Old School Americana & Nostalgia


‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Howard McNear’s Floyd the Barber Changed Andy Taylor

‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Howard McNear’s Floyd the Barber Changed Andy Taylor

Andy Griffith bumped into a crisis on his CBS sitcom and he needed to make some adjustments on the show ASAP. Griffith, who played Sheriff Andy Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show, was bothered by something. He tried looking at “dailies” to see if there was something in them to fix.

Nothing showed up to him. One thing that helped Griffith was adding new characters. For instance, Howard McNear came on board as Floyd the Barber. He’ll help Griffith out, but it was quite obvious that Griffith was upset.

What did Griffith see that so disturbed him? Well, he finally could see it as plain as day. Griffith was playing a comedian off other comic actors. Among them were Don Knotts, who played Deputy Barney Fife, and Hal Smith, who played town drunk Otis Campbell. Griffith did not do this out of malice. Yet he knew what he was doing didn’t help the show at all.

Now that he’s had this realization, what did Griffith do? Let’s turn to producer and director Aaron Ruben, who played an integral role in coming up with Mayberry’s “look.” He talks about Griffith changing Taylor a little bit to get his show running better.

Director For ‘Andy Griffith Show’ Saw Changes Made

“He was being that marvelously funny character from No Time for Sergeants, Will Stockdale— not quite that broad because he was still sheriff, but in that direction,” Ruben said, talking more at length about Griffith’s changes, MeTV reports. Ruben spoke with Richard Michael Kelly in advance of Kelly’s 1981 book, The Andy Griffith Show. “One day he said, ‘My God, I just realized that I’m the straight man. I’m playing straight to all these kooks around me,’” Ruben said. “And he told me once, ‘You know, I find it hard to look at the first year’s show on reruns.’ He didn’t like himself— and he was right, and in the next season he changed, becoming this Lincolnesque character.”

If you take a close look at those first-season shows, Griffith is leaning in heavily on playing Andy like a country bumpkin. This is noticeable in Andy’s voice inflections and interactions. Over time, Griffith felt more comfortable in playing Sheriff Taylor. He also let go of some possible jitters flying around inside him. Griffith had made a few television appearances before his TV show, including a not-so-memorable one on The Ed Sullivan Show. On his TV show, he was riffing on his stand-up routine that used a rural country-type of voice in Season 1.

Yet choosing to follow his instincts and make changes to Taylor’s speech and pacing paid off. He started feeling more comfortable and these adjustments helped the sitcom stay on for eight seasons. It took new characters coming on The Andy Griffith Show to change his attitude toward Taylor.

Bringing On McNear Was An Added Plus

Getting back to Kelly’s book, Andy talked about how those new characters woke him up toward playing the Mayberry sheriff. “Now in the ninth show we put in a barber, and the old gentleman was just scared to death— he couldn’t remember his lines and he wasn’t funny,” Griffith said. “So we reshot all of his scenes later with another man named Howard McNear, who played Floyd the barber. He was the second character we added. Over the years we added various other characters as we needed them, and our show became what it was— what it didn’t start out to be, but became what it was.”

McNear was quite dear to Griffith’s heart. While in the middle of his run on the show, McNear suffered a debilitating stroke. He took time off to get some physical therapy done. McNear had to learn how to walk again. But Griffith wanted him back on the show. McNear may have put up a fight, but went back to a very welcome set of actors and production people.

It’s evident, though, that McNear was changed by the stroke. More shots of McNear sitting in a chair or standing next to a table were done. He did his lines quite well, but the differenece between pre- and post-stroke actor was noticeable. McNear died in 1969, just after the Griffith show closed shop on its time on network TV.