The real reason why Don Knotts wasn't in the pilot episode of The Andy Griffith Show

Simply put, there wasn't a Barney, yet.

Pilot episodes rarely accurately represent the shows that follow. While it may be tempting to see the pilot as just "the first episode," the truth is that they're more of a "proof of concept." Pilots are used in selling the show to networks, not moving the plot along. So, lots of times, they bear very little resemblance to the finished product that audiences fall in love with.

This is true of The Andy Griffith Show

While the pilot episode establishes Mayberry and many of its citizens, the story is very different from what fans would later identify with The Andy Griffith Show. For instance, the primary focus of the episode is Danny Thomas, as his show, The Danny Thomas Show was actually how the pilot aired. This early incarnation of The Andy Griffith Show was considered a "backdoor pilot," wherein an episode of an established show, with a built-in audience, is used to introduce the stars and characters of a soon-to-air program.

This pilot episode featured Andy Taylor as sheriff. Ron Howard also stars as Opie. Even Frances Bavier is along for the ride, here starring as Henrietta Perkins instead of Aunt Bee. But while there may have been some familiar faces already in Mayberry, there was one notable exception.

Deputy Barney Fife did not yet exist.

According to Griffith himself, Don Knotts was sitting at home watching TV when he saw his friend Andy Griffith on The Danny Thomas Show. Griffith and Knotts became fast friends on the set of No Time For Sergeants, a 1958 movie they both starred in. Knotts called his friend, asking to come aboard the brand-new show. Griffith told Knotts to call the producer. Then, as he was hired, Knotts "created that character of Barney Fife, as sure as he's settin' right there.," according to Griffith. 

The creative partnership proved profitable and fulfilling. Audiences loved Barney and Andy, and their friendship was clear onscreen and off. Knotts' daughter, Karen, wrote of the relationship in her memoir Tied Up in Knotts:

"Andy was my dad’s biggest fan. He was a mentor to him his whole life, and they loved each other dearly."

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16 Comments

Andybandit 3 months ago
DK was not in the pilot episode and the end of season 5 that MeTv air up to of TAGS. I know it can't be done. But I wish MeTv would air all the season of TAGS. Oh, well. I don't stream. I only have Directv.
cperrynaples Andybandit 3 months ago
Well, you can stream on Directv! In fact, most people stream INSTEAD of using that UGLY dish...LOL!
cperrynaples Andybandit 3 months ago
And yes, Directv can in fact be streamed with all of its content!
MrsPhilHarris Andybandit 3 months ago
I’ve caught some of the colour episodes on Pluto.
cperrynaples 3 months ago
Technically, the reason that Knotts WASN'T in the Danny Thomas pilot is because he was still under contract to NBC and Steve Allen! Once NBC canceled Allen's show, Knotts became available!
cperrynaples cperrynaples 3 months ago
Fun Fact: When Allen came back on ABC, one of his guests was a young Jim Nabors! Gomer Pyle was inspired by that appearance!
asrealascanbe 3 months ago
More quizzes!
jodyh05 asrealascanbe 3 months ago
Is the quiz team on strike?
Well there was a new TAGS quiz, but I don't do those! I am looking forward to the next round of MeTV March Madness TOMORROW!
FrankensteinLover 3 months ago
I recently met a guy that said it should have been called the Don Knotts Show, Barney was so valuable to the show.
Actually, there WAS a Don Knotts Show in 1970! There was even a post about it! Would you believe he appeared on Andy's next show as "Barney"?
Anywhere to watch Don Knotts show that you've ever seen
Runeshaper 3 months ago
Deputy Barney Fife was a GREAT addition to The Andy Griffith Show!
Irish 3 months ago
Best decision for the show! Without Don Knotts, I don't think the show would have lasted as long as it did. I was so sad when Don left the show. Actually, I quit watching it. I loved Barney's guest appearances though. Nice story.👍🏻
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