“The public is what creates the problem”
Legendary actor Andy Griffith wasn’t just the star of his eponymous TV comedy; he had good control over what happened in front of and behind the camera.
For Griffith, the quality and performance of the sitcom depended on it remaining a single-camera production, a condition he insisted on throughout the show’s eight seasons.
‘The Andy Griffith Show’ shot its pilot episode with 3 cameras in front of a live audience
While the classic comedy series may have been a single-camera show, its pilot, which appeared on The Danny Thomas Show, was not. It was so well received that Griffith was offered his own show on CBS to premiere in the fall of 1960.
It was on Thomas’ show that Griffith witnessed a multi-camera setup working, and he didn’t like what he saw. Specifically, he disliked the stress he felt with the process.
He spoke with the Thomas showdirector of (and Andy Griffith show creator) Sheldon Leonard about it, as he explained to the Television Academy Foundation (TAF).
“I asked [Leonard] if I could talk to him at the end of the day,” Griffith recalled of the chaotic setting of Thomas’ show. “And I said, ‘If that’s what television is, I don’t think I can handle it.
“And he said, ‘Andy, the star dictates what the attitude will be on set.’ He said: ‘Danny likes to shout, so we all shout. If you don’t want to shout, nobody will shout. That was how it was.
The only 3-camera show Andy Griffith deemed successful
The Andy Griffith Show Book author Richard Kelly quoted Griffith on the importance of camera setup in the show.
“Three cameramen on a half-hour show…shoot it like you’re doing a play — twice, a dress rehearsal, then a broadcast,” Griffith told the author. “And then if the dress rehearsal doesn’t go well, they fix it with more jokes. I hate that.”
the Matlock star praised a television comedy for its work despite its multi-camera format.
“Most of the stuff you see on air today is three-camera,” he continued. “It’s recorded but it’s three cameras. … With that, you have to have jokes once in a while, every few minutes. Marie Tyler Moore could have made it somehow and make beautiful character comedies. Most of these three-camera shows have no character comedy at all. … The audience is what creates the problem. You have to entertain this small handful of people.
“When you’re shooting with one camera, you don’t have an audience, so you have character comedy. I prefer that.”
Griffith’s dedication to character development has resulted in excellent television that has remained relevant for generations of viewers.
The Andy Griffith Show may have ended its run on CBS in 1968, but it’s still popular more than 60 years after its debut. That’s partly thanks to his rich characters that the actor, who died in 2012, said the one-camera approach allowed them to focus on.
“We didn’t need an audience. I hate these three-camera shows with an audience,” Griffith admitted in his chat with TAF. “You can work on values all week, and the minute you bring in two hundred people, all of your values go out the window.
“With one camera, you don’t have to do that,” Griffith told PBS. “We don’t have an audience. So Don [Knotts] and I could do these quiet little scenes or me and Ronny or me and Aunt Bee or Floyd the barber, any of us, we could do these long, small, beautiful scenes without having to make a joke. Some of them had no jokes at all, others did.
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