Here's how Don Knotts dealt with critics
NBC executives wanted to ruin The Don Knotts Show.
Don Knotts is a legend of screens big and small. If he'd retired after The Andy Griffith Show, Knotts would've easily taken his place in the history book of immortal TV icons. Instead, Knotts carved out an incredible career in the movies too. Starring in movies like The Ghost and Mr. Chicken and The Incredible Mr. Limpet. Even folks who didn't catch his run as Barney Fife had the chance to join in the laughter at the cinema. This impressive resume added up to prove that Don Knotts is truly one of the greatest comedy actors of all time.
While Knotts has always been popular with fans and casual viewers, to producers, he wasn't always a sure shot.
In 1970, the powers that be were looking critically at NBC's Don Knotts Show, as executives decided the variety show wasn't where it should be in the ratings. The show's poor reviews did little to assuage top brass fears at the network, and so the extensive process of retooling the program began. An extensive variety show surgery ensued, with NBC taking a knife to the Don Knotts Show format.
For his part, Don Knotts seemed undeterred by the whole mess and stuck to his guns. The man knew what was funny but didn't take public offense to the network interference. Instead, Knotts shrugged off the criticism, even making light of one particular network note on TV.
NBC told Don Knotts that he should be more like himself on-air. So he began one show by telling the audience that he would now be "trying to be more like himself" to please critics.
In a 1970 interview with the Muncie, Indiana Star Press, Knotts elaborated on his position during this crucial juncture.
"How do you become more like yourself?" Knotts asked.
"We looked over the first five or six we made this summer to see what was wrong and decided we were going to a lot of trouble with sets and sketches. It was burdensome and not worth the output. Now, we'll give the illusion of a set with a few pieces, so the show can move faster."
"Our basic material won't be affected," he said. "We found the Front Porch segment worked where I talk to a guest, and that will become a regular feature, along with my character of the loser. And I'll be Barney Fife more often."
So what can we take from Don Knotts' approach to apply to our own lives? Well, when the powers-that-be say "jump," sometimes it's best to think "No, I know when to jump. That's why you've hired me. But maybe I can appease you by getting you to focus on something else instead!"
Trust your instincts. Know what your skills truly are. And never, ever let 'em make you second guess why you're here.