Andy Griffith didn't like watching the Andy Griffith Show's first season
While the first season was a success, the star himself couldn't stand to watch it.
When The Andy Griffith Show hit airwaves in 1960, to say it was a smash success would be an understatement. The spinoff from a Danny Thomas Show episode never dipped below seven in the Neilsen ratings during its original run. It was a home run from the very beginning.
That doesn't mean that it didn't have its share of early season woes. It isn't uncommon to hear people these days recomend a sitcom and say something like "the first season isn't great, but it gets really good after that". TV shows often need some time to figure out what works, what doesn't, and what audiences respond to.
One of the early season critics for The Andy Griffith Show was... Andy Griffith!
Griffith told the show's producer, Aaron Ruben, that he just couldn't watch himself in the early episodes of TAGS. Apparently his performance was too forced, and he couldn't stand to see it.
In early episodes, both Don Knotts and Andy Griffith played up their natural southern accents more than their natural level. Griffith had risen to fame, after all, with his comedy routine of "What It Was, Was Football". In this now-famous routine, Griffith lays on a heavy accent as a country bumpkin witnessing his first ever football game. So it makes sense that he would try to bring some of the country charm that had worked so well before.
"In a few of the early shows, Knotts attempted to give his speech a Southern flavor by occasionally saying ‘right cheer’ for ‘right here,'" said Richard Kelly in his 1981 book The Andy Griffith Show, "but he soon dropped that because it sounded fake. Andy, too, abandoned his exaggerated Southern accent for his natural speech by the end of the second year of the series."
“Andy, in the beginning, I think laid on his Southern dialect more than he really had,” Don Knotts said in an interview with The Television Academy Foundation. “But he pulled that way back as he went on. Originally, I think he was doing the character he did in No Time for Sergeants."
As the show went on, Griffith realized that the magic happened when he let Don Knotts go over-the-top and Griffith himself played the straight man. "So that’s what he did; he pulled the character way down, and just played it as a normal guy," Knotts said. "He has a natural Southern accent, anyway. He didn’t have to put any more on.”
So it turns out that what people wanted from Andy Griffith was for him just to be himself.