Don Knotts

Word came out Saturday Don Knotts had died. Knotts has been a visible entertainment fixture for my entire life.

There will be TV sound bites and newspaper (and Internet) obituaries written. That’s not why I’ve started this entry. I want to mention his passing because Don Knotts’ career serves as an age benchmark.

Here’s how it works:

If you remember Don Knotts from Steve Allen’s Show, you are older than me. Thank heavens someone is!

If Don Knotts is Barney Fife to you, you’re a baby boomer – somewhere between 40 and 60. I’m not sure how Don and Andy got together, though they appeared earlier in the movie “No Time For Sergeants” (Knotts as a very tightly wound dexterity tester).

Three’s Company has been off the air over 20 years. If you’re in your 30s or 40s, Don Knotts is Mr. Furley, Norman Fell’s replacement.

There are a few other actors who can be used to predict your age, like Ann B. Davis. Is she Alice from the Brady Bunch or Schultzy from Love That Bob? The answer is telling.

Lots of actors complain about being typecast. I would hope Don Knotts was happy with the persona he portrayed on TV and in the movies. The International Movie Database shows him being in over 70 named shows and movies, mostly as that bumbling, nerdy, nervous little guy.

His early work with Steve Allen showed what was to come. On a show filled with over-the-top characters (including Louis Nye, Tom Poston, Dayton Allen and Bill “Jose Jimenez” Dana), the quivering Knotts was incredibly memorable.

I saw him within the past few years on Nickelodeon. I was pleased to see he looked good and seemed sharp.

I am saddened he is gone. Considering his body of work, he’ll never really be out of sight.

Old TV Remembered

Here it is the middle of the night and I’ve just finished watching “Make Room for Daddy” on Nickelodeon. It’s been a really long time since I’ve seen MRFD and this episode specifically.

This was the episode that spun off “The Andy Griffith Show.”

I didn’t get there for the very beginning. I saw the credits and saw I missed Frank Cady (Sam Drucker from Petticoat Junction, Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres) and Rance Howard, Ron Howard’s father.

Also missing was Don Knotts. There was no deputy in this episode.

Ron Howard was there. Judging by looks, he was around three or four years old. Compared to comparably aged Olsen Twins, he could definitely act.

Andy referred to the relative who took care of Opie as Aunt Lucy. Lucy wasn’t seen but Francis Bavier, who would go on to play Aunt Bea, played a down on her luck townie.

As pilots go, and I suppose this can be considered the “Andy Griffith Show’s” pilot, it was pretty well fleshed out and quite similar to what ended up on the air. All this, of course, because the show was built totally around Andy’s persona.

I should say a few words about Danny Thomas. He was an overacting, self indulgent, and sparsely talented comedic lead. That’s why Andy Griffith’s show is the one we remember and Danny Thomas’ has faded away.