|Created by||Bob Ross|
|Theme music composer||Earle Hagen|
|Opening theme||"Mayberry March"|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||78|
Richard O. Linke
|Bob Ross (1968-1970)|
Bob Mosher (1970-1971)
Charles Stewart (1970-1971)
|Running time||24 minutes|
|Distributor||Metromedia Producers Corporation|
Warner Bros. Television Distribution
|Original release||September 23, 1968 -|
September 6, 1971
|Preceded by||The Andy Griffith Show|
Mayberry R.F.D. is an American television series produced as a spin-off and direct continuation of The Andy Griffith Show. When star Andy Griffith decided to leave his series, most of the supporting characters returned for the retitled program, which ran for three seasons (78 episodes) on the CBS Television Network from 1968 to 1971.
During the final season of The Andy Griffith Show, widower farmer Sam Jones (Ken Berry) and his young son Mike (Buddy Foster) are introduced and gradually become the show's focus. Sheriff Andy Taylor takes a backseat in the storylines, establishing the new premise. The show's first episode, "Andy and Helen's Wedding", had the highest ratings in recorded television history up to that point (1968). Sheriff Taylor and newlywed wife Helen made guest appearances on Mayberry R.F.D. until late 1969 before they relocated with Opie. Mayberry R.F.D. (which stands for Rural Free Delivery) was popular throughout its entire run, but was canceled after its third season in CBS's "rural purge" of 1971.
Father and son stories involving Sam and Mike Jones are reminiscent of the episodes that starred Andy Griffith. Both characters are introduced in the last season of The Andy Griffith Show (TAGS), beginning with Sam's election as head of the town council. Most of the town folk from TAGS continued their roles. Loyal Mayberry citizens Goober Pyle (George Lindsey), Clara Edwards (Hope Summers), Emmett Clark (Paul Hartman) and Howard Sprague (Jack Dodson) are seen regularly.
Sheriff Andy Taylor and his sweetheart, Helen Crump (Aneta Corsaut), marry in the new title's first episode. Both make additional appearances (mostly Andy), then leave the series in late 1969 with a move to Charlotte, North Carolina, as the explanation. Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier) becomes Sam's housekeeper but leaves after the second season to be replaced by Sam's cousin, Alice Cooper (Alice Ghostley). Don Knotts as Barney Fife and Ronny Howard as Opie Taylor respectively, appear in the first episode. Actress Arlene Golonka (who played Howard Sprague's sweetheart Millie Hutchins/Swanson in the Griffith show) becomes Sam's love interest in the retitled seasons. A recurring character named Ralph (Charles Lampkin) lives with a teen daughter and pre-teen son next to the Jones farm. Mary Lansing appeared occasionally as Emmett's wife, Martha. As with its predecessor, Mayberry R.F.D. continued under the sponsorship of General Foods and its products.
An NBC reunion movie, Return to Mayberry, was produced in 1986 and featured many original performers from TAGS. Ken Berry, Buddy Foster and Arlene Golonka don't appear in the movie, nor do TAGS regulars Frances Bavier, Elinor Donahue, and Jack Burns. Nevertheless, Return does share continuity with the R.F.D. storyline, by maintaining that Andy and Helen are married. However, Andy and Helen's son, Andy Jr. is never mentioned.
|First aired||Last aired|
|Pilot||1||April 1, 1968||N/A||N/A|
|1||26||September 23, 1968||May 12, 1969||4||25.4|
|2||26||September 22, 1969||April 13, 1970||4||24.4|
|3||26||September 14, 1970||March 29, 1971||15||22.3|
The social upheaval that occurred during The Andy Griffith Show's 1968 season (including the Vietnam stalemate, student and street protests, the slayings of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy and racial riots) had much of the nation wistful for a more stable, idealistic America. The final episode of The Andy Griffith Show was titled "Mayberry RFD", which added an Italian-American family to the Sam Jones homestead. The series bowed out as the number one-rated show. The producers, however, chose to forgo a big overhaul and instead stuck with the winning premise of a widower, his son and the matronly Aunt Bee. Therefore, the series was much the same as The Andy Griffith Show, without Andy Taylor and son Opie.
Mayberry R.F.D. was consistently in the top ten in the Nielsen ratings the first two years of its run, but dropped to number 15 during its third and final season. That year CBS, seeking a more urban image, canceled all its rural-themed shows including Green Acres, Hee Haw and The Beverly Hillbillies in what became known as the "rural purge".