Andy Griffith and Don Knotts staged the same martial arts battle nearly 30 years apart
The duo fought to keep this classic TV memory alive.
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A favorite scene from The Andy Griffith Show arrives in the first-season episode "Andy, the Marriage Counselor." In it, Sheriff Andy walks into the jailhouse to find Barney, you know, just practicin' his judo.
Although Barney is clearly enthusiastic — excited, he says — for his judo class later, Andy cautions his deputy that he might not want to fool around with judo.
"Are you kidding, Andy?" Barney asks. "This is the greatest self-defense in the world!"
Then, to prove it to Andy, Barney decides to stage a demonstration. He hands Andy a wooden ruler and tells Andy to pretend that it's a knife and to charge at Barney with it.
"Get a running start at me," Barney instructs.
Andy nervously laughs, "Well, what if I run you through?"
But Barney's confident Andy won't hurt him. He gives Andy "the signal" to charge, but then chickens out, holding his hand up to halt Andy's "attack."
He then consults his judo book, and the demonstration continues, first in slow-motion, and then again faster. Each time it's clear that Barn is not yet well-schooled in this particular martial art, but that's not the point.
Watching Andy and Barney gingerly grapple is classic-TV gold, and a perfect example of Andy Griffith, straining both to participate in the demonstration as Sheriff Andy to appease Barney, while also showing enough restraint not to hurt his deputy, playing the straight man so well.
That episode of The Andy Griffith Show first aired in February 1961. Then, nearly 30 years later, in December 1990, fans of Knotts and Griffith were treated to a reprisal of this classic scene.
This happens in the Matlock episode fittingly called "The Fighter." In it, Griffith's Ben Matlock is trying to help a boxer who's been falsely accused of murder.
On Matlock, Knotts played Matlock's friendly neighbor Les Calhoun for three seasons.
He was known for being a meddling sort of guy, and in the scene where The Andy Griffith Show scene is restaged, Les Calhoun comes in just as Ben is trying to hash out who the real killer might be.
To set up the fight, Les reminds Ben about the other night when he was giving Ben boxing pointers. It immediately becomes clear that during this "lesson," Ben accidentally hurt Les, and Les clarifies that he hasn't come for an apology, but for a chance to prove he knows how to defend himself.
This time, instead of knowing judo, Knotts' character claims to be a "gray belt" in karate — because he's a senior citizen. He decides that Ben should help him stage a demonstration, so Les tells Ben to pick up a ruler. This is where the famous fight gets restaged.
Once again, we see Knotts tell Griffith to pretend the ruler is a knife and charge him, first in slow-motion, and then again fast.
Once again, we watch them slowly, gently grapple, until Knotts ends up on the floor with Griffith showing great restraint not to accidentally hurt his longtime buddy.
Shot for shot, it's nearly identical to the fight scene from The Andy Griffith Show, three decades later. You can watch them both above.