In 1968, Ken Berry faced a pretty heavy situation when he took over for Andy Griffith in the sweet town of Mayberry. Berry, though, didn’t become the sheriff of the city. Nope, he played Sam Jones, a widower and a farmer. Mayberry R.F.D. took over the spot vacated by The Andy Griffith Show, which ran for eight seasons on CBS.
By the time Berry took over the starring role, though, he had a few appearances on Griffith’s show under his belt. They did that to give viewers an introduction to Berry’s character. Talk about a heady situation! Berry was a known name to television viewers due to his role on F Troop. Still, he’s being called on to replace Griffith.
Berry talked about how he got the job on Mayberry R.F.D. in a 1968 interview with the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Entering his series, though, the actor and song-and-dance man knew he had big shoes to fill. And Berry also makes it pretty clear that fans should not expect him to be like Griffith, MeTV reports.
Ken Berry Wasn’t Sure How He Got The Job
“How did I get the job?” Berry asked in response to a question. “I’m not quite sure. If they think they’re getting another Andy Griffith, they’re going to be disappointed. I’m not anything like Andy. I won’t even have a Southern accent. But then, several of the characters in the series don’t have accents, and no one seems to notice.”
Berry’s Jones ends up being president of the City Council. Several characters, though, did hang around for Mayberry R.F.D. after appearing on Griffith’s show. They included George Lindsay (Goober), Paul Hartman (Emmett), Jack Dodson (Howard Sprague), and Frances Bavier (Aunt Bea). Arlene Golonka and Buddy Foster also starred.
“I understand that Andy will be back on the show four times next season,” Berry said. “So it will seem as though he is still holding down the same job. The audience just won’t see what he’s doing every week.
“That will help pave the way for the new series,” he said. “The only trouble is that the characters in the spin-off won’t be in the show. Originally it was planned for me to bring to Mayberry a family of Italian farmers I had met while in the service. now that we’ve done the show, I understand the family won’t be used, after all, just one Italian.”
Andy Griffith’s Replacement Show Lasts 3 Seasons
During its three-season run on CBS, Mayberry R.F.D. received good ratings and performed well. Yet the show got caught up in what became known as the “rural purge” on CBS. Shows like this one, along with Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Lassie were gone. In 1970, CBS axed Petticoat Junction, The Red Skelton Show, and The Jackie Gleason Show. These shows were either in the top 10 or top 20 pretty regularly.
However, the network chose to aim toward bringing younger people to their programs. Today, though, classic TV has a sweet place for these shows in the land of reruns. Somewhere in the world, at some time of day, someone is watching Mayberry R.F.D.
Berry, though, gained fans in another generation as he starred as Vinton in Mama’s Family along with Vicki Lawrence. In his career, he also made several guest-star appearances on variety shows. Berry even played Las Vegas before his television success kicked in. He was an opening act for Abbott and Costello in 1956 at the Sahara Hotel and Casino.
While on F Troop during a summer break, he, Larry Storch, Forrest Tucker, and James Hampton – all fellow F Troop cast members – worked in Las Vegas. They did a musical comedy sketch show together. It just so happened that while they were doing this, word came down to them that the show had been canceled. F Troop also lives in the land of reruns, letting fans see Berry work as bumbling Capt. Wilton Parmenter.
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