If you ask Andy Griffith, “The Andy Griffith Show” owes a lot to classic TV legend Don Knotts, who made a key suggestion before the show aired.
Today, June 7, would’ve been Andy Griffith’s 96th birthday. Unfortunately, he passed away back in 2012. But Cowboys & Indians dug up some of Griffith’s older interviews to commemorate the beloved actor on his birthday.
At one point, Griffith revealed that Don Knotts called him after seeing “The Andy Griffith Show” pilot. Knotts and Griffith had worked together in the past on “No Time for Sergeants,” so Griffith respected Knotts’ opinion and advice. The comedic legend told his friend that the pilot was enjoyable. But it could be even funnier if Sheriff Taylor had a deputy.
Both Griffith and producer Sheldon Leonard loved the idea. So they invited Knotts himself to join the show. However, this changed the entire dynamic on “The Andy Griffith Show,” as Knotts became the funny one and Griffith became more steady. But it ended up working out well for the cast and crew, as audiences loved it.
“I was supposed to have been the comic, the funny one,” Griffith told The Los Angeles Times during a 1993 interview. But if they’d kept things like that, then ‘The Andy Griffith Show “might not have lasted even half a season that way. But when Don came on, I realized by the second episode Don should be funny, and I should play straight to him.”
The chemistry between Knotts and Griffith on screen greatly contributed to the classic TV show’s success for so many years. It even inspired Knotts’ character to come back for the 1980s made-for-TV movie.
Andy Griffith Explains Why It Didn’t Make Sense to Give Sheriff Taylor a Boss on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’
Andy Griffith and Sheldon Leonard combined their creative genius to make “The Andy Griffith Show” so successful. But even the best coworkers and creators have their disagreements.
“The only fight Sheldon and I ever had in my whole acquaintanceship with him was over a story idea,” Griffith said in an interview with the Television Academy. “He wanted to introduce a character that I knew wasn’t going to work. And it didn’t.”
The character in question was a boss or authority figure over Sheriff Taylor. Specifically, Leonard wanted it to be the mayor.
“That’s a good idea, for the lead to have a boss figure. Like Lucy’s boss figure was her husband [on I Love Lucy]. They wanted me to have a boss figure and they said they wanted to introduce a mayor as the boss figure,” Griffith continued.
“I told them before we started, that can’t work because the mayor cannot be the boss to the sheriff,” he said. “The sheriff is a county official. The mayor is just a little local town official. So it didn’t work. He stayed on for one season and just did infrequent appearances.”