The final season of The Andy Griffith Show -- season eight, to be precise -- is better than this reviewer remembers it; or, at least, three quarters of the season is. About a fifth of the season was devoted to introducing the new characters of Sam Jones (Ken Berry) and his son (Buddy Foster), who would be at the center of the successor series, Mayberry RFD, which was to begin the following season; but in a way, even though those shows are a bit flat, this was good, because it put less pressure on the writers to come up with a full 30 high-quality new shows built entirely around Andy Griffith and the other longtime cast members, and the writers were able to come up with more than 20 solid episodes, some of which went into new directions for the series. The Andy Griffith Show was not known for its topicality, but this season fairly oozes it, with episodes built around the issues of the day -- one show, Barney Hosts A Summit Meeting, was inspired by the real-life Soviet-American summit meeting in Glasboro, New Jersey in the early summer of 1967, which was also used as the vehicle for Don Knotts' annual return visit to the show as former deputy Barney Fife; another focuses on the rock 'n' roll boom of the 1960's, and has Opie (Ron Howard) joining a local band and jeopardizing his grades in the process; and another is built around the issue of secret tape-recordings and evesdropping, when Opie and his best friend, using a new recorder that they've gotten, tape a conversation between an accused bank robber (Herbie Faye) and his attorney, which puts the boys, the sheriff, and the suspect in a very difficult situation for all concerned. The other highlight is the presence of some very interesting guest stars and players -- Jack Nicholson just a year or so prior to the beginning of his emergence as a star, as an accused burglar in the episode in which Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier) serves on a jury; veteran film and stage actor Rhys Williams, whose career encompassed important roles in the films of John Ford and Leo McCarey, as the judge in the same episode; brilliant New York stage actor Michael Higgins in another episode; veteran comedic actor Jack Albertson in a serious dramatic role; and renowned Calypso singer and actor Sir Lancelot in another show. The writers also gave much more substantial acting chores to co-star George Lindsay as Goober, whose character was made ever so slightly smarter than he had been, as well as introducing Paul Hartman in the role of Emmett Clark, the successor character to Howard McNear's Floyd Lawson. The shows all look sensational -- better than any of the color episodes from the preceding two seasons. The colors are fully saturated and the detail pushes the resolution of NTSC format right to the limit, while the sound is also loud and crisp, which is especially appreciated in the rock 'n' roll episode. Each disc opens automatically to a simple, very easy-to-use menu, and each episode has five chapter breaks marking the original placement of credits, commercial breaks etc. There are no bonus materials or extras on this set. The 30 shows are spread among five single-sided platters in three separate slim cases, and if one ignores the shows intended to introduce Mayberry RFD, the package is very solid and enjoyable. Griffith might've ended the series a season earlier, as he wished to, but we might've missed some very interesting variations on the established theme of the show if he'd done that.The Andy Griffith Show may have been America's top-rated series during its eighth season on the air, but star Andy Griffith had decided that he would leave the program at season's end, and that was that. The departure of Griffith's character, Mayberry sheriff Andy Taylor, is carefully orchestrated throughout the season's episodes, beginning with Andy finally asking his longtime sweetheart Helen Crump (Aneta Corsaut) to marry him, and ending with the slow and steady buildup of Andy's potential replacement on the series: local farmer and town councilman Sam Jones, played by Ken Berry. A widower, Sam lives with his son Mike Jones, and is courting local gal Millie Hutchins (Arlene Golonka), former girlfriend of town clerk Howard Sprague (Jack Dodson). In addition to Berry and Golonka, Paul Hartman has been added to the cast as handyman Emmet Clark, Sam Jones' rival for the position of councilman. Hartman, along with most of the other supporting characters (including Frances Bavier as Aunt Bee and George Lindsey as Goober Pyle), would remain on the series after Griffith's departure and during the show's re-emergence in the fall of 1968 as the "new" sitcom Mayberry RFD. While the final Andy Griffith Show episodes are enjoyable, few are standouts. An exception is "Aunt Bee, the Juror, in which the defendant in a burglary trial is played by none other than Jack Nicholson!