When successful television teams are talked about, the conversations should include Andy Griffith and Don Knotts. Their work on The Andy Griffith Show during Knotts’ five seasons on the CBS sitcom was amazing. Talk about timing, delivering lines, expressive faces… it all was there.
Knotts tossed in some of his “Nervous Man” ticks for Deputy Barney Fife. Griffith found his rhythm as a straight man to Knotts’ humor. Playing Sheriff Andy Taylor as someone who reacts to Fife’s outbursts worked just fine.
The show holds up six decades after it first hit network television. Living in the land of reruns keeps Mayberry and its citizens alive and well 24 hours a day. Yet The Andy Griffith Show suffered a loss when Knotts decided to make movies and left the sitcom.
While there’s a little more to it than Knotts simply leaving, Ron Howard had an interesting take. Howard, who played Opie Taylor on the show, chatted with author Daniel de Vise. De Vise wrote Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show, a thorough look at this connection.
Ron Howard Talked About Departure of Don Knotts
Howard viewed Knotts’ departure this way. He said, “It was just a decision that [Don] had to make and that Andy understood. It always kind of felt more like an inevitable graduation than any kind of abandonment and betrayal.”
Knotts’ decision meant there was no sidekick for Griffith. The show actually did bring on comedian Jack Burns to play Deputy Warren Ferguson. Longtime fans of the show did not accept Warren at all. Neither did Griffith, who let Burns go after just 11 episodes. As a quick aside, Burns had an incredible career where he worked with George Carlin and Avery Schreiber on comedy teams.
Without Knotts on board regularly, Griffith felt like he lost an oar to his boat, MeTV reports. Howard said, “I think, for Andy, the show was never the same after Don left. He didn’t have that partner. The absolute foundation of the show, and why it endures, is Andy-Barney. And yes, the feeling of what Mayberry was. But without the comedy that they generated, I don’t think the show ever would have endured.”
Comic Actor Returned To Show As a Guest
Knotts was brought back for guest-starring spots. He won an Emmy Award for one of those appearances. Knotts previously won an Emmy as a regular cast member. As for these guest appearances, Knotts played Fife and the humor was there. Still, it appeared in some cases that Knotts toned down Fife’s character a little bit.
Knotts and Griffith worked together before the sitcom. Griffith had a starring role as Will Stockdale in the stage and movie production of No Time for Sergeants. Knotts had a supporting role as Corporal John C. Brown.
Both men worked together later on as Griffith brought Knotts back in a recurring role on Matlock.
When the sitcom was honored by the TV Land Awards, Knotts and Griffith both appeared for the ceremony.
Both Knotts and Griffith have died but their work together brings millions of people laughs. Mayberry is alive and well, in good hands with Andy and Barney on duty.
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