The Ten Best THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW Episodes of Season Eight

Welcome to a new Sitcom Tuesday! This week, we’re concluding 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, RON HOWARD as Opie Taylor, and FRANCES BAVIER as Aunt Bee.

Andy Griffith’s eighth season was always going to be the series’ last, and although the company didn’t go into the year knowing that head writer Bob Ross would eventually develop a way to continue the format without its star — in Mayberry R.F.D., which we’ll discuss a bit more tomorrow — Griffith was certainly leaving at Eight’s end. Accordingly, one can see that Andy is even more checked out this season than before, and his on-screen participation dips significantly, particularly after the year’s midpoint, as he yields more and more story time to others. This further affects the three core elements of the series’ identity — or rather, the two somewhat remaining ones, as the workplace has been shuttered since the ill-handled Warren. These have all been in realignment throughout the color era. While the trend of increased ensemble stories has accelerated, family stories have diminished, with Opie and Aunt Bee finding themselves in plots that, because of Andy’s usage, means they’re acting less like family members and more like elevated townspeople. There’s good news and bad news though. The good news is Andy is nicer than he’s been in years — his so-called “grumpy” period is over, and there are indeed a few notable episodes with appreciated warmth. The bad news is that when Andy is used less often — in the year’s back half, specifically — all remaining claims on the Taylors being a familial unit evaporate, along with the notion that there’s even a category for “family shows” under the series’ identity-supplying umbrella. And so, it’s more true than ever that Opie and Bee have become just two more Mayberrians, an ensemble that also includes Howard (the Barney replacement), Goober (the Gomer replacement), and now Emmett (the Howard replacement), three characters who’ll become the cast of Mayberry R.F.D. with its new lead Ken Berry, who joins Andy Griffith’s last four episodes along with his obnoxious “son” to take over the reins and basically supplant Andy and Opie, effectively creating an entire lineup of replacements, with Aunt Bee proving herself to be the only genuine lingering article.

This pivot has been a long time coming — we’ve seen the ensemble rise in prominence after Don Knotts left and Griffith’s role gradually reduced — so Mayberry R.F.D. seems like the natural evolution to Andy Griffith: something it’s been building towards for a while. But because everyone that’s going on to Mayberry R.F.D. from Andy Griffith is a fill-in for someone better, the bland quality of that series is forecast here in Season Eight, which is undoubtedly Andy Griffith’s weakest, as too many stories are centered around characters who are either checked out (Andy), divorced from their rich familial bonds (Opie and Bee), or pale imitations of their predecessors (well… everyone else). And, as before, the hillbilly country cookin’ that once gave Mayberry its personality has itself been diluted for something more generic, creating a dish where laughs are more situational, without a baseline of substance or flavor. For this reason, I struggled in picking ten favorable episodes to highlight, for while this classic series isn’t exactly an embarrassment to itself yet — heck, it was the most-watched show of the 1967-’68 season — it’s still gone to a place that I find just as unfortunate: mediocrity. And, okay, we’ve been on this road for half the series’ run, but Eight is the apex of its weakened state, and with three more years like it ahead, how we remember the color years of Andy Griffith, as a whole, is influenced more by its creative health in Eight than in Six and Seven. This may not be totally deserved, but there’s been a certain inevitability to the series’ trajectory, and though it found a way to remain popular until its conclusion (we’ll talk more about this tomorrow), it’d be hard to watch the series with hindsight and not brace yourself for the relative inferiority of this last collection… However, again, it’s not quite an embarrassment either, and if you’re a dedicated fan of the series, you adjust your expectations accordingly to appreciate what’s still left here to appreciate — like these ten episodes, which are what I consider to be the best of this final season.

 

01) Episode 220: “Opie’s First Love” (Aired: 09/11/67)

Opie asks a girl to a dance, only for her to cancel when she gets a better offer.

Written by Doug Tibbles | Directed by Lee Philips

As with several Opie shows from Seven, we’re in Leave It To Beaver territory, with too much of the kids and a depiction of Ron Howard’s aging character that’s too precious to fully buy. But this one boosts its value by making better use of Andy via some nice father/son scenes that restore a sweetness to their bond and increase the story’s emotional relatability. Because Andy is not around as much in Eight, we celebrate this entry more than we would normally.

02) Episode 221: “Howard, The Bowler” (Aired: 09/18/67)

Howard shocks everyone with his bowling skills.

Written by Dick Bensfield & Perry Grant | Directed by Lee Philips

My tolerance for episodes anchored by Howard Sprague is not high, especially because he’s essentially the (inferior) replacement for Barney, yet I can appreciate when he’s used well in comedic story, like in this amiable outing where the meek mama’s boy is revealed to be a hot bowler, shocking the rest of the town, including new peripheral player Emmett (Paul Hartman). Now, I think this is led too much by its plot, but because the turnaround is predicated on a foundation of character — Howard’s surprising ability — it’s recommendable.

03) Episode 223: “Andy’s Trip To Raleigh” (Aired: 10/02/67)

Andy lies about a sunburn he got in Raleigh with an attractive lady lawyer.

Written by Joseph Bonaduce | Directed by Lee Philips

Whenever Andy lies, there’s usually a good reason. However, sometimes he does it just to keep himself from a sticky situation, and while the series has to be careful not to rescind his moral superiority (or make him too much of a jester), it’s nevertheless comedically and dramatically rewarding when he’s allowed to make choices that fuel a conflict. This entry is a winner because of its bold choice to plague Andy with a bad sunburn as punishment. Whitney Blake guests.

04) Episode 224: “Opie Steps Up In Class” (Aired: 10/09/67)

Aunt Bee puts on airs for Opie’s new friend, whose family is wealthy.

Written by Joseph Bonaduce | Directed by Lee Philips

The comedic centerpiece of this offering occurs when Andy arrives home to find Aunt Bee putting on a false display of opulent wealth for Opie’s new friend, who comes from a rich family, while its essential sentiment comes from Andy’s eventual realization about our shared humanity, despite class differences. So, this isn’t a terrific half hour, but it’s got enough of everything tonally important, and it’s memorable. Joyce Van Patten appears.

05) Episode 227: “The Tape Recorder” (Aired: 10/30/67)

Opie accidentally gets a recorded confession from one of Andy’s inmates.

Written by Michael Morris & Seaman Jacobs | Directed by Lee Philips

It’s rare to find stories that deal with Andy’s job as sheriff in the series’ final two seasons, so we tend to savor outliers like this. Fortunately, this one is worth the attention, thanks to its original premise of Opie accidentally getting a recording of Andy’s jailed and suspected bank robber (Herbie Faye) confessing to the crime — a tape that Opie wants to, but can’t, admit as evidence. This is a fresh dilemma for the characters, and it’s unique as a result.

06) Episode 230: “Andy’s Investment” (Aired: 11/20/67)

Andy runs a laundromat to raise money for Opie’s college.

Written by Michael Morris & Seaman Jacobs | Directed by Lee Philips

Again proving that there’s an exception to every rule, this outing not only bucks the season’s trend by spotlighting Andy, it also depicts him with utter warmth and sincerity — qualities that, though in greater supply this year than the few previous, are really more associated with the superior black-and-white seasons, for this story, of Andy worrying about how he’s going to pay for Opie’s college, is rooted in such familial relatability that it feels like we’re in a different era. What’s more, the comedic premise, of Andy franchising a coin laundry, is rich with laughs — and character actresses like Jesslyn Fax and Maudie Prickett. MVE contender.

07) Episode 233: “Suppose Andy Gets Sick” (Aired: 12/11/67)

Goober acts as deputy sheriff when Andy is bedridden with the flu.

Written by Jack Raymond | Directed by Peter Baldwin

My choice for the year’s Most Valuable Episode (MVE), “Suppose Andy Gets Sick” is another atypical showing for Season Eight because it also goes against one of the main trends of the color era: the near-eradication of the workplace part of the series’ identity. By returning to that plentiful font of story, this script revisits a familiar notion — Andy needing a temporary replacement — and here, his decision to make the bumbling Goober deputy naturally proves to be a comic mistake. What’s novel about this excursion’s take on the idea is that Andy is sick, and Goober’s bungling leads to all the regular Mayberrians descending upon the sheriff’s bedroom. It’s classic comedy, and in restoring one of the most fruitful elements of the series and using it for plot in a way that also honors the more ensemble-geared focus of the season, this installment is the best of both worlds — the old and the new. Not supreme, but solid.

08) Episode 235: “Goober, The Executive” (Aired: 12/25/67)

Goober buys the gas station but comes to think he’s out of his depth.

Written by Michael Morris & Seaman Jacobs | Directed by Lee Philips

Although neither as amusing nor as revealing as last year’s seminal Goober showcase, “Goober Makes History,” this entry again treats him as more than a single-dimensional joke, which is how he’s usually depicted on the series. Also, there’s a nice rapport between Goober and Opie that favors both characters, and unlike some of the other Goober offerings this season (which also seek more depth for him), this one has the most ideal blend of hahas and heart.

09) Episode 240: “Barney Hosts A Summit Meeting” (Aired: 01/29/68)

Barney returns to Mayberry to host an international summit meeting.

Written by Aaron Ruben | Directed by Lee Philips

Don Knotts’ Barney’s final appearance on Andy Griffith, penned by former head writer Aaron Ruben, is a time capsule from the late ’60s, with a plot more specific to its era than most, as the idea hinges around Barney (of all people) having to arrange a summit meeting between representatives from the then-cold-warring nations. Inspired by true events, it’s a jolly commentary on the simple pleasures of small-town Mayberry life when Aunt Bee’s kitchen proves the perfect place to hash out difficult subjects and find common ground.

10) Episode 245: “The Wedding” (Aired: 03/04/68)

After his mother marries, Howard tries to turn his place into a bachelor pad.

Written by Joseph Bonaduce | Directed by Lee Philips

There’s more ’60s fun when Howard’s mom gets married and moves, leaving him with a place he tries to turn into a swinging bachelor pad… well, if only he can find girls to swing with him — a task that proves tough (for both him and Gomer). There’s a dancing bit that’s supposed to be hip and modern, but the whole thing is silly, intentionally, and I appreciate the juxtaposition of Howard’s simplicity with his performed sophistication. Teri Garr has a small role.

 

Other memorable episodes that merit mention include: four offerings centered around Bee, “Aunt Bee, The Juror,” which is funny until it devolves into its predictable Twelve Angry Men bit (also, Jack Nicholson guests), “Aunt Bee And The Lecturer,” which is laudable only for the comic climax, “Aunt Bee’s Cousin,” which I enjoy mostly for the inclusions of Jack Albertson and Ann Morgan Guilbert, and “The Mayberry Chef,” which has a ho-hum unoriginal plot but a notable teleplay by Jim Brooks (his first of two). I could also cite a less introspective Goober installment, like “Goober Goes To The Auto Show,” along with the two entries where Howard dates a future Mayberry R.F.D. regular, Arlene Golonka’s Millie, but she’s even less well-rendered here than she will be on the spin-off; stay tuned…

 

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

“Suppose Andy Gets Sick”

 

 

Come back next week for Car 54, Where Are You? And stay tuned tomorrow for a new Wildcard!

13 thoughts on “The Ten Best THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW Episodes of Season Eight

  1. Thanks again Jackson. Great picks for season 8. “The Andy Griffith Show” is one of my favorite shows of all times. Your reviews have made me appreciate the color episodes more.

    The final episode of season 8 and the series was such a let down. I wish the story had focused on Andy and his family. Sam and the Italian people just did not make sense. At least the first episode of RFD tied some loose ends up.

    I never have figured out why the show was #1 it’s final season. Maybe people figured out it was the final season? I am glad it went out on top though. The one Barney episode is a good one. Glad Don came back for one more episode.

    • Hi, Smitty! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I’m glad to know these helped make you appreciate the final seasons more — that’s always my hope for myself and others here!

      As for the Nielsens, the show’s actual rating was only 0.2 points higher at the end of ’67-’68 than in the year prior, when it was #3. The reason it finished as #1 was mostly that the two shows previously ahead (BONANZA and RED SKELTON) were counter-programmed against and fell.

  2. Looking forward to CAR 54. One of my favorites, always unfairly in the shadow of THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW but so often hilarious.

    Not surprised to see “Howard’s New Life” missing from the top 10. :-)

      • Yea I know that at the time it drew mixed reactions due to their portrayals of officers at the time. Saw a few eps and it is funny

        • Most of the criticism was less about the portrayal of cops than about the quality of the comedy, which some considered “broad” and “preposterous.” Complaining that officers were depicted as morons was a lazy way of complaining about the way characters were written. And actually, most of the reviews were positive, as was the reception — evidenced by its first season ratings.

            • Again, the criticism about cops being depicted as bumbling and over-the-top had little to do with their characters’ profession. It was a lazy way to say that the show was inferior because *it* was bumbling and over-the-top. Invoking the idea that CAR 54 might be offensive to officers was a bad faith argument by columnists who didn’t like it in the first place. Based on what they wrote, it’s probable they would have felt the same if the characters were window washers or scuba divers.

              So, don’t get too caught up on them being in the police force — it matters only that this line of work is used as a setup and setting for story (just as in PHIL SILVERS with the army); it doesn’t actually define how they’re written.

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