Only three shows went out on the top of the ratings, and The Andy Griffith Show is one of them
The final season of the show resulted in the highest Nielsen ranking possible.
Regarded as one of the best and most successful shows of its time, during its eight season run from 1960 to 1968, The Andy Griffith Show never had a weak season.
The ability to create a welcoming environment, all while portraying an ideal American small town was a formula for success, part of the reason the show has remained in syndication decades after the final episode hit the air. The show made headlines in 2016 as the 60th most-watched TV series of the year, some 48 years after it ended!
The show was nominated for an Emmy in 1962 for the Outstanding Program Achievement in the field of Humor category. By this time, Don Knotts had won his second of five Emmys for his role as Barney Fife, the deputy sheriff of fictional Mayberry, North Carolina.
Knotts’ character played a pivotal role to the show’s success. He told Archive of American Television in 1999 the simple irony of the character is what drew viewers in.
“He was a child-like character who thought he was a good cop. Thought he was the best cop in the world I guess,” Knotts said, though he jokingly admitted the character was “apparently not too effective.”
Though so many gravitated toward Barney Fife the character, Don Knotts the actor went in search of other opportunities after the fifth season, when his contract was up. Though it was a risky move, Knotts certainly remained relevant throughout his career.
Questions surfaced on how relevant the show would remain after Knotts’ departure, but viewership never wavered.
“The lowest The Andy Griffith Show ever ranked in the Nielsen ratings was seventh,” according to an article from Cheatsheet.com.
During its run, the show never fell out of the top ten in ratings, an impressive feat given one of the pillars from the series, Knotts, had left with what turned out to be three seasons left.
What might surprise some viewers is ratings not only didn’t fall during the final stretch, but they rose to peak levels by the end of the series.
“When the show ended in 1968, it ranked No. 1 according to the Nielsen ratings,” the article states.
Only two other shows have had a top-rank during its final season: I Love Lucy and Seinfeld, both also considered some of the best sitcoms in history, based on fans and backed up by the numbers.
It’s no secret the show came to an end, despite the highest possible ranking, because Griffith was ready for different opportunities. Any show that runs for eight seasons would typically be deemed a success. In TAGS’ case, it was much more than a show that just skated by in the ratings to generate another season.
In fact, it was the opposite, begging the question: had Griffith not wanted to go another route, how much longer could The Andy Griffith Show have gone with the same good reception still held by millions of viewers today?
Most fans probably agree the show ended at the right time, perhaps before the series lost what made it great to begin with, as seen with other programs that ran for several seasons. But, based on the numbers from the final season, we’d like to think Mayberry could have seen much more action with plenty of success.