The Headmaster, which celebrates its 45th anniversary today, is another obscure TV show I’ve never seen. But in this case, I doubt very much anyone has seen it since it went off the air in January 1971 (transforming into The New Andy Griffith Show). The sitcom was supposed to be Andy Griffith’s triumph return to television and CBS no doubt had very high hopes for the show, having committed to a full season.
Griffith played the headmaster small, coed private school in California. Claudette Nevins played his wife, Jerry Van Dyke the school’s football coach, and Parker Fennelly its custodian. The first episode involved a student nearly overdosing on barbiturates. Critics weren’t impressed.
The series premiered on Friday, September 18th, 1970 and was the the third highest-rated new series debut that week. But viewers tuned out in droves over the next few weeks. Although the networks thought viewers wanted “relevance” on television, apparently they didn’t when it came to Andy Griffith. So The Headmaster was retooled as The New Andy Griffith Show at mid-season, with Griffith playing a small town mayor. It didn’t catch on, either, and was dropped as part of the infamous “rural purge” at the end of the 1970-1971 season.
The only footage I’ve seen is from the 1970 CBS Fall Preview special which features absolutely no actual footage from The Headmaster. If anyone has memories of watching the show back in 1970, hit the comments. My article on The Headmaster can be found here.