Andy Griffith said ''The Andy Griffith Show'' gave Don Knotts-style material to Jack Burns

Nobody could replace Barney Fife.

CBS Television Distribution

The final few seasons of The Andy Griffith Show were made more complicated by the revolving door of co-stars. Barney left Mayberry when Don Knotts pursued a movie career. Gomer Pyle was also gone, as Jim Nabors anchored his spin-off, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.

Suddenly, Sheriff Taylor was without a comedic foil. Andy worked best when he wasn't the source of the laughter. The character and the performer shined through the most when reacting to sillier characters on the show. But now, with the bullpen emptied for greener pastures, Griffith had to restructure or lose what made the show great.

So, Andy Griffith and producer Bob Ross went searching for Barney's ''replacement.'' Richard Michael Kelly's 1981 book The Andy Griffith Show includes a passage wherein Griffith tells the story of approaching Jack Burns to play Warren, the new Mayberry deputy.

"We went to San Francisco and met this very funny stand-up comedian," Griffith recalled.

"We thought his performance was fine and decided to make him Floyd's nephew on the show. So we put him on— and said we were not replacing Don— but we were replacing Don and we were giving him Don Knotts material— and it didn't work."

Anybody familiar with The Andy Griffith Show's sixth season will agree: Something was missing, with Burns' inclusion in particular feeling forced.

"I can't begin to explain how uncomfortable we were," said Griffith. "I get strung out pretty easily, and if I'm uncomfortable I'm hell to be around, and I was very uncomfortable. Just before Christmas, we decided we had to let him go and pay him off for the rest of the year. I didn't want the William Morris people to tell him then, but they told him before Christmas. I saw Jack some years later and he said he was bitter for a while, but he got over it. It wasn't Jack's fault, it was our fault."

Griffith was right to point out that Burns just wasn't right for that situation. He's a great performer, and a hilarious writer, as evidenced by his position among the scribes on The Muppet Show in the '70s. Sometimes, though, a round peg doesn't fit in a square hole, and so Warren Ferguson was written off the show.

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5 Comments

top_cat_james_1 4 days ago
"Huh?" "Yeah." "Huh?" "Yeah." "Huh?" "Yeah." "Huh?" "YEAH!"
That was with Avery Schriber [SP?}, best known for My Mother The Car! Fun fact: Jerry Van Dyke was going to replace Knotts, but he chose MMTC!
And they *did* make an attempt to do a version of the "Huh? Yeah" exchange on TAGS, but Andy didn't have the timing to pull it Avery Schreiber's part.
Burns didn't do the routine only with Schreiber--As that bit was a trademark of his, he recreated it on TAGS and several other TV series including "The Simpsons".
McGillahooala 5 days ago
Warren was not a high point in the show for sure. William Morris ripped that band aid off right before Christmas. Ouch!!! Still, might be better to know what you’re facing before you blow the wad for Christmas.
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