Unlike movies, which are written, filmed, and completed before they’re released to the audience at large, television shows have a more organic existence. Show creators can have an idea in mind and then have to make changes because of audience reaction or external circumstances.
Sometimes, we’ll see major cast changes when stars come into schedule conflicts — or can’t get along with fellow co-stars. Other times, television shows will adjust their plotlines to account for real-life events. Then there are the times when the creators had an idea in mind and it just sort of . . . fizzled out.
That’s what happened on The Andy Griffith Show. Two primary characters initially had a different relationship than they ended up having on the screen.
‘The Andy Griffith Show’ had a popular run
The Andy Griffith Show premiered in 1960 and has become something of a cultural phenomenon. Chief among the nostalgic memories is the portrayal of Mayberry, an idyllic town where life seemed to be perfect.
The star of the show, Andy Griffith, played the sheriff of the quaint town. He was also a single father raising the adorable and heartwarming Opie who was played by a very young Ron Howard.
The show ran for eight years before coming to a conclusion in 1968, and today it still lives on in fans’ memories and in a new generation of viewers. Fans — then and now — are particularly fond of the relationship between Andy and the jokester deputy Barney Fife (who was played by Don Knotts).
Don Knotts and Andy Griffith were a comedy duo
The on-screen chemistry between Barney and Andy mirrored the real-life friendship between Knotts and Griffith. The pair of comedians met while working together on Broadway.
In 1955, both men performed in No Time for Sergeants. Five years later, their paths crossed yet again when they both appeared on The Danny Thomas Show, which was actually the place of genesis for The Andy Griffith Show.
Unfortunately, Knotts left the show before its conclusion, and fans definitely missed not only Barney’s character but also the fun banter between the two men. The decision to leave was rooted in a misunderstanding. Knotts had agreed to play the part for five years, and when the time was up, he went to renegotiate his pay.
Griffith owned about half of the show, and Knotts had no controlling interest. When he asked for an ownership stake, Griffith misinterpreted the request as being for half of his own share and turned Knotts down. Knotts, true to his word, completed his five-year stint and moved on.
While this ending disappointed fans, the pair spoke highly of each other for the rest of their lives. The fun they had on set is apparent, and the stories that have come out over the years show that the comedic hijinks continued backstage as well.
Barney and Andy had a different relationship when the show began
While Griffith was definitely a prankster backstage, the dynamic between the two characters on the set of the show was a little different. Knotts was the comedic lead while Griffith played the straight man in order to up the ante when it came to the tension that would explode into laughs.
When the show first premiered, the creators had written yet another layer into the dynamic between these two men — they were supposed to be cousins. In fact, according to Neatorama, some early episodes of the show even featured Andy referring to his ridiculous deputy as “cousin Barney,” but the convention fell away over time. The idea that the two men were cousins never really picked up traction, and soon it was a forgotten element of the series.