Actor Jerry Van Dyke never had any regrets about passing on “Gilligan’s Island” or “The Andy Griffith Show,” even though the show he did do, “My Mother the Car,” got panned by critics and lasted only one year.
Unfortunately, Van Dyke didn’t take away many good memories from “My Mother the Car,” either. He called the show a “nightmare” that never really coalesced.
In a 2013 interview with Popdose, Van Dyke explained his reasons for turning down both “Gilligan’s Island” and “The Andy Griffith Show.” He said he wouldn’t have taken the “Andy Griffith Show” role even if it were offered to him, which it was not.
Jerry Van Dyke Didn’t Want to Replace Don Knotts
In the Season 5 finale, Van Dyke guest-starred on “The Andy Griffith Show” as a carnival musician who becomes Andy’s deputy. Van Dyke got to know Andy Griffith well over the years; they shared a manager, among other things.
“I was very close to him,” Van Dyke told Popdose of Griffith. “I bought his house, as a matter of fact. His house in Toluca Lake. So I knew him real well.”
But replacing Don Knotts, who had recently left the show, was a bridge too far for Van Dyke. He said there was some talk about offering him a permanent role on the show, but he wouldn’t have wanted to try to fill Knotts’s shoes.
“They were talking about it,” Van Dyke said. “They did a show, and I appeared where I basically played Don Knotts’ part. I was a carnival guy, and my mother knew Aunt Bea, and…well, that was the episode, and it was a very funny episode. And I know they wanted me to do it, but I never had a real offer for it. I know they were kicking it around, though. But I wouldn’t have taken it, anyway. It would’ve been a really dumb move. It would’ve never worked.”
As it turned out, they never offered Van Dyke the role. He said he went with “My Mother the Car” instead.
Actor Didn’t Want to Play Gilligan
Jerry Van Dyke also balked at a chance to play Gilligan on “Gilligan’s Island.” And he said he never regretted that choice.
“I actually turned that down,” Van Dyke told Popdose. “In fact, I had a lot of problems with the agency, because they were trying to push me into taking it. But that’s the joke: I turned it down and took ‘My Mother the Car.’ But, again, it was really good, because I’d’ve been forever known as Gilligan. So that worked out, too!”
What didn’t quite work out for Van Dyke was “My Mother the Car.” He remembers the show as a “nightmare” for several reasons, not the least of which was that he never met the female lead.
“It was a nightmare doing that show,” Van Dyke said. “It was really a nightmare, ’cause Ann Sothern, who did the voice (of the car), I never met her. I never, ever met her, so I had to talk to the producer’s clothing salesman, who did the voice for me.”
In the show, Van Dyke played Dave Crabtree. He’s a lawyer. And his mother somehow gets reincarnated as a vintage car. Unfortunately for Van Dyke, the show fell flat. Unlike Gilligan and Barney Fife, his character did not go down in television history.
But Van Dyke went on to appear in other sitcoms, including a few memorable episodes of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” And he would later play Assistant Coach Luther Horatio Van Dam in the TV series “Coach.” So Van Dyke’s career recovered from those early missteps, and according to Van Dyke, he has never looked back.