Don Knotts once explained why The Don Knotts Show just didn't work

Andy stopped by, as did Florence Henderson, Chuck Connors and more.

Images: The Everett Collection

After The Andy Griffith Show ended, Don Knotts did a couple movies – The Shakiest Gun in the West and The Love God? – but apart from an appearance on Mayberry R.F.D., TV audiences wouldn't see the comic genius grace the screen again until September 1970.

That's when The Don Knotts Show premiered, a short-lived variety show with Don as the host. It sounds like entertainment gold, but unfortunately, looking back, Knotts tells a very different story about the show that finally stuck his name out front.

"I think it was 22 weeks they gave me," Knotts said in an interview with the Archive of American Television. "We did all kinds of things," Knotts explained, but in the end, he said the show just couldn't compete with shows like The Carol Burnett Show, Donny & Marie, Sonny & Cher and so on. Knotts said, "There was tremendous competition that season for variety, because everybody and his brother had a variety show.”

So despite packing tons of celebrity guest stars and featuring a beloved, famous comedian, The Don Knotts Show just never found the ratings to go beyond that one season. Knotts said this surely came as a surprise to NBC, a network that loved Knotts' work so much on The Andy Griffith Show that they basically stole him out from under CBS. Knotts said, "NBC saw the show on CBS, and they decided to offer me a contract to do my own show, and then CBS got all upset that they sort of took me away.”

But NBC didn't just give up on The Don Knotts Show, with all the potential it had to be a success. After a few episodes, they even brought in Bob Sweeney – who directed the first three seasons of The Andy Griffith Show – to see if he could fix the issues with the show. Knotts said, "He came in and made some changes in the writing staff. Then he made some changes in the show creatively. And he did a good job. He improved the show, I thought.”

The Everett CollectionThe Don Knotts Show

One of the changes he made that did catch on was a recurring sketch that featured Don Knotts and future M*A*S*H star Gary Burghoff. Knotts said, "He and I were the two guys in this library, but we just did a little 10-minute sketch every week in the library.”

Thinking back on guest stars, Knotts smiles recalling visits on the show from stars like Andy Griffith, but he also pointed out the variety show did actually debut a pretty major act: "We had The Carpenters. I think we were the first show The Carpenters ever did. … and then my manager became their manager.” (Knotts is right that his show was the first variety show to bring The Carpenters on, but the year prior, the band appeared on Della, the early talk show from Della Reese.)

Check out photos of other major guest stars featured on The Don Knotts Show, including, Knotts remembered, "I had the whole Bridges family once, Lloyd, Jeff and Beau.”

The Everett CollectionAndy Griffith on The Don Knotts Show

The Everett CollectionThe Carpenters on The Don Knotts Show

The Everett CollectionIrene Ryan on The Don Knotts Show

The Everett CollectionFlorence Henderson on The Don Knotts Show

The Everett CollectionLloyd, Jeff and Beau Bridges on The Don Knotts Show

The Everett CollectionChuck Connors on The Don Knotts Show

The Everett CollectionFrank Welker on The Don Knotts Show

In the end, Knotts explained, he simply didn't like hosting a variety show as much as he liked working on sitcoms. Maybe Mayberry just spoiled its favorite deputy, who, of course, would find his way back to a cast within the decade when he joined Three's Company in 1979 (not at CBS or NBC, but ABC! Don Knotts had shows on all three).

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JohnFinnJr 58 months ago
I don't remember this show, but I probably gave it a chance. Don was one of my favorite comical actors. We all know that the majority of the laughs on The Andy Griffith Show were because of Don. But I think he does best when he is paired with somebody the exact opposite of him. That's why he did so well with Andy Griffith. Andy was a laid back "take it easy" type and Barney was the manic anxiety filled deputy. In The Incredible Mr Limpet his wife was pretty serious and critical, and so was the character 'Ollie' in The Ghost and Mr Chicken. I am only taking a shot in the dark, but I am guessing that Don did not have a polar opposite to play on in his variety show. I also think that he did not have much musical talent. The hosts of the other variety shows mentioned all had musical talent.
Dave 64 months ago
In the pic with Chuck Connors, that's comedian Kenneth Mars, who played the Inspector in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN.
cperrynaples Dave 64 months ago
Yep, and he was the wacky Nazi who wrote "Springtime For Hitler" in the original version of The Producers!
hootrs23 cperrynaples 25 months ago
no, mel brooks wrote the song.
JosephScarbrough 64 months ago
I'm confused. 1970? Other than THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW, all of the other aforementioned variety shows didn't premiere until later in the 70s: both THE SONNY & CHER SHOW and DONNIE & MARIE premiered in 1976.
First, Knotts said shows LIKE those, and in 1970 you had Andy Williams, Ed Sullivan, etc. Secondly, Sonny & Cher started in 1971, NOT 1976!!! Thirdly, he spells his name Donny! To millennials, he's just a guy in a costume on the Masked Singer, but to some of us, he's much more! Stephanie, back me up!
Pacificsun 64 months ago
Some actors are just meant to be supporting, and do that job in the best possible way. But they're not strong enough to be solo characters. Don Knotts was certainly being very gracious with his analysis. Brought many years of enjoyment to all his fans.
Lantern 64 months ago
Wow, there really is a guy named Frank Welker!?! I've seen his name as a voice credit on The Simpsons a few times, but just thought that was a stage name for someone else.
I guess Frank liked to "keep up with the Jones.'" Seeing as the two characters he is most known for having voiced have the last same name: JONES {Fred and Jughead.}
JosephScarbrough Lantern 64 months ago
Just on THE SIMPSONS a few times? Frank Welker has been one of the industries greatest and most versatile voice actors for DECADES!
cperrynaples 64 months ago
Fun fact: After this show ended, Don appeared on The New Andy Griffith Show! His character didn't have a name, but we all knew who it was...LOL! Check it out on YouTube!
cperrynaples cperrynaples 64 months ago
PS a lot of people forget that Karen Carpenter was a drummer as well as a singer. The following summer, they did Make Your Own Kind Of Music, ironically in Don's time slot!
Yeah, if I remember correctly, she was very reluctant to get out from behind her drum kit to sing. I think she felt self conscious. But I think it took big brother Richard to convince her it was alright. That she shouldn't worry there was nothing to be scared about.
MrsPhilHarris cperrynaples 64 months ago
I love fun facts!
cperrynaples MrsPhilHarris 64 months ago
Well, I try to write as many as I can remember. THANKS!!!
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