Ron Howard on ''The Andy Griffith Show'': ''For Andy, the show was never the same after Don left''
Griffith was losing a friend and a partner in comedy.
Losing a friend can be difficult, especially because a true friend makes you a better person. Without them, it can feel like you're only one-half of a whole, forever missing the rest of you.
For Andy Griffith, Barney Fife's exit from Mayberry meant that not only was he losing a friend, but he was also losing a creative partner. Despite this, Don Knotts's departure seemed to be something of only a matter of time, according to the cast of The Andy Griffith Show. In Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show by Daniel de Visé, Ron Howard explained, "It was just a decision that [Don] had to make and that Andy understood. It always kind of felt more like an inevitable graduation than any kind of abandonment and betrayal."
So while there were no hard feelings about Knotts leaving the series, that doesn't mean that it didn't have any effect on the series, or Griffith himself. Knotts and Griffith had worked together for years, and at times, it seemed that Barney and Andy's relationship was such an important part of the series, one of the most heartwarming pieces of an already heartwarming show. While all the kooky characters of Mayberry complimented Andy's straight-laced character, Barney Fife's comedic timing and over-the-top nature seemed to do it better than anyone else.
While Knotts wasn't gone for good and still returned to The Andy Griffith Show for guest appearances, there was a definite shift after he left the series, particularly for Griffith himself. Ron Howard revealed, "I think, for Andy, the show was never the same after Don left."
He continued, "He didn't have that partner. The absolute foundation of the show, and why it endures, is Andy-Barney. And yes, the feeling of what Mayberry was. But without the comedy that they generated, I don't think the show ever would have endured."
Luckily, the two actors often paired up together to recreate some of that Andy/Barney magic, and Griffith even gave Knotts a role in his later series, Matlock. While it's tough to say goodbye to our favorite best buddies, it's comforting to know that they loved each other just as much as we loved watching them.