Sunday, February 26, 2006

Saying good-bye to Don Knotts

I feel like I've lost an old friend.

When I think of Don Knotts, his image is always stuck in early 1960s black-and-white. He is wearing a deputy sheriff's uniform, of course, walking with that bent over posture and wearing an "I'm full of it" look on his face.

Losing Barney Fife is like losing your favorite uncle.

Knotts stole the show right out from under Andy Griffith. One need only to suffer through one of the later color episodes of "The Andy Griffith Show" to prove the point. It was still Mayberry. But it wasn't the same without ol' Barn.

The Griffith Show gets better with age. I've probably seen some of those episodes 50 or more times. And I still laugh out loud when Barney sings "Good Ol' 14-A" off-key or when he locks himself in the jail cell for the umpteenth time. Those shows really are classics --- a nostalgic look at a simpler time that never really existed.

And then there were his movies. None of them were ever box office smashes. But he knew what we wanted to see and we laughed at "The Ghost And Mr. Chicken" and "The Reluctant Astronaut." It was all basically Barney Fife anyway.

If his early 1980s turn as the lunatic landlord Mr. Furley on "Three's Company" was pure camp, we laughed anyway, chuckling at his outlandish wardrobe and his latest take on that some old nervous character, so unlike his shy, humble real-life self.

Celebrities always seem to go in bunches. And so it is this time. Venerable character actor Darren McGavin died over the weekend as well.

Older TV fans will remember him as the super-pissed Mike Hammer in the 1950s. Sci-fi buffs will remember his turn as "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" in the 1970s. Younger fans know him as the dad in the holiday favorite "A Christmas Story." McGavin and Knotts were even in a movie together, a mid-70s Disney entry, "No Deposit, No Return."

But it is Knotts we will miss most. We all grew up with Ange and Barn and Otis and Opie and Goober and Floyd. Barney Fife is a part of us, something we somehow managed to keep from childhood that still comforts us when we needed it.

Knotts' legacy will live on in countless re-runs and on DVD. So he won't be far away. He'll be pulling the squad car into the sheriff's office just in time to sneak a quick call to Juanita at the diner before Andy gets in.

So long, Barn. We'll miss you at the fishing hole.


Anonymous Lindsey said...

I KNEW I could come here and read a great tribute to Barn...I was reading the article on MSN, and couldn't help but think...what would Jake say about this...then, I was 100% already had!

8:43 AM  

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