Annnnd we’re back. I apologize for the nearly three month hiatus. I suppose I got caught up in focusing on football & the holidays and just kind of put this project on the backburner. If you need to catch up go to Part 4 and you’ll find links to Parts 1-3. At any rate, I ran some numbers. I was curious about the relative popularity/success of each of the first five seasons of The Andy Griffith Show, atleast thru the prism of these rankings.
*It turns out that Season 3 is the tops, with an average ranking of 67.13, including nine episodes in the Top 25 (four of those in the Top 10). The best three episodes in that season have an average ranking of 4.33, while my least favorite three episodes average a 141.33 ranking.
*The first season is next, with an average ranking of 74.06, including six Top 25 episodes (two in the Top 10). My favorite three episodes in Season 1 score an average ranking of 10.33, while the worst three average a 148 ranking.
*Third place…by a very narrow margin…goes to Season 4 with an average ranking of 74.81, including five episodes in the Top 25 (one in the Top 10). The best three episodes in that season have an average ranking of 9, while the bottom three episodes average a ranking of 150.66.
*Next is Season 2, with an average ranking of 83.13, including four Top 25 episodes (three in the Top 10). My favorite three episodes in that season average a ranking of 6, while the three least favorite episodes average out to a ranking of 153.66. Season 2 seems to be really inconsistent.
*And driving the proverbial caboose is Season 5, with an average ranking of 99.84. It only has one Top 25 episode and none in the Top 10. The best three episodes have an average ranking of 29, and the worst have an average ranking of 153.
TAGS produced about 32 episodes per season (only 31 were made in season 2, and the final three seasons…which we aren’t dealing with here…produced only 30 each year), and I discovered a couple of interesting things. First of all, two season openers rank in my Top 10, and three other episodes which were either the 2nd or 3rd episodes of their respective seasons rank in my Top 25. I guess the folks in Mayberry came back from their summer vacation on top of their game. Also, three episodes that were the 11th show of the season rank in my Top 25 (two of those in the Top 10). I have no idea what kind of significance should be assigned to that, but I find it fascinating.
50 High Noon in Mayberry (S3E17)
Andy receives a vague letter from a man who he sent to prison, saying that he’s out of jail & coming to Mayberry. As usual Barney completely overreacts, enlisting Gomer & Otis to help him guard Andy 24/7. As it turns out, the ex-con isn’t out for revenge…he actually wants to thank Andy for helping turn his life around. The triple threat combo of Barney, Gomer, & Otis is really funny.
49 Andy’s Vacation (S4E22)
Andy is stressed out and decides to take a staycation at home. Unfortunately the good people of Mayberry won’t stop pestering him, so he goes camping. But that doesn’t work either, as Barney & Gomer continually hunt Andy down seeking help with problems that arise. And then Andy meets up with & captures an escaped convict, basically rendering his vacation useless. I’ve said it before and I have to reiterate…Barney is funny, Gomer is funny, but Barney & Gomer together are comedy gold.
48 The Keeper of the Flame (S2E14)
Opie & his pals start a secret society and he is made “Keeper of the Flame”, which means he is in charge of the candle used at each meeting. When the barn the boys have been gathering in burns down Opie is accused of starting the fire. Andy is prepared to pay the farmer damages, but Barney hilariously discovers…by accidentally getting snockered…that the farmer has been making moonshine and inadvertently burned down his own barn. Interesting trivia – the actor portraying the farmer wrote the lyrics to The Fishin’ Hole, which is the title of the TAGS theme song. Yes, there are lyrics!!
47 Andy Saves Gomer (S4E23)
When Gomer falls asleep at the filling station a barrel of oily rags catches fire. Andy drops by and puts out the blaze, and Gomer blows the whole thing up into Andy saving his life. Gomer dedicates his life to repaying his debt to Andy but ends up driving the entire Taylor family crazy. Of course the sheriff is smarter than anybody else in Mayberry and eventually discovers a way to convince Gomer that they are even. This episode features the return of Floyd the Barber, who hadn’t been seen in about a year after actor Howard McNear had suffered a stroke. Keen fans can pretty easily spot the differences in the character before & after the unfortunate health crisis.
46 Crime-Free Mayberry (S2E7)
Mayberry’s sterling reputation is always a doubled-edged sword. Criminals assuming the small town is an easy score is a recurring theme over the years. In this instance Mayberry has been recognized & rewarded for having the lowest crime rate in the country. Two crooks posing as an FBI agent & a reporter show up looking to take advantage of the situation and rob the bank. There is some really funny stuff with Barney & Otis, and Andy is able to outsmart the bad guys as usual.
45 Andy and Opie’s Pal (S4E14)
When Andy befriends Opie’s pal Trey it doesn’t sit well with the younger Taylor, who becomes jealous & petulant…definitely not a good look for the cute little tyke. The sheriff then decides to use Barney to teach the boy a lesson. Episodes that focus on the father/son relationship between Andy & Opie are some of my favorites.
44 Opie and the Bully (S2E1)
Andy must decide what to do when he discovers a bully is repeatedly taking Opie’s lunch money. Opie is too embarrassed to tell him about it and Barney wants to intervene, but the sheriff believes it’d be better for Opie to handle it himself. Of course he gives the boy a nudge in the right direction by relating a story about being bullied when he was a kid. Opie eventually stands up to the bully, getting a black eye in the process, but ultimately ending the ongoing battle.
43 Aunt Bea’s Medicine Man (S3E24)
A traveling “medicine” man peddling miracle elixir grabs Aunt Bea’s attention. Of course he’s not really selling any kind of miracle…he’s getting folks snockered on hooch. Aunt Bea gooned out of her mind and singing her sweet little heart out while tickling the ivories is one of the funniest things one will ever see on TAGS. She even gets her lady friends from church smashed and Andy tosses them all in jail!! The sheriff figures out the scam pretty quickly and eventually arrests the shyster, but not before hilarity ensues.
42 The Bookie Barber (S2E28)
A stranger wanders in and entices Floyd with the idea of having a two chair barber shop. Since he’s been busier than usual lately Floyd jumps on the idea. However, we soon find out that the new barber is a bookie using Floyd’s establishment as a front for his gambling operation. Andy puts bits & pieces together and realizes what is going on, but he has to go out of town and assures Barney that they’ll take care of the problem when he gets back to Mayberry. Of course the well-intentioned but ham-fisted deputy decides to take matters into his own hands…by going into the shop incognito as a little old lady. Fortunately Andy arrives just in time to save Barney’s bacon. Barney dresses in drag multiple times over the years and it’s always hilarious.
41 Opie’s Charity (S1E8)
Andy is disappointed in Opie for giving so little to a charity drive…until he learns the reason. It turns out that the youngster is saving money to buy a needy friend a coat. In an amusing subplot Andy runs into a man everyone thinks is dead but it turns out that he just left his wife because she’s an irritating nag. Andy underestimating Opie happens multiple times thru the series, and it’s always heartwarming to see the sheriff humbled when he realizes he’s wrong. We’ve all been there, right??
40 The Sermon for Today (S4E4)
Mayberry wouldn’t seem to be a town in need of a sermon about relaxing & enjoying life, but when a visiting preacher delivers that message it turns out that it is indeed a lesson the townsfolk need to learn. An effort to put the minister’s words into effect takes a wrong turn, evolving into everyone rushing around trying to put together a band concert. Fans of the soap opera General Hospital might recognize the preacher, portrayed by actor David Lewis, who played wealthy patriarch Edward Quartermaine on GH from 1978-93.
39 If I Had a Quarter Million Dollars (S5E22)
Barney finds $250,000 from a recent bank robbery. Andy calls the FBI, who indicates that they’ll send an agent to retrieve the money. Of course Barney is Barney and he decides to launch an investigation and try to draw out the thief. So you have a potential appearance by a thief and an FBI agent coming to town, with dimwitted & overzealous Barney in the middle of the action. We know where this is headed, right??
38 Wedding Bells for Aunt Bea (S2E26)
After busybody Clara convinces Aunt Bea that Andy can’t move on with his life and get remarried until Bea finds a husband our favorite old maid reluctantly responds to the flirtations of slovenly dry cleaner Fred Goss. For some reason finding Aunt Bea & Andy spouses is an obsession in TAGS, and in this episode Andy is talking about Aunt Bea getting hitched to Mr. Goss really soon after they begin dating. Of course Aunt Bea isn’t interested in Goss at all, a fact that Andy eventually realizes. Fred Goss is a quirky minor character, the kind that really fleshes out our fond impression of Mayberry. Also worth noting is the second & last ever mention of Opie’s deceased mother, and the fact that we learn that Otis has his own key to the courthouse.
37 TV or Not TV (S5E23)
Andy gains some widespread notoriety after a magazine article about him, entitled Sheriff Without a Gun, is published. Three strangers come to town saying they are Hollywood producers interested in doing a television show based on Andy, which gets Barney all excited. Not all is as it seems though, and Andy eventually discovers that the threesome are thieves who think Mayberry’s bank is an easy target (an assumption others made during TAGS’ run). The Sheriff Without a Gun story would be the launching point for a four episode arc in Season 6 in which the Taylors visit Hollywood where a movie based on the magazine article is being made. An interesting fact: Gavin MacCleod, who would go on to fame in the 70’s & 80’s as Murray Slaughter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Captain Stubing on The Love Boat, made two TAGS appearances. The first was in this episode as one of the crooks, and the second was in one of the Hollywood episodes as the actor portraying Andy in the Sheriff Without a Gun film.
36 Opie’s Rival (S3E10)
I’ve gone on record with my opinion that county nurse Peggy McMillan, who appeared in four episodes, is one of my favorites amongst Andy’s girlfriends. Here, in what would be her final appearance, Opie becomes jealous of all the time Andy is spending with Peggy and makes efforts to torpedo the relationship. Of course deep down Opie is a good kid and ultimately tells Andy the truth. Andy doesn’t get angry but has a very empathetic conversation with the boy. I read somewhere that the powers-that-be dropped Peggy because they believed the actor and/or character was too glamorous, which would explain why the dowdy & decidedly unappealing Helen Crump eventually settled in as Andy’s permanent significant other.
35 The Beauty Contest (S1E16)
Founder’s Day is a big deal in Mayberry. The townsfolk celebrate it more during the run of the show than Christmas!! In this case Andy is tapped to judge a pageant as part of the celebration and feels pressured to make multiple people…from Mayor Pike to his own son Opie…happy by picking their particular candidate. His girlfriend…Ellie Walker…is even entered in the competition. Though Andy stresses out about the situation he eventually makes the right decision, choosing an elderly lady who did a lot of work organizing the event. Episodes like this showcase the quirky but loveable community that has made Mayberry one of the most beloved of all fictional towns.
34 Barney’s Physical (S5E2)
The state sets up new rules concerning the physical requirements to be a law enforcement officer. Barney is too short & thin, and thus believes he is about to lose his job. However, Aunt Bea decides that she can fatten him up a bit and Andy comes up with a uniquely funny way to stretch him out to the proper height. Alas, at zero hour Barney hasn’t gained enough weight…until Andy figures out a hilarious loophole. The length of Barney’s law enforcement career varies throughout the series, but in this episode he is said to have been the deputy for five years (meaning he was brand new to the job when the show began).
33 Andy Saves Barney’s Morale (S1E20)
I feel like the title of this episode could have been used about a dozen times in the first five seasons since Andy propping up Barney’s fragile ego is a recurring theme. In this instance Andy leaves the deputy in charge while he goes out of town for the day (Andy sure does take a lot of day trips). Upon returning Andy is pleased to find the streets of Mayberry even quieter than usual…until he discovers that it is because Barney has arrested practically the entire town, including Mayor Pike and Aunt Bea, for various lame reasons. After Andy dismisses every case Barney becomes a laughingstock and decides to quit (also a recurring theme), but Andy uses reverse psychology to get citizens to rally around the despondent deputy so he’ll get back on the job.
32 Opie and His Merry Men (S4E12)
While playing Robin Hood in the woods just outside of town Opie and his pals befriend a hobo and begin stealing food from their houses to feed the poor guy. As it turns out the man is a slothful con artist taking advantage of the children’s naiveté, using their innocent understanding of Robin Hood to encourage them to steal and paint Andy as a villainous sheriff. Andy has to trick the bum into revealing his deception in order to convince the boys of the truth.
31 Those Gossipin’ Men (S1E15)
When Barney cuts himself cleaning his gun Aunt Bea, Clara, & Emma Watson start gossiping and somehow the story spreads thru town that Barney got shot. Andy teases the ladies about gossip so they decide to teach him the lesson that mean are as guilty of it as women. She sneakily gets Andy to believe in & proliferate the idea that a downtrodden shoe salesmen visiting Mayberry is a talent scout for a TV show. Multiple townsfolk show up at the poor guy’s hotel room to “order shoes” and clandestinely audition. It is only as the man is leaving that Andy realizes that he really is a shoe salesman and that the joke is on him. This episode is a shining example of what makes Mayberry such a treasured place, full of peculiar characters and wholesome charm.
30 Barney and the Governor (S3E15)
While in full law & order mode Barney tickets a limo that parks in a No Parking zone. It turns out that it’s the governor’s vehicle, so Barney becomes convinced he’s about to lose his job, especially when the governor himself tells Andy & a stressed out Mayor Stoner that he’s coming to Mayberry. In reality the governor just wants to praise Barney for upholding the law, but in true TAGS fashion the blundering deputy doesn’t know that. Things are further complicated when both Barney & the mayor inadvertently become intoxicated before the governor’s visit. The uptight Mayor Stoner is a great addition, and it’s a shame he was only around during Season 3. Drunk Barney is always a fun gag. One thing I have never understood about this episode is why the governor’s chauffer (portrayed by Ron Howard’s father Rance) was driving thru Mayberry without the governor in the first place.
29 Ellie Saves a Female (S1E27)
After local tomboy Frankie Flint comes into Walker’s Drug Store and looks longingly at some cosmetics Ellie becomes hellbent & determined to give her some products for a makeover. Andy tries to talk her out of it knowing the idea won’t go over at all with her brusque father, but Ellie won’t give up even after an initial rejection by Mr. Flint. She enlists Barney’s help in covertly bringing Frankie back to town to get all dolled up. When Andy takes the young lady back home after she’s been beautified the farmer doesn’t even recognize her. Andy proceeds to use his infamous Jedi mind tricks to convince the man that it’d be more practical for his daughter to use her female charms to attract a husband. All’s well that ends well.
28 Barney and the Cave Rescue (S4E13)
Andy, Helen, Barney, & Thelma Lou go on a picnic. Barney is bummed out after being teased all over town for mistakenly trying to arrest the bank president for breaking into the bank, so he decides to sulk with Thelma Lou by his side while Andy & Helen go exploring in a nearby cave. When Andy & Helen become trapped inside the cave Barney rallies the townsfolk for a search & rescue mission. Things don’t go exactly as planned, but Andy finds a way to make Barney look like a hero anyway.
27 The Horse Trader (S1E14)
The town council assigns Andy & Barney the task of selling an old worn out Civil War cannon, but they can’t even give it away. When an antiques dealer rolls thru town Andy sees a great opportunity and…embellishes…the history of the cannon. Ellie & Barney are horrified by Andy’s dishonesty, and when Opie emulates his father’s tactics to score a pair of roller skates the sheriff sees the error of his ways. The father/son interaction is perfect as always, and both Barney & Ellie have some funny moments.
26 Gomer the House Guest (S4E6)
Gomer gets fired from Wally’s Filling Station because he likes to talk too much instead of actually working (we’ve all known people like that). The bigger issue is that he lived in a room attached to the station so now he’s homeless. Andy graciously offers to let Gomer stay at the Taylor house until he can find something more permanent, but that turns out to be a hysterical mistake. Gomer is used to living alone, which means he stays up late & does noisy chores at odd hours, and since he’s no longer at the station customers pop by late at night wanting him to diagnose what’s wrong with their vehicle. Andy, Aunt Bea, & Opie grow weary and don’t get enough sleep so they begin to turn on each other. Sheriff Taylor finally becomes fed up and decides to talk to Wally, convincing him that Gomer’s personality helps the station be successful. Wally rehires Gomer & all is well. There’s no Barney, and the continuity is a bit off since Gomer had previously been shown to know nothing about automobiles except how to pump gas, but those are minor flaws in an otherwise excellent episode.