Although the series and both of its spin-off's aired on CBS, Return to Mayberry aired on NBC and had huge ratings putting in solidly in the top ten for TV movies of all time. The next season Andy Griffith would make his debut as Matlock on NBC and many think this movie helped revive has acting career.
Frances Bavier, who originally played Aunt Bee in the series, was ailing and homebound when this movie was made. She considered recording a brief audio segment but decided against it. Another actress does that part, which is heard as Andy lays a flower on Aunt Bee's grave
Although Elinor Donahue (Ellie Walker) and Jack Burns (Warren Furgeson) were alive and still acting at the time this film was made, neither character was included. None of the Mayberry RFD characters Ken Berry (Sam Jones), Buddy Foster (Mike Jones), and Arlene Golonka (Millie) were included. Other notable absences were Hope Summers (Clara), Howard McNear (Floyd), and Paul Hartman (Emmett) - all were deceased by 1986.
Ken Berry was set to reprise his role as Sam Jones but could not due to his commitment to Mama's Family which was on at the time.
Andy and Helen's son, Andy Taylor Jr. (christened during an episode of "Mayberry RFD"), is curiously absent in this film and never mentioned. He would have been around 17 years old at this time. Andy Jr. might be off to college or the writers forgot that he existed since this seems to happen to siblings of characters in Ron Howard shows (Chuck Cunningham of Happy Days being the other victim.)
Apparently Gomer and his long time sweetheart LuAnn Poovey went their separate ways, as Gomer is unattached in this TV movie.
In season six's "The Return of Barney Fife," Thelma Lou is married to another man. Apparently this marriage didn't work out and only lasted 18 months. Thelma Lou never explains further. Of course this was to the delight of fans who were never happy about the way things turned out for Barney and Thelma Lou.
Otis Campbell (Hal Smith) makes a brief appearance as Mayberry's long since sober ice cream man.
Hal Smith's lovable drunk would appear on screen one more time - in 1991 he played Otis for the final time in Alan Jackson's video "Don't Rock the Jukebox." Hal Smith passed away three years later.
By 1986 the original outdoor set from "The Andy Griffith Show" (1960) had been destroyed, so the Mayberry town square had to be re-created in a small town in California. This results in the road that originally came to an end in front of the courthouse now going straight on by, being much wider, and a flagpole being in the middle of the street.
Frances Bavier, who originally played Aunt Bee in the series, was ailing and homebound when this movie was made. She considered recording a brief audio segment but decided against it. Another actress does that part, which is heard as Andy lays a flower on Aunt Bee's grave.
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