Don Knotts landed on The Andy Griffith Show thanks to a friendly card game

A friendly card game turned into an idea that eventually gave Don Knotts his career-defining role.

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Fans of the The Andy Griffith Show know that the first episode of season one titled "The New Housekeeper" wasn't actually the pilot episode for the series.

The pilot was via The Danny Thomas Show, known prior to a network switch as Make Room for Daddy.

In season seven, a new episode called "Danny Meets Andy Griffith" was airing on a Monday night. In this pilot, several actors we would come to know and love on TAGS were different, as were the police cars and the station layout.

Plus, Deputy Sheriff Barney Fife was nowhere to be found.

That's because his character hadn't been created yet. Don Knotts, Mayberry's eventual deputy sherrif, wasn't originally cast in the show at all. The only reason he landed on The Andy Griffith Show is because he just so happened to see the pilot episode.

When "Danny Meets Andy Griffith" aired, Knotts and his friend, stage actor Pat Harrington Jr., happened to be playing a friendly card game together.

"We were playing bridge with them one night and he said, 'I want to stop and watch The Danny Thomas Show' because they were thinking about using Pat on the show," Knotts said in an Archive of American Television interview from 1999. 

"It turned out they were doing a pilot of The Andy Griffith Show that night. I didn't even know it, Andy was still back in New York, so I hadn't seen him in a long time. So when I saw this sheriff in a small town I said, 'he could use a deputy.'" 

The Andy Griffith Show wasn't the first time Knotts and Griffith had worked together. The two co-starred in the 1958 film No Time for Sergeants. Though Griffith and Knotts hadn't spoke to one another for some time, it didn't stop Knotts from picking up the phone and taking his best swing.

"So I called him in New York and he said 'that's a hell of an idea,'" Knotts added.

Griffith put Knotts in touch with highly-acclaimed creator and executive producer Sheldon Leonard, who had plenty of appearances throughout classic television to pair with his behind the scenes success.

"I went in and talked to Sheldon [and] we kicked it around for a while. I waited several weeks and finally got the call to come in and do the show."

And just like that, Barney Fife was born. Knotts admits he didn't know what the character would be from the start, but got a pretty good idea once scripts were in hand.

"I didn't create the character in the beginning," Knotts said. "The writers wrote him in, but like all running parts in TV, each week you'd add something then they'd add something and the character just built as we went."

To think, what if Mr. Harrington hadn't wanted to end the game of bridge early and turn on the television? Knotts may have never seen the back-door pilot to The Andy Griffith Show and fans may have never gotten the chance to know the clumsy, dedicated deputy sheriff of Mayberry.

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HerbF 19 months ago
Pat Harrington Jr. was a member of THE STEVE ALLEN SHOW cast of regulars with Don. At this point, Steve had already planned to end the show - so Don was looking for work.

Pat did end up getting a reoccurring role on THE DANNY THOMAS SHOW that was also going to spin-off into a series, but the series never happened.

Bill Dana, also from THE STEVE ALLEN SHOW, also joined THE DANNY THOMAS SHOW joined the series as a version of his Jose character - As an Elevator operator - the did eventually get his own show that lasted a season and a half@
GioLovesMash 21 months ago
we retired the Andy Griffith show put more mash and retired gomer Pyle to2 green acres
bagandwallyfan52 21 months ago
Green Acres and GOMER Pyle USMC MASHUP with Hooterville
Resident Newt Kiley (Kay Kuter)
saying that Hooterville Residents
bagandwallyfan52 21 months ago
Has METV ever written an Article on
Cheerio Meredith who played
Emma Brand on The Andy Griffith Show??
bagandwallyfan52 21 months ago
Who played the Mysterious
Mr Schwamp on The Andy Griffith
RichLorn 21 months ago
I hate a story that leaves you hanging. Who won the bridge game?
GinaDiaz 21 months ago
To me, there are some chapters where Barney Fife is just too annoying and I change the channel. He is very disrespectful to Andy and always criticizing him.bIt's also annoying that Sheriff Taylor always covers up Barney's mistakes, to make him look good. Other chapters are very enjoyable. It is simply not funny, for my taste, how exaggerated the Fife character is. Sorry.
ELEANOR GinaDiaz 21 months ago
Don Knotts had a father who was very difficult. Many of Don's mannerisms and peculiar ways most likely came from what he experienced in his childhood. It is truly amazing how he managed to make lemonade out of lemons.
F5Twitster 21 months ago
"The two co-starred in the 1958 film No Time for Sergeants. Though Griffith and Knotts hadn't spoke to one another for some time..."

That's hadn't spokeN to EACH another for some time.
WayneKeith F5Twitster 21 months ago
Oh thank goodness you cleared all of that up for me. I had no idea what in the world they were talking about! It was like trying to decipher the Dead Sea Scrolls!
bagandwallyfan52 22 months ago
Rest In Peace
Karen Sue Trent
Penny Woods
Leave It To Beaver
FC12 22 months ago
Really enjoy the AGS stories, thanks
Pacificsun 22 months ago
Pulleeze give us a new story! 🙃
John Qualen played Henry Bennett the Mayberry Town Jinx.
JHP 22 months ago
so who was the Jinx that made the loser a loser?

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Pacificsun 22 months ago
And the occasion would be .......?
Deleted 22 months ago
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MrsPhilHarris 22 months ago
One of my favourite episodes.
bagandwallyfan52 22 months ago
Do you have any favorite episodes of Happy Days or
I like ALL of the episodes of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet
that Wally Plumstead Skip Young are in . I like ALL of the Happy Days episodes that BAG (Neil J Schwartz) is in.
MrsPhilHarris 21 months ago
Haunted and Guess Who’s coming To Christmas for Happy Days. Ozzie & Harriet Hallowe’een Party or one of the Christmas episodes. I don’t think I have. Fav Gomer Pyle episode. I actually preferred him on TAGS.
bagandwallyfan52 21 months ago
I liked The color episode of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet called Ghost Town where an Old Timer tells Ozzie and Harriet that they are in Harrietsville .
The Old Timer was played by Paul Hartman who played
Emmett Clark on The Andy Griffith Show and Mayberry RFD.
I like the Stranger In Town episode of The Andy Griffith Show where Ed Sawyer William Lanteau comes to Mayberry .
Ed Sawyer tells Andy Taylor that Mayberry is his Hometown
I also like the Haunted House episode of The Andy Griffith Show where Andy Taylor Barney Fife and Gomer Pyle go to the Rimshaw house to pick up Opies baseball .I like all of the Happy Days episodes with Chuck Cunningham 1 Gavan O'Herlihy and Chuck Cunningham 2 Randolph Roberts .
I also like all of the Happy Days episodes with these characters '
Moose :Barry Greenberg
Eugene Belvin:Denis Mandel
Melvin Belvin:Scott Bernstein
Marsha Simms Beatrice Colen
Roger Phillips Ted McGinley
BAG :Neil J Schwartz
Guess Who's Coming To Christmas is the Last Appearance of Chuck Cunningham (Randolph Roberts).
I like the Welsh Rarebit episode of Gomer Pyle USMC where
GOMER Pyle sleepwalks and yells at Sgt Carter Frank Sutton
And Cpl Boyle Roy Stuart tries to
calm Carter down.
I like the Green Acres episode The Case Of The Great Hooterville Refund Fraud about
Hooterville Residents receiving their income tax refunds and this Green Acres episode has the Last Appearance of Newt Kiley played by Kay Kuter.
I also like the Crickly Wickley
Cereal episode of Green Acres.
On Gilligan's Island I like the episode where the castaways go to the island of Dr Boris Balinkoff and Igor.
On ALICE I like the episode where Mel Sharples (Vic Tayback) had a contest called
Spell Mel's I wish that Chuck Cunningham (Either Gavan O'Herlihy OR Randolph Roberts)
had been on The Last Episode of Happy Days.
ELEANOR 22 months ago
It's called serendipity. That's when you're in just the right place at the right time and sometimes it seems to be an accidental meeting, a long traffic light or a dog barking. It can be anything that causes you to be somewhere or not somewhere and boom, something interesting happens like turning on the TV at exactly the right moment.
Pacificsun ELEANOR 22 months ago
.... 🙃 or perhaps a series of clips
bagandwallyfan52 22 months ago
https and ://
Parady of Stranger In Town episode of The Andy Griffith
Show with ED SAWYER played
By William Lanteau.
Andybandit 22 months ago
That is an interesting way how Don Knots got his role on the TAGS.
Peter_Falk_Fan 22 months ago
Well, of course a sheriff needs a deputy. And it paid off for Don in the form of five Emmys (out of five nominations).
Of course 😊 after Warren Ferguson decided to leave
Mayberry Andy didn't hire a new deputy and thus Andy no longer
had a deputy.
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