Don Knotts: "If I had known that Andy intended to go on with [The Andy Griffith Show], of course I would've stayed."

Knotts might have been prepared to be Barney Fife forever.

Like any great story, the tale of Don Knotts leaving The Andy Griffith Show has several variations, depending on who you ask. While many people who enjoy gossip might believe that Knotts' departure was the source of some great blowout on set, it seems that when Knotts decided to leave the series, it was less like a severing and more like a bittersweet goodbye. This was only emphasized by the fact Knotts was not banished from the series, never to be heard from again. Rather, he made frequent guest appearances on the show he once called home, and even continued to work with Andy Griffith on projects after The Andy Griffith Show had wrapped.

So while we can all rest assured that there's no hatred between castmates, Knotts explained in a 1994 interview that his departure from the show was actually the result of a misunderstanding more than anything else.

In an interview with the Elizabethton Star, Knotts explained that originally, Griffith had given Knotts the impression that the series was only supposed to last about five years. Because of this, once that time had run out and Knotts' contract had ended, he believed that the show was on its way out the door and began looking for new projects.

Knotts explained, "I began pursuing other opportunities, and by the time Andy had decided to continue the series, I had signed with Universal Studios to do some movies." He continued, "If I had known that Andy intended to go on with it, of course I would've stayed."

While there's no use in dreaming about what might have been, it's possible that if Knotts and Griffith had communicated a bit more, we would have been able to see Barney Fife in a regular role on The Andy Griffith Show for a few more seasons. On the other hand, it also means that if Knotts had stayed on television, he might not have had quite as successful of a film career.

Which would you rather have seen: More seasons of Barney Fife, or a Don Knotts movie renaissance?

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23 Comments

Mark112763 21 days ago
I'm a believer in fate and even if Don Knotts leaving the show was in fact a misunderstanding, it must have been meant to go the way that it did because Knotts went on to make a number of very wonderful and fun movies that his fans still enjoy today...
Adamtwelvia Mark112763 16 days ago
Just ask Wakko Warner!
rllibera 23 days ago
I believe that Griffith had every intention of continuing the show and what happened is exactly what he wanted to happen. He wanted to show that the show could continue even with Knotts as an occasional guest.
Horseman2 rllibera 15 days ago
That sounds like an uneducated guess without any evidence.
WordsmithWorks 23 days ago
While Knotts' departure worked out well for him, it was definitely a "jump the shark" moment for the show.
LoveMETV22 23 days ago
Suppose Mr.Knotts made the choice that was best for him at the time. However the series was just not the same after his departure (jmo).
doug1967 23 days ago
I would have loved for him to stay on the show but maybe that's my selfish thoughts. Either way Don and Andy had a great run together. I only wish TV was like that now, maybe the country would be more family oriented.
Brockolo 25 days ago
I think his new gravestone says it all. Barney is the biggest of several characters he created. How sad if it was just one.
Thanks Don!
edcrumpacker 25 days ago
The show wasn't the same without him. That's an excellent point the article makes though. One I haven't thought of, wonder what the show would have been like if he had stayed on 🤔
FrankensteinLover 25 days ago
I'll take Don any chance I can get him, so either would be fine. Although the Andy Griffith Show was hurting when he left.
MrsPhilHarris 25 days ago
Had he stayed I wonder if Barney And Thelma Lou would have married? 🤔
Well, they were married in RTM!
Yes but what, 20 years later? I wonder would the have married in 1966 or whatever?
raycer413 MrsPhilHarris 24 days ago
After Don left the show in one episode he returned in he tried to rekindle his relationship with Mary Lou but she was with another man by that time and it never happened. I found it sad.
MrsPhilHarris raycer413 23 days ago
I seem to remember that vaguely. 🤔
Mark112763 raycer413 21 days ago
I think you meant Thelma Lou...
Runeshaper 25 days ago
That's a tough choice. In this case, perhaps Don leaving was for the best.
BenSobeleone Runeshaper 25 days ago
I agree. If he had stayed, there might not have been The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.
Well, there wouldn't be a Love God either...LOL!
Yep, and The Shakiest Gun in the West, The Incredible Mr. Limpet and The Reluctant Astronaut.
Mark112763 Runeshaper 21 days ago
And "The Reluctant Astronaut"... 😁
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