On this day in 1968, “Mayberry R.F.D.” premiered on CBS. This spinoff to “The Andy Griffith Show” remains one of the more successful in television history.
The first show started with the wedding of Andy and Helen (Aneta Corseaut), with Barney (Don Knotts) serving as the bumbling best man in one of the series’ funniest moments. From there, Andy and Helen moved to Raleigh and the series focused on town council chair Sam Jones (Ken Berry) and his son Mike (Buddy Foster), with regulars Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier), Goober Pyle (George Lindsey) and Howard Sprague (Jack Dodson) remaining.
“Mayberry R.F.D.” finished number four in the Nielsen ratings in each of its first two seasons. In the third season, Bavier left the show and it finished number 15, enough for renewal for a fourth season. However, CBS decided to pursue a more urban image and cancelled all of its rural-themed shows, including “Mayberry, R.F.D,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Green Acres” and “Hee Haw.” The decision was questionable and few other shows have ever been cancelled with ratings that high.
NOTE: R.F.D. stands for Rural Free Delivery, which describes the postal service’s early efforts to deliver mail to rural areas.