There aren’t many shows that have a run like The Andy Griffith Show did. One of the most iconic shows to ever air on CBS, the gang from Mayberry spanned eight seasons after debuting in 1960. Over the course of its 249 half-hour episodes, the series topped the ratings charts nearly every year, even during its final go-around in 1968. Because of this, many fans of the show, especially viewers who came across the show after its run ended, wonder why exactly the sitcom came to an end when it did.
The star of the show was the one who decided to walk away from the series. Going into the eighth season, Griffith had his sights set on moving to more roles in Hollywood. An interview with the Archive of American Television in 1998 saw him mention the prior departure of Don Knotts, who played Barney Fife in the series, as one of the reasons he wanted to move on. Knotts left after five seasons to pursue a career in the movies. His exit wasn’t because he was over the series, though, as Knotts and Griffith both signed five-year deals from the jump and after his expired, Knotts assumed the show was done and signed a deal with Universal that he couldn’t get out of. Griffith also said with the show moving from black-and-white to color, he felt the pressures of it becoming a regular sitcom were increasing. “And I was afraid I wasn’t holding up my end of it any longer,” he told the outlet. “Also, I wanted to try my wings outside.”
After his time on The Andy Griffith Show came to an end, the North Carolina-born actor found more success as Ben Matlock in the legal series, Matlock, that ran from 1986 to 1995. He also returned along with the original cast for the Andy Griffith Show reunion in 1993. A special later aired in 2003 that revisited the series’ cultural impact in The Andy Griffith Show Reunion: Back to Mayberry.
After the flagship series wrapped up, the majority of the cast wound up sticking around for a spin-off, Mayberry R.F.D. Ken Berry entered the picture as the new lead citizen of the town as some familiar characters from the original, including Emmett, Howard, Goober and Aunt Bee, all returned for the new series. Griffith stayed around as an executive producer. Mayberry R.F.D. ran for three seasons and 78 episodes on CBS. The series was canceled in 1971.