The last-ditch effort to save The Don Knotts Show

A behind-the-scenes look at the ill-fated show's decline

Shout! Factory, LLC

"It was funny," wrote TV Guide's Cleveland Amory after the first episode of The Don Knotts Show in 1970. 

"And so was Don trying to be a host. But Mr. Knotts actually as a host?"

This was the fundamental flaw of Don Knotts' variety show. He was an actor who built a career around being this "nervous man" character. The archetype's many iterations— Barney Fife, included— shook and stammered their way through whatever task was at hand. But variety shows depend on a confident host at the helm.

"He never throws his weight around, what little weight there is," noted another TV Guide reporter. "He speaks softly and diffidently."

The Don Knotts Show was bested in the ratings by ABC's cool new cop show, Mod Squad. Despite Knotts' ability to attract A-list guest stars, his show was almost immediately on the decline.

Producers brought in former Andy Griffith Show director Bob Sweeney. This kind of midseason creative team shakeup isn't unheard of, but it is indicative of the network losing confidence in The Don Knotts Show. Sweeney brought with him new writers and even future M*A*S*H star Gary Burghoff.

Elaine Joyce turned down a spot on Carol Burnett to join Don Knotts' variety show team. She had a front-row seat for one of the era's biggest misfires.

"He suffered so much through that," Joyce recalled in the book Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show. "Every week, the ratings weren't good and the material wasn't good enough. He suffered through it. We all did. You just wanted to abandon ship."

The Don Knotts Show was canceled after its first season ended. Reportedly, Knotts boarded a plane to Hawaii, where he spent a week asleep in bed. 

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11 Comments

JHP 2 months ago
"He never throws his weight around, what little weight there is," noted another TV Guide reporter. "He speaks softly and diffidently."

ahhhhh - ok - well Mr Knotts I think you were maybe a great actor or schizo
Bapa1 2 months ago
The article claims 'Mod Squad' was a cool, new cop show. In 1970 it was in it's third season.
PDCougar 2 months ago
I'd like to see MeTV run short-lived shows like this from time to time. Maybe put them on the Saturday or Sunday rotation. It would give viewers something "new" -- programs that would be in the "I should check this out while I still can category," in contrast to the same slate of series that have been rerun on TV for decades. We've all got our list of single-season or half-season curiosities that would add some variety to the channel's lineup.
cperrynaples PDCougar 2 months ago
You proably won't see The Don Knotts Show! NBC apprantly erased it!
Bapa1 PDCougar 2 months ago
I have said this before also, would be great on Sunday Night, get rid of Mama's Family, Love Boat and the endless airings of MASH. (Keep Collector's Call). Name it 'From the Vault; and show programs that just are not aired repeatedly.
Cougar90 Bapa1 2 months ago
Also, bring back the Perry Mason movies.
McGillahooala 2 months ago
Don is great but that sounds like it was outside his wheelhouse. It would be like him playing basketball professionally. Same problem with me Tim Conway Show. The host is the straight role. Even in comedy. Who doesn’t know that?
WordsmithWorks 2 months ago
Knotts had a tremendous amount of talents. Hosting a variety show wasn't one of them. Honestly, I can't see how anyone would think he could. Today, they would call it staying in your lane.
BrittReid 2 months ago
Too busy watching Julie Barnes instead.
Bapa1 2 months ago
I remember it, it was OK. Louie the Wonder Dog.
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