For The Andy Griffith Show fans, it doesn’t get much worse than Deputy Warren Ferguson. Despite the character’s maligned nature, the actor behind him was a comedy tour-de-force that would make his mark on the entertainment industry in a big way.
If you’ve watched all eight seasons of The Andy Griffith Show, then you no doubt remember the startling changes that came with Season 6. The classic was presented in brilliant, full color for the first time in S6, and it shed entirely new light (literally) on quaint little Mayberry.
Most unfortunate, however, was the absence of Don Knott’s Barney Fife, who left after Season 5. His replacement? None other than Deputy Warren Ferguson…
As Andy’s new deputy and the nephew of barber Floyd, he was set to be a large part of Mayberry moving forward. Following in Don Knott’s stead was a nigh-impossible task, so the show knew they needed a very talented actor to make it so. Enter Ferguson’s performer: Jack Burns.
Right from the start of Season 6, however, Burns’ Ferguson irked longtime viewers. For starters, he wasn’t Barney Fife. To make matters worse, the show made the puzzling decision to have Burns play his own Bostonian roots up as much as possible in the “Northerner” role of Ferguson. He stuck out like the sorest of thumbs in Mayberry, and it just didn’t work out. As a result, Burns lasted only 11 episodes of The Andy Griffith Show.
‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Opened Big Doors for Jack Burns
Despite Andy Griffith being Burns’ first big television role, it was far from his introduction into showbusiness. A Second City comedy vet with multiple talk show appearances and comedy albums under his belt, the late Burns would even partner with the legendary George Carlin for one of the latter. The two would remain friends for the rest of Carlin’s life.
With such a strong background, Burns didn’t let his Andy Griffith Show failure stop him. Instead, it catapulted him into a linear career of writing for television that would sustain him for decades.
As MeTV Network details, Burns “contributed his pen” to many successful comedic staples. One that will be instantly familiar to most Andy Griffith Show fans is the venerable, rural slapstick of Hee Haw.
Oddly enough, Burns’ extensive writing for Hee Haw just shows he was more than capable of playing another Southerner for Andy. But alas, the fates were not so kind. The actor and writer did, at least, get to return to Mayberry in a better light. He did so courtesy of his recurring Hee Haw skit called “Goober’s Garage”. Within, Goober himself – George Lindsay – reprised his trademark role. Burns would appear in a handful of the sketches, too.
It’s Time to Play the Music! It’s Time to Light the Lights!
Most notably to this author (and lifelong Muppets fanatic), however, is Jack Burns credentials as the head writer and producer of the first season of The Muppet Show. The phenomenal 1976 inaugural season is entirely credited to Burns’ writing.
Even more fantastic is his co-writing of the venerable The Muppet Movie (a timeless classic) with franchise staple Jerry Juhl.