Q: Why do reruns of “The Andy Griffith Show” often keep going back to the first season after the episode with Jerry Van Dyke? There are so many episodes and story lines after that, and in color, but they start over instead.
Answer: You partially answered your own question. The black and white episodes are the most popular, and they are the episodes with Don Knotts as Barney Fife. A few episodes after he left, Jerry Van Dyke guest starred as a new deputy in a single episode, “Banjo Playing Deputy,” which was the last episode of the fifth season and the last episode in black and white.
When the show came back in the fall for its sixth season, it was in color. Knotts returned for only a few guest appearances in the color episodes.
“Stations have historically recognized that the first five seasons ... are the most popular and considered, as a grouping, better than the final three seasons, which happen to be the color seasons,” said Jim Clark, the ‘presiding goober emeritus’ of The Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club.
Syndicators often include the color episodes in syndication packages, he said, and some stations relegate those episodes to weekend or summertime slots. “Some stations have even gone so far as to turn off the color when showing the color episodes — hoping fans wouldn’t notice,” Clark said. “Then again, I’ve also known fans who adjust their TV sets to turn off the color, so maybe the stations are just trying to give fans what they want.”
After airing season five, broadcasters often return to the first season. Locally, the show is available over the air on WFMY CBS-2 and MeTV, as well as on several cable channels.
“At WFMY, we do air both the black and white and the color episodes,” said president and general manager Larry Audas. “We use a variety of means for deciding which episode to air,” he said. “The black and whites tend to be quite a bit more popular than the color episodes.”
But WFMY does sometimes show the color episodes, he added. “You can see any and all of them at some point.”
WFMY airs episodes at 4:30 p.m. weekdays, and occasionally uses random episodes on weekends as needed.
“The Andy Griffith Show” also airs on MeTV, WXII’s secondary channel devoted to nostalgic TV shows, which is available over the air or on Spectrum Cable, at 8 and 8:30 p.m. weekdays.
At 8:30 p.m. Thursday, MeTV will air Van Dyke’s episode, “Banjo Playing Deputy,” and then it will roll back around to the first episode of the series, “The New Housekeeper,” at 8 p.m. Friday.
On cable, TV Land is currently airing season one episodes and Sundance is airing season four episodes. The sixth through eighth seasons are in color.
When season six started, Jack Burns was brought in as Deputy Warren, a character that proved unpopular with viewers and soon vanished. There are conflicting stories as to whether Van Dyke had been offered a permanent role after “Banjo Playing Deputy” or was just a guest star in the one episode, Clark said.
Incidentally, “Banjo Playing Deputy” is noteworthy as an episode that makes specific reference to locations in Mount Airy, in that case Haymore and Rockford streets, which in real life was the intersection near Griffith’s childhood home.