the politician is actually coming to commend him for a job well done. Thanks to Otis, Barney’s nerves are aided by a spiked water cooler, yielding a drunken Fife and a comedic centerpiece typical of this peak.

07) Episode 79: “Man In A Hurry” (Aired: 01/14/63)

A traveling businessman is in a hurry to fix his car and get out of town.

Written by Jim Fritzell & Everett Greenbaum | Directed by Bob Sweeney

A notable “small town” offering, this popular half hour by Fritzell and Greenbaum injects a guest star into Mayberry for a story template that I don’t usually like, especially when so much of the comedic action is driven by the outside force and not the characters about whom we care. But this is an exceptional excursion — and an exception to my rule — because it has a point to make by employing this design, contrasting the rapid pace of urbanity with the charming ease of rurality, itself embodied by all the regular townsfolk that inhabit this amiable small town. In contrasting styles and showing the value of the Mayberry way of life, the series is affirming its identity and one of the main reasons that we all like it so much. Another treasure.

08) Episode 87: “Aunt Bee’s Medicine Man” (Aired: 03/11/63)

Aunt Bee and her friends get drunk on a phony health tonic.

Written by John Whedon | Directed by Bob Sweeney

It’s Aunt Bee’s turn to get drunk as a smarmy medicine man (John Dehner) peddles a health tonic to all the gullible ladies of Mayberry, including the Taylor’s beloved matriarch. It’s an easy source of comedy — just as it was with Barney — but it’s even more unusual to see Bavier cut loose in her portrayal of Aunt Bee, which adds to the entry’s comedy and its overall enjoyment, for this is otherwise a predictable “small town” show. The laughs elevate it to a classic.

09) Episode 90: “Barney’s First Car” (Aired: 04/01/63)

Barney gets swindled by an old lady who sells him a car.

Written by Jim Fritzell & Everett Greenbaum | Directed by Bob Sweeney

Ellen Corby proves looks can be deceiving in this fun outing — another Fritzell/Greenbaum gem — where she plays an old lady with a sob story, conning Barney into paying for a lemon of a car that promptly breaks down when he goes out with Andy, Thelma Lou, Gomer, Opie, and Bee. It’s quintessential Andy Griffith, with someone trusting something too good to be true, but all the characters are used well and the script is among the funniest. Allan Melvin guests again.

10) Episode 95: “The Big House” (Aired: 05/06/63)

Barney and his temporary deputy, Gomer, are tasked with guarding two jailed criminals.

Written by Harvey Bullock | Directed by Bob Sweeney

By now, the finale for Season Three, the series is starting to realize what a goldmine it has in Nabors’ Gomer — that he’s more than just a peripheral Mayberry buffoon; like Knotts’ Barney, he can be used to propel unique comedic story and anchor it as something of a star. The beauty of this offering comes in seeing these two clowns work together and recognizing that Andy Griffith is starting to comprehend another of its best (but sadly fleeting) assets.

 

Other notable episodes that merit mention include: the very sensitive and somewhat adult “Class Reunion,” along with both the entry that claims the debut of Helen in a likable story where Andy messes up and must make things right, “Andy Discovers America,” and the year’s two shows featuring the Darlings, “The Darlings Are Coming” and “Mountain Wedding,” the last of which also introduces Ernest T. Bass. Of more Honorable Mention quality, meanwhile, are the unimaginatively premised, but Floyd-focused, “Floyd, The Gay Deceiver,” the tonally disjointed “High Noon In Mayberry,” which is best in the moments where it pairs Barney with Gomer and Otis as an inept comic trio, and two installments about animals that go for laughs, but confine too many of said laughs to their silly stories, independent of character, “The Cow Thief” and “The Loaded Goat.”

 

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

“Convicts-At-Large”

 

 

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

6 thoughts on “The Ten Best THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW Episodes of Season Three

  1. I caught “Convicts at Large ” recently and it is truly hilarious. It deserves ti be MVE!
    I guess Joanna Moore’s Peggy was doomed from the start but four episodes wasn’t much of a chance!

    • Hi, John! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Moore might not have gotten a chance, but four episodes was enough to prove that the writers weren’t going to use her any better than they used Ellie!

  2. Another golden season. Barney getting drunk was hilarious. The same for Aunt Bee. The addition of Gomer was perfect. I do think Andy Griffith and Ron Howard had a wonderful father son chemistry. Thanks for the reviews. Can’t wait for “The Beverly Hillbillies”.

  3. Lowkey I’m not the biggest Helen fan but I loved her scene in “Andy Discovers America” where she confronts him. This is the season where they definitely exceled with the Andy and Opie relationship. I recently saw an interview with Ron Howard where he said that the earlier wps with him and Andy they had Opie being lime every other kid on TV that time and pretty much I think his father wanted Andy to based the relationship on them and stuff.

    • Hi, Track! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I think the Andy/Opie relationship was always well-handled (generally) but this is the first season where Ron Howard, specifically, proved himself capable of handling more substantive material, making their episodes better than the prior efforts.

      As for “Andy Discovers America,” the entry once again establishes a clash between Andy and his potential love interest (just like with Peggy and Ellie before her)… and then never again uses her so oppositionally. It’s a shame.

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