Monday, February 27, 2006
While I was coughing all over Manhattan, Don Knotts died. Growing up in North Carolina, it was required by law that we watch the Andy Griffith Show religiously, though exceptions were made for the black and white episodes. Anyone who doesn't acknowledge that show as one of the top things produced by television is doping, because it was. It had it's own flavor of plots, timing and characterization, and Barney Fife was a high point of that (not a clever reference to HighPoint, NC). One of my favorite bits is when Barney is trying to console Opie about a dog outside in a thunderstorm, and how other dogs will look out for it. Then he extrapolates to animals that wouldn't be as helpful, like Giraffes. As the tension builds with louder thunder--"yeah... giraffes. Always lookin' out for number one!" ***I just bumbled across a site that shows a Quicktime clip of that very scene! What a great build it has to the humor, hooked onto a lot of worry and fear, which makes it count all the more. It's hard to imagine many comedies today not cramming that same timespan with jokes in hopes of making one stick. Here's the link. Another favorite that comes to mind thinking of young Ronnie Howard is Barney's superstitious phase where he keeps rubbing the little red-haired boy on the head for good luck. As Mark Evanier mentions his thorough posts on Knotts, Griffith was smart enough to let Knotts steal the show because it just made it more successful, and that's true. In recent memory it occurs to me that Jerry Seinfeld did the same thing with his cast, realizing that even if the others got the bigger laughs, he'd still win too. And when Knotts left the show to pursue movie roles, TAGS could never get another dynamic to work half as well again. Every other extraneous character in Mayberry tried to fill the bill, with Andy always visibly irritated at them. So instead of the easy-going Sheriff always looking out for his inept cousin, he became the crotchety normal in a world of idiots. But still the viewers stayed loyal, probably hoping for some smattering of the golden days to return. Knotts' film career didn't flourish long, but as a kid I really enjoyed The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, The Reluctant Astronaut, and Incredible Mr. Limpet. Actually Mr. Limpet weirded me out some. Anyway, the internet isn't big enough for me to recount all the laughs I got out of the Fife character, if I could even remember that many. Thanks Barn.