While Don Knotts was a beloved star to audiences throughout his career, he wasn’t always favored by network execs and producers—but he never let it get under his skin.
The late actor celebrated a highly successful Hollywood career in life. With five Primetime Emmys and roles in hits like The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, Pleasantville, Three’s Company, and The Andy Griffith Show, he proved that he was worth his weight in the industry.
But for reasons that will never make sense to us, he sometimes faced harsh criticism from his bosses. One example of that was while he was starring in the short-lived Don Knotts Show. The comedian hosted the variety hour series from 1970 to 1971. And while today’s ratings hold up, they weren’t living up to NBC’s expectations at the time. So the network told him to change up his act.
NBC began meddling with the show’s structure and started micromanaging his act. Don Knotts tried to stick to his guns, knowing his series would take off with some patience. But the network couldn’t handle the wait. So, when the producers asked him to make changes, he did in the most basic ways ever. In one case, they came down on him to act more like himself, so he stood in front of the crowd during the next filming and announced that he was being more like himself to please his critics. NBC wasn’t thrilled with the snark.
Don Knotts Admitted ‘Everyone and His Brother’ Had a Variety Show
“How do you become more like yourself?” Knotts asked during a 1970 interview with the Star Press. “We looked over the first five or six we made this summer to see what was wrong and decided we were going to a lot of trouble with sets and sketches. It was burdensome and not worth the output. Now, we’ll give the illusion of a set with a few pieces, so the show can move faster.”
“Our basic material won’t be affected,” he continued. “We found the Front Porch segment worked where I talk to a guest, and that will become a regular feature, along with my character of the loser. And I’ll be Barney Fife more often.”
In the end, The Don Knotts Show didn’t work out, but the namesake host was okay with the cancellation. While talking with the Archive of American Television, he admitted that he and NBC tried their best, but there “was tremendous competition that season for variety, because everybody and his brother had a variety show.”
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