Sunday, February 26, 2006

Don Knotts 1924-2006

This is sad:

LOS ANGELES -- Don Knotts, who kept generations of TV audiences laughing as bumbling Deputy Barney Fife on "The Andy Griffith Show" and would-be swinger landlord Ralph Furley on "Three's Company," has died. He was 81.

Knotts died Friday night of pulmonary and respiratory complications at the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center, said Sherwin Bash, his friend and manager.

Griffith, who had visited Knotts in the hospital before his death, said his longtime friend had a brilliant comedic mind and wrote some of the show's best scenes.

"Don was a small man ... but everything else about him was large: his mind, his expressions," Griffith told The Associated Press on Saturday. "Don was special. There's nobody like him.

"I loved him very much," Griffith added. "We had a long and wonderful life together."

I grew up on reruns of "The Andy Griffith Show" and have probably seen every episode at least 20 times. It is my opinon that the show was, and always will be, the best show ever broadcast on network television. The life lessons and wholesome values of the show have stood the test of time.

Don Knotts portrayal of Deputy Barney Fife was a major factor in the success of the show. His comedic timing and quirky mannerisms stole practically every scene he was in. As many times as I've seen each episode, I laugh hysterically every time as though I've never seen it.

The closest comparison to a modern day Barney Fife I can think of, for those who've never experienced "The Andy Griffith Show", is Michael Richards portrayal of Kramer on "Seinfeld". Sure, there would have probably been a "Seinfeld" without Kramer, but it wouldn't have been nearly the hit it was without Kramer. I think the same can be said for the "Andy Griffith Show": It just wouldn't have been the same without Don Knotts.

When an iconic figure dies, there is never a shortage of personal stories regarding the person who has died, and ironically, my Don Knotts story occurred just yesterday and I thought I would share it here. I've never met Don Knotts, so my story isn't particularly noteworthy, but in hindsight it is sadly ironic.

I sometimes mind the shop owned by some friends of mine so they can run errands, take a Saturday off, etc. and I just happened to be there yesterday. The business has a client waiting area with a monitor hooked up to a DVD player and my friend has tons of DVD collections of TV shows, cartoons, and other videos to entertain waiting clients.

Yesterday I decided to play the first season of "The Andy Griffith Show", as I do a lot of the time when I'm there. A client walked in with his son and his son decided to sit in the lobby and watch TV with me while he waited for his Dad. The boy is only about 9 or 10 years old, yet he really seemed to like the show.

We were watching the episode(I think it was the 2nd or 3rd episode)when Andy(Andy Griffith)and Barney(Don Knotts) are helping the state police track down an escaped convict. In the episode, Barney sets up a road block and in the process winds up doing pat down searches on the town mayor and his own mother--just to be on the safe side.

In the end, the convict tries to escape across the lake in Andy's boat, but has to swim back because the boat has a hole in the bottom of it and starts sinking. Andy allowed the convict to take the boat on purpose, knowing what would happen when he got to the middle of the lake, The state police, on the other hand, thought he was just standing around allowing him to get away.

The moral of the story: Never discount the value of local knowledge and expertise.

The state police thought the local sheriff and his deputy were just bumbling idiots, but in the end realized their local knowledge and unorthodox methods were invaluable in the capture of the suspect.

The 9 year old boy sat there and watched the whole episode with me and really got into it. He also asked a lot of questions. In one scene, Andy and Barney were in the Sheriff's Office and he asked me "How old is this show?". I told him that it was filmed in the early 1960's, which didn't seem to help. When I told him the show originally aired even before I was alive, I think he started to connect the dots somewhat. "That is an old show!", he responded. I'm not quite 40, but I suppose in his eyes, if I qualify as "old", the show qualifies as ancient.

The ironic part of this story came with the next question the boy asked me: "Are those two men still alive?". I told him they were, but they were both getting pretty old and sadly, I didn't know how much longer they would be around.

Later that afternoon I heard on the radio that Don Knotts had died and I thought of that boy in the shop. He's too young to appreciate the impact that shows like "The Andy Griffith Show" and the characters played by Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, and others on the show have had on so many people over the years. Each show taught a valuable lesson about life that could be applied
to our own lives even if we didn't realize it at the time.

Hopefully he'll come back in again. If he does, I'll pop the disc back in and let the show do it's magic. Over time, he'll have fewer questions about the characters, but it will surely answer a lot of questions about life.

May you rest in peace, Don!


Others Blogging:

James Joyner offers his thoughts along with a ton of information.

Joe Gandelman provides background information on Knotts and a personal note. They have ventriloquism in common.

The Sundries Shack offers some personal thoughts.

Don Surber, from Don Knotts home state of West Virginia, offers his tribute including video clips.

Ann Althouse has more.

Nothing from Glenn Reynolds, but he has been busy plugging this which looks to be quite interesting.

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