Do you remember when Don Knotts guest-starred on Matlock?
From Mayberry to Matlock, Knotts could do it all.
We love a reunion. Whether it's Simon & Garfunkel, or the cast of Friends, everybody loves seeing the team again. Sometimes creative differences are put aside to clear the way for a new project. Other times, a sizable check is written and bygones are suddenly able to be bygones. The important thing is getting the band back together.
It's a routine at this point. A show or a band reaches its critical mass, nearing or breaching the point of oversaturation. The zenith is reached, and the thing needs to go away for a little while. We need to stop seeing *NSYNC for a few years so that we can miss them. Then, when the news cycle is just right, opportunity strikes for a money grab at all that valuable nostalgia.
The same holds true for beloved comedy duos in classic TV sitcoms. Don Knotts and Andy Griffith were a perfect pair for five seasons. Then, in 1965, Knotts left in search of movie work. While he probably could've kept the show afloat for a few more years, Knotts' departure only made it that much sweeter when he and Griffith were paired up again some twenty years later.
By 1988, The Andy Griffith Show was in TV's rearview mirror, but Andy Griffith was not. That's because the actor found further serving Southern justice as the title character in Matlock. As the show reached its third season, the time was right to bring a familiar face into the fold to complement Griffith's strengths as the title lawyer.
On November 29th, 1988, Don Knotts appeared on Matlock as a neighbor to Andy Griffith's character, Ben Matlock. The episode, which served as the show's season three premiere, saw Knotts play Les Calhoun, the retired "King of Plastics."
Andy Griffith spoke to the Akron Beacon Journal about casting his pal for the big episode.
"Don Knotts is the best comic actor I ever met, and I play straight for him better than any man in America."
Knotts agreed and gave his guarantee to bring offbeat comedy to the otherwise serious courtroom show.
"Playing Barney Fife is the most fun I ever had with a character."
Griffith spoke of his intention to have Knotts guest star frequently throughout Matlock's third season, as Les Calhoun aided Ben Matlock in a series of investigations.
"Barney Fife was tailored to Don Knotts," said Griffith. "And this guy (Les Calhoun) will be tailored to the same guy. There'll be some Barney Fife in him, but he'll be 30 years older."