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July 3, 2012

Andy Griffith, folksy TV sheriff and comedian, dies at 86

(Continued)

"The Andy Griffith Show" made its debut that fall with Ronny Howard as the widowed Taylor's young son, Opie; and Frances Bavier as his matronly Aunt Bee. The series quickly became one of the decade's most popular shows and ran for eight seasons.

Comic actor Don Knotts, who had played a supporting role in the Broadway and film versions of "No Time for Sergeants" that Griffith had earlier starred in, had seen his "Danny Thomas Show" episode and called to suggest that Andy Taylor should have a deputy.

The addition of Knotts as the incompetent but full-of-bravado Barney Fife quickly shifted the balance of the show.

"I was supposed to have been the comic, the funny one," Griffith told the Times in 1993. The series, he said, "might not have lasted even half a season that way, but when Don came on I realized by the second episode Don should be funny and I should play straight to him."

The unflappable Andy and the all-too-excitable Barney became one of television's greatest comedy duos.

The show's laughs came not from the characters telling jokes back and forth but typically, as in real life, out of ordinary conversations.

One of Griffith's favorite exchanges with Knotts came in an episode in which Barney had saved $300 to buy a car.

Barney: The last big buy I made was my Mom's and Dad's anniversary present.

Andy: What'd ya get 'em?

Barney: A septic tank.

Andy: For their anniversary?

Barney: They're awful hard to buy for. Besides, it was something they can use. They were really thrilled. It had two tons of concrete in it. All steel reinforced.

Andy: You're a fine son, Barn.

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