Howard Morris was told he was ''too good'' for Mayberry

There's a reason Ernest T. Bass wasn't around as much as some other characters.

Everett Collection

"It's me, it's me, it's Ernest T!"

Howard Morris is such a familiar name and Ernest T. Bass is such a familiar face in Mayberry. The Andy Griffith Show fans will have no problem recalling the eccentric hillbilly. It seems strange, then, to remember that he was only on five episodes of the show as Ernest T.

Why was such a fan favorite not brought on more often? Well, Howard Morris offered an explanation.

According to an interview given to Scripps Howard News Service in 2001, the choice wasn't Morris'. "After five episodes," Morris said, "(Producer) Sheldon Leonard said 'Howie, you're off the show.'"

Why would the producer of the show give Morris the boot? "'You did too good,'" Morris said, quoting Leonard. "'You overpower all the other characters.'"

Still, Morris counted Ernest T. Bass as one of his favorites. "I've always loved him. He's a wonderful guy. He's a mean little son of a (bleep), and that appeals to me. He gets away with all this stuff."

It can't be easy to be told you're out of a job, but maybe the reason being that you did too well takes a little sting out of it.

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52 Comments

same 7 months ago
Howard Morris did cartoon voiceovers for such shows as Mr Peebles on The Magilla Gorilla Show and Forsythe Jughead Jones on Filmations Archie cartoons and it's various spinoffs.
Calhoun1959 8 months ago
I loved it when Andy Griffith called Ernest T bass, a skinny little runt with a rock in his hand. 😂
JHP Calhoun1959 7 months ago
and the only difference between Ernest and BARN would have been the rock (but BARN did have a bullet)
Cheddar8 8 months ago
Ernest T. was a nut. I thought the character was a bit over the top but certainly well played by Morris. I always liked the Otis Campbell character better. He always added multiple good laughs to any episode he was in.
Tresix 8 months ago
Five episodes? I honestly thought he only did three.
STTOS 8 months ago
That's suprising to hear because I would argue that Barney overpowered everyone including Ernest T. I liked all of the Mayberry "extras".....except for the Fun Girls. I did not find them funny at all, only obnoxious. (Just my opinion.) On a side note I see that another channel out there in television land (hint, hint) is showing the underrated (again my opinion) color episodes of TAGS. Something I wish MeTV would do.
joenic27 8 months ago
At the time Sheldon Leonard didn't any idea that TAGS would become the cultural phenomena with reruns shown daily across many channels and markets for decades to come; and still going. Had he had that luxury, I am sure he would have seen the wisdom of using Ernest T a little more often.
Howard Morris was a great character actor, who had a way of stealing scenes, as was the case in his short but hilarious role in the Jerry Lewis classic, "The Nutty Professor." On TAGS we also saw him play a timid TV repairman in an episode, and many may not realize he was the voice of "Leonard Blush" the announcer on the radio. Morris also directed numerous TAGs episodes. "How do you do Mrs. Wiley" may be one of the great lines in TAGS history, right alongside "Good old 14A."
JHP joenic27 7 months ago
and they always needed the words -books to sing to (3 times in that EP)
Sooner 8 months ago
It's true. His character was so good and so overwhelming that it really diminished everyone around him. Nonetheless, it was one of the most fun characters ever developed for TV. I think Leonard could have still included him in 2 or 3 episodes each year. I think he was being to overprotective of the other characters and show.
peterhammill 8 months ago
I think Sheldon Leonard made a mistake in not using Ernest T. Bass in more episodes and depriving us of the character.
JHP peterhammill 7 months ago
I think Howard Morris was destined to direct
Rita6868 8 months ago
Any episode with Ernest T.Bass or The Fun Girls are my favorites.A shame they didnt get more episodes.
Coldnorth Rita6868 8 months ago
Actually, the actors like earnest T, the Darlings, and others, made the show really laugh out loud funny. Mayberry was pretty boring, and these characters livened up the place. I always looked forward to seeing the Darlings and Earnest and the escaped prisoners, the fun girls
Calhoun1959 Coldnorth 8 months ago
As I’m sure, you know, the darlings was a real folk music band called the Dillards
Coldnorth Calhoun1959 8 months ago
Thanks for reminding me but I did know that. I just like calling them the Darlings. They look the part
Coldnorth Rita6868 8 months ago
Kinda makes me wonder if it’s because they would get more laughs and be a much bigger character in the show. No one made me laugh harder than them
JHP Calhoun1959 7 months ago
Love their music and talent and hate the Eps
KentuckyPhil69 8 months ago
I truly believe this. Howard was an absolute genius in this role! My favorite character on the show!
zzyzx 8 months ago
How do you do, Mrs Wildly.

https://youtu.be/ztrLMXY_9TA?si=EsS64vgNTqOkPAyR
JamesB 8 months ago
Sheldon Leonard was smart. Howard Morris was a talented actor and director (14 episodes of Hogan's Heroes, among many others), I never liked Ernest T. Bass as a being an unlikeable gimmick character. Morris was remarkable for voice-over across dozens of animated shows. I prefer the familiar faces who showed up in Mayberry like the prolific John Qualen ("The Jinx") whose work stretched from the 1930s-1970s. You will recognize him from "Rick's Café Américain" in "Casablanca" or as Olaf in Ida Lupino's "Out of the Fog" from the 1940s.
spence2054 8 months ago
Howard Morris was great doing voices, too. I'm a big Jetsons fan, and many of the characters (Jet Screamer, for example) are done by Morris. He was also in many other cartoons such as The Flintstones.
Stoney 8 months ago
If you look at how the Urkel character took over "Family Matters" (he wasn't in the original cast), then this explanation is actually plausible.
WGH 8 months ago
More Hollywood bs.

I'll bet after six episodes, they had to pay him a higher scale.
Treechris23 8 months ago
I love every single episode of TAGS except the ones with Ernest T. Bass. Sorry, that character gets on my last nerve!
WGH Treechris23 8 months ago
That's the point of the character. He was supposed to get on everyone's nerves.
LoveMETV22 Treechris23 8 months ago
I get that effect with the last 3 seasons of TAGS. But like the Ernest T. Bass character. Oh well we all have our preference.
Wiseguy70005 WGH 8 months ago
Why would anyone want to watch something that gets on your nerves?
tootsieg 8 months ago
Ernest T. was a great character.
Totally insane and charming at the same time.
Bapa1 8 months ago
Wasn't Bob Denver the first Ernest T.?
jlb9512 Bapa1 8 months ago
He played the character Dud Wash in one episode.
BlueRabbit20 8 months ago
I love Howard Morris! He was funny, crazier than most of the eccentrics of Mayberry, but he gave it his all! Most times, I believe that Ernest just wanted to fit in. Besides, in some way, Mr. Morris was done a favor. He was able to work as a director and make a career change that kept his name in the spotlight. He became one of the most sought after directors of my generation. Maybe he was done a favor but not being typecast as Ernest T. Bass. He made himself a self made man. I always check the credits to see if I recognize the name. If you check his bio, he has a nice list of credits as a director. Great job, Morris!! 👍👍👍👍
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