How Andy Griffith & Don Knotts Recreated ‘Andy Griffith Show’ Fight on ‘Matlock’

by Lauren Boisvert

There are plenty of “Andy Griffith Show” callbacks in “Matlock,” but there’s one that’s particularly hilarious. In the original scene on the “Andy Griffith Show” episode, titled “Andy, the Marriage Counselor,” Andy and Barney stage a knife fight so that Barney can show off what he’s learned in his judo class.

Barney gives Andy a wooden ruler to act like a knife, and then they practice the fight in slow motion. Andy comes at him with the ruler, and Barney blocks the blow, then does through the motions of disarming Andy. When the practice is over, they gear up for the real thing.

Andy comes at Barney, Barney grabs his arm to block him, but instead of disarming Andy, Barney gets bent backwards across the desk as Andy “stabs” him with the ruler. Barney’s been bested. Throughout the entire fight, Andy is cautious, not looking to actually hurt his deputy.

30 years later, Andy Griffith and Don Knotts recreated the fight on “Matlock.” The episode is titled “The Fighter,” where Ben Matlock is trying to clear a boxer who’s been wrongfully accused of murder. Knotts played Matlock’s neighbor Les Calhoun, and Les comes to Matlock’s office looking to show Matlock that he can defend himself. Apparently, Les is a “gray belt” in karate. It’s a joke on the fact that he’s an old man, but some schools use a gray belt to symbolize that a student is a black belt in training.

Andy Griffith and Don Knotts’ Fake Fight on ‘Matlock’

It seems like Les was giving Matlock boxing tips the day before, and Matlock accidentally injured Les. But Les wasn’t there for an apology. He wanted Matlock to know that he could take care of himself in a fight. Cue the “Andy Griffith Show” memories.

Les handed Matlock a wooden ruler to use as a knife. They go through the fight in slow motion first, just like in the “Andy Griffith Show” episode. Then, Les tells Matlock to run at him. Matlock comes after Les with the ruler; Les blocks the blow, but then the same thing happens: Matlock overpowers Les, and gingerly lowers him to the floor, pretending to stab him with the ruler.

Watching two old men fight in slow motion has a certain humor to it. “Matlock” capitalized on that when it decided to recreate the scene. The “Andy Griffith Show” knew it would be hilarious when the writers created the scene in the first place, and they were right. Poor Barney getting overpowered in a fake fight twice in 30 years. In both instances, Andy Griffith’s character tries not to hurt Don Knotts. Clearly, it’s good to have a friend around who won’t actually hurt you in a fake knife fight.