55 years ago today, on October 3, 1960, The Andy Griffith Show
debuted on CBS!
In celebration of this wonderful Classic TV Anniversary, CMH is happy to welcome a very special Guest Blogger today — Daniel de Visé — Don Knott’s brother-in-law and author of the new book, Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show, which will be in stores on November 3rd. CMH is also very happy to say that, courtesy of Simon and Schuster, we will be giving away 6 COPIES of Andy and Don next month — so please stay tuned for more details!
So, without any further adieu — here’s author Daniel de Vise and his Exclusive Guest Post for CMH…
–Annmarie for Classic Movie Hub
Five Timeless Andy-Barney Skits from The Andy Griffith Show
By Daniel de Visé
Andy Griffith met Don Knotts in 1955 on the set of No Time for Sergeants, the hit Broadway play. Andy was the star, Don a bit player. But the new friends shared a fateful scene. Andy plays a guileless, irrepressible private named Will Stockdale. The skit pits him against Don, cast as an “officious little Corporal” who attempts to test the conscript’s manual dexterity. Andy’s Stockdale upends the test and sends Don’s corporal into paroxysms of outrage. There was no better scene in the play. “It’s there or it’s not there,” Andy would say decades later. “And it was there with us.”
A few years later, Andy and Don reunited on The Andy Griffith Show, Andy as the sheriff of the fictional Mayberry, Don as his deputy. The program debuted 55 years ago this October.
In the half-century since, much has been written about the undying legacy of the Griffith Show and the enduring appeal of Mayberry. Comparatively little, I think, has been said of the artistic partnership at the center of the show. In the forthcoming book Andy and Don, I make a case for Andy Griffith and Don Knotts as a comedy pairing for the ages, a duo whose work deserves consideration among the greats: Laurel and Hardy, Martin and Lewis, Abbott and Costello.
When Andy and Don reported to work on the Griffith Show, the two actors set about writing their own skits, little two- and three-minute scenes that producers would insert into the weekly teleplay to pad it out. The skits seldom advanced the plot. Who cared? They were timeless.
Here, in homage to the historic partnership, are five classic Andy-Barney skits from The Andy Griffith Show:
1. The Lawman’s Code. This was the first skit performed by Andy and Don on the Griffith Show, scribbled by Don on a scrap of paper at a script session. It found its way into the season-one episode “Ellie Comes to Town.” Barney challenges Andy to test his remarkable powers of recall, proposing to recite the lawman’s code from memory. Then he begins… and he cannot remember a single syllable. Andy feeds the words to Barney, and Barney barks them back, one by one, creating the illusion that he has remembered them, twisting his face and mussing his hair in mnemonic agony. Andy had such a hard time keeping a straight face during the shoot that the director captured much of his reaction in separate takes. The scene worked so well that Andy and Don rehashed it in subsequent performances, using different texts.
2. Nip It in the Bud. Barney’s trademark phrase adorns many Griffith scripts, but an exchange with Andy in the season-three story “One-Punch Opie” marks its most memorable use. Barney lectures Andy on the danger that Opie and his rowdy friends might devolve into Marlon Brando-styled hoods: “Next thing you know, they’ll be on motorcycles and wearing them leather jackets and zoomin’ around. They’ll take over the whole town. A reign of terror!” “Barney,” Andy chides, “these are just boys you’re talking about. They’re only about eight years old.” Barney presses on: “Yeah, well today’s eight-year-olds are tomorrow’s teenagers. I say this calls for action, and now. Nip it in the bud. . . . Nip it. You go read any book you want on the subject of child discipline and you’ll find that every one of them is in favor of bud-nipping.”
3. Septic Tank. At first, producers of The Andy Griffith Show puzzled at the skits Andy and Barney concocted in the writing room. When the exchanges began to outshine the stories they padded, the producers embraced them. In time, Griffith writers were contributing skits of their own, invoking memories from their own pasts. The best of these appeared in the season-three story “Barney’s First Car.” “Last big buy I made was my mom’s and dad’s anniversary present,” Barney says. “What’d ya get ’em?” Andy replies. “A septic tank.” Andy stops peeling his apple and considers for a long moment. “For their anniversary?” “Yeah. Well, they’re really hard to buy for. Besides, it was something they could use. They were really thrilled. Two tons of concrete, all steel reinforced.” Andy takes another long, stern look at his deputy. “You’re a fine son, Barn.” Barney nods: “I try.”
4. Judo. Some of the best Andy-Barney skits ventured beyond dialog into Python-esque pratfalls. The season-five story “Barney’s Uniform” plays on Barney’s delusions of power when he takes up judo and faces off against a local bully. In the denouement, Barney insists on demonstrating his judo techniques to Andy. “Take this knife and try to run me through,” he says, handing Andy a ruler. Andy charges. “Hold it!” Barney cries, stopping to consult his book and chopping at the air for practice. Then he unleashes an attack upon Andy, who promptly spins Barney around and places him in a headlock. Barney squirms loose and scolds Andy, “You didn’t do it right!” It was all that Andy and the crew could do, at such times, to hold back the laughter.
5. Bottle of Pop. This is the quintessential Andy-Barney sketch. Bits and pieces of it are scattered across the Griffith universe, all inspired by Andy’s and Don’s childhood memories of old men sitting around after dinner, ruminating about a trip into town to fetch a bottle of pop. Its finest iteration became the centerpiece of “Man in a Hurry,” a deeply meditative story that is often cited as the finest episode of the Griffith Show. An earnest businessman rolls into Mayberry on a sleepy Sunday and finds no one available to fix his car. As the man paces up and down Andy’s porch, Andy and Barney torture him with lazy banter. “Ya know what I think I’m gonna do?” Barney muses. “I’m gonna go home, have me a little nap, then go over to Thelma Lou’s and watch a little TV.” “Mmm-hmm,” Andy nods. “Yeah, that’s what I believe I’ll do: go home… have a nap… head over to Thelma Lou’s for TV.” “Mmm-hmm.” “Yep, that’s the plan: ride home… a little nap…” Finally, the businessman explodes: “For the love of Mike, do it! Do it! Just do it! Go take a nap. Go to Thelma Lou’s for TV. Just do it!” His tirade complete, Barney glares at the man and asks, “What’s the hurry?”
–Daniel de Visé for Classic Movie Hub
Daniel de Visé is Don Knott’s brother-in-law and author of Andy and Don, a lively and revealing biography, and the definitive work on the legacy of The Andy Griffith Show and two of America’s most enduring stars. The book features extensive unpublished interviews with those closest to both men. De Visé shares a wealth of new information about what really went on behind the scenes, including personal struggles and quarrels.
If you can’t wait to win the book, you can click below to purchase it on amazon: