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'The Andy Griffith Show' DVDs Lack Nostalgic Extras
July 3, 2012  | By Diane Werts  | 1 comment

Now that Andy Griffith has passed away, a great way to honor this television superstar of half-century standing is to pop a disc into the player and watch the show that made him a TV icon.

DVD must be a wonderfully personal place to revisit his landmark CBS hit The Andy Griffith Show — savoring all the cast and crew interviews, the jocular commentaries, the nostalgic making-of featurettes, the home movies, the … the …

…the vast sea of nothingness that supplements the episodes themselves on all 8 season sets of Andy Griffith on DVD.

Yes, that's right. When it comes to bonus features, what we get is: zippo, zero, zilch.

CBS/Paramount — which owns the rights to the 1960-68 series, and which distributes the show on DVD — actually seemed to try to avoid providing the plethora of extras that could have been possible when this all-time classic first hit official DVD release in 2004. (Earlier DVDs were unauthorized public-domain cheapies.)

Acclaimed series stars Andy Griffith and Don Knotts were still alive when Paramount prepared the season sets released from November 2004 to December 2006. (Knotts died in February 2006.) That made The Andy Griffith Show one of the first classic series released in its entirety, and in pretty short order, too, at a time studios were dribbling out season releases maybe two-per-year.

For comparison, CBS took nearly twice as long releasing the seven I Love Lucy season sets, from September 2003 to March 2007. And the Lucy sets were filled with loving extras, from original openings and commercials, to deleted footage and "flubs," to radio shows and home movies. DVD producers added text production notes on all episodes, and recorded new cast and crew commentaries with guest stars and series writers, making up for the absence of the show's four principal stars, all long deceased.

on the other hand, got nada. (OK, to be fair, the Andy Griffith Season 2 set did contain a couple of from-the-vaults original cast commercials. Nada plus un muy poquito, no mas.) And that's even more of a crime, now that so many of those Andy insiders involved in TV's arguably most enduring classic — does Andy air any less than I Love Lucy? — have since passed on.

It's a crime with which I actually got the chance to charge a Paramount executive years ago, when we met for a casual lunch during the TV critics' fall-preview press tour in Hollywood. Why not treat The Andy Griffith Show with the respect it's due, I wondered? Only to be told in no uncertain terms, and with a not very nice attitude, that it "cost too much" to produce extras for a no-longer-airing series, especially if the stars involved wanted to be paid for their time and trouble.

And it's no wonder so many folks from vintage shows might want a little remuneration. Shows before the 1980s were mostly made without residuals provisions in their cast contracts. That means stars like Knotts were due nothing as the episodes continued to run on TV for years, and years, and years, as well as being further sold on VHS, DVD and other physical media, along with on-demand streams, mobile viewings and other developing formats.

The studio has been making money continuously for decades off The Andy Griffith Show, I countered. Why couldn't some of it go to the people who created the property's appeal in the first place? Wouldn't it benefit Paramount down the line to have created an archive of inside-scoop on the show, which would not only exhibit respect for the work but possibly be commercially exploitable in myriad ways?

Not interested. That was their subject-closed response.

Most other studios/distributors feel the same way. It's a lot of trouble to round up extras, and it costs money, and is it going to increase our profit, no, so what do we care? Let's move on to something cheaper/easier/faster to release, with a better chance of turning a quick buck. Unless a show falls under some control of somebody who bothers — I Love Lucy producer's son and DVD producer Gregg Oppenheimer wanted those extras on there — it's just a piece of product to be packaged cost-effectively, and that's all.

This is why so many shows now end up being sublicensed to specialized smaller distributors like Shout Factory, where people do care, and are pop-culture junkies, and will go the extra mile to honor classic shows. Look at Shout's superb box for the acclaimed '80s sitcom Barney Miller, after Sony abandoned the series three seasons in. Shout collected new interviews with cast members, an earlier pilot with different actors, and other goodies, paying fine tribute to one of the tube's cleverest comedies. Kudos to them — even if does mean fans who bought the first three seasons of Barney Miller from Sony now have to "double dip" for Shout's full-series box. Better than the same studio trying the trick, and after eight season sets, too.

That's what happened when CBS/Paramount released The Andy Griffith Show: The Complete Series in 2007. Fans who'd already bought eight season sets had to buy them all again in the complete box, just to get the "bonus" disc containing the Danny Thomas Show episode with Griffith that served as a backdoor pilot, plus the 1986 reunion TV movie Return to Mayberry. And they only had to pay $170 list price (or $100-ish on Amazon) to get 'em!

Sure, sure, you can always sell your old single-seasons on eBay, and DVD collectors know this kind of thing is likely to happen. But that doesn't make anybody very much happier about it.

Some solace could be had in 2010, when CBS/Paramount finally released the bonus disc material in a somewhat cheaper set, The Andy Griffith Show 50th Anniversary: Best of Mayberry, its three discs also holding 17 favorite episodes. Still, those inside-story bonus features we really want remain unavailable on DVD, because they were never created.

The best we can do is buy the bare-bones episodes, in either The Andy Griffith Show complete-series box, The Andy Griffith season sets, or the best-and-bonus set The Best of Mayberry. Then we can round up our own should-have-been extras online.

Here's a key excerpt from the in-depth interview with star Andy Griffith done for the invaluable Archive of American Television collection of oral history, administered by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences:

Here's a look at Griffith's early years, in three minutes excerpted from his Biography hour (entirety airs on Bio channel July 6 at 9 a.m. ET and the next morning at 4 a.m. ET):

Don Knotts discusses shooting outdoors on The Andy Griffith Show and working with the ensemble cast, also from the Archive:

Ron Howard recalls how as a child actor named Ronny he came to be cast as Griffith's son on The Andy Griffith Showand how their relationship developed on and off screen, also from the Archive:

Key writer Everett Greenbaum, who died in 1999, also talked to the Archive about working on Andy Griffith:

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Very Good TV Show I still watch it ever chance I get and I miss Andy so much I would have loved to have met Him
east in peace
Oct 20, 2012   |  Reply
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