The creators of The Andy Griffith Show debated how Andy should punish Opie
To spank or not to spank? That was the question after season two.
After The Andy Griffith Show wrapped its second season, the creative minds behind Mayberry looked to shake things up. "We're going to bring in a new mayor," director Bob Sweeney told Hollywood columnist Charles Witbeck in the summer of 1962, "A boss who is younger and less intelligent."
That's not exactly how it worked out, of course. Parley Baer, later introduced in "Andy and the New Mayor," was neither younger nor noticeably less intelligent.
In that summer between seasons, things were changing but still uncertain. Beyond the mayor, the big topic of debate was Andy's personal life.
"Something has to be done about Andy's love life and his son Opie," Witbeck wrote.
"Bringing up Opie has us all talking," Sweeney admitted. "We all have our personal ideas on how it should be done. For instance, if Opie has disobeyed his father, does he get whipped?"
Producer Aaron Ruben, Sweeney and Andy Griffith himself debated the topic. The men behind the scenes deferred to their star.
"Aaron and I first must know how strongly Andy feels on the subject," Sweeney said. "Andy has to sit down with the boy, and if he feels Opie must be spanked, that is what will happen… it can be done off stage and to a limited degree."
As fans know, Andy Taylor is never seen spanking Opie. So you can surmise how that discussion went between Ruben, Sweeney and Griffith. In fact, the closest he came was in season two, in "Keeper of the Flame," when Andy tells Bee that Opie is in for a whippin' for what he did to Jubal Foster's barn.
A season later, in "Opie and the Spoiled Kid," corporal punishment is handed out on the show — to a different child. Arnold Winkler is literally taken out to the woodshed, leading Opie to apologize to his pa.
Spanking did occur on the set of The Andy Griffith Show, albeit behind the scenes. Rance Howard, who parented his precocious child star Ronny on set, dished it out. Just once. In his book Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show, author Daniel de Visé wrote, "Everyone on the Griffith set witnessed the dynamic between Rance and Ronny in its full complexity… One day, Rance surprised everyone on the set by bending the child star over his knee and administering a spanking. It happened only once."
Bear in mind, this was a hot topic of parenting and public debate at the time. "Spankings of grammar school pupils have been authorized by the Berkeley School board," a news bulletin declared on July 12, 1965, on the same newspaper page that printed Andy Griffith Show listings.
Andy and the sitcom's call to keep it out of the Taylor household scenes was a conscious decision.