TV's former "Barney Fife", Don Knotts, hosted this variety show that contained a bit of music, but mostly comedy skits and sketches featuring Knotts, guest stars and a talented supporting cast. One regular bit was called "The Front Porch", which consisted of Knotts and that week's guest rocking on a porch and talking. Written by
Marty McKee <email@example.com>
'The Don Knotts Show' was never televised in Britain, but I saw a few episodes at a screening in London, when the American production company that made this series were trying to sell the British syndication rights.
I've never found Knotts especially funny, but I'm intrigued by the fact that so many Americans seem to have such deep affection for Barney Fife, Knotts's most successful characterisation. I was most impressed with Knott's's performance in 'Pleasantville', in which he brought an iconic presence to this film about a 1950s sitcom community. Simply by casting Knotts in this film, Pleasantville became symbolic of Mayberry.
'The Don Knotts Show' was meant to be a comedy/variety series, placing Knotts at the centre of a repertory company of performers. Part of the problem was that Knotts's strength was in supporting roles, not leads. Also, like the great Fred Allen -- a hugely successful radio comedian who never quite caught on in films or television -- Don Knotts is somewhat unpleasant to look at.
Knotts was ably supported here by Frank Welker, the man of a million voices, and by smoothly dignified John Dehner and brassy blonde Elaine Joyce. Less successful were Kenneth Mars -- another cult figure whose appeal eludes me -- and Gary Burghoff. Watching these episodes at the London screening, the only thing that impressed me about Burghoff was his ability to divert attention from his malformed left hand. (I never understood how Burghoff got cast as Radar O'Reilly, an army corporal ... since anyone with a malformed hand would automatically be kept out of the army.)
Only two sketches from 'The Don Knotts Show' stick in my memory. One of them was a monologue performed by Knotts, in which he's a candidate's campaign manager on election night. Addressing the audience as if they were campaign supporters, Knotts congratulates them for the win they're about to receive ... then, of course, it turns out that Knotts's candidate lost, and he does a volte-face. This routine was far too predictable.
The other routine was a protracted sketch featuring Knotts in his nervous-nerdy mode, only this time standing over a draughting board as the designer of the 'Titanic'! Various people keep distracting Knotts and making him put errors in his blueprints. Considering that more than 1,000 people died in the 'Titanic' disaster -- and that the ship's design flaws were intentional, not accidental -- I couldn't laugh at this unfunny routine.
I'm glad that Don Knotts brought so much pleasure to so many people, even though I for one never found him very amusing. Still, his best work was definitely elsewhere, not on 'The Don Knotts Show'.
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