Don Knotts’ role as Los Angeles landlord Ralph Furley on Three’s Company was quite the departure from his iconic Barney Fife character on The Andy Griffith Show. His flamboyant outfits and disposition made him a favorite of gay fans, and according to Knotts’ daughter, some of his Barney Fife admirers didn’t appreciate his Ralph Furley role.
From 1976 to 1984, Three’s Company followed Jack Tripper (John Ritter), Janet Wood (Joyce DeWitt), and Chrissy Snow (Suzanne Somers) as they navigated a three-person living arrangement. And it’s safe to say the late 1970s were a very different time than the heyday of The Andy Griffith Show in the 1960s.
Jack Tripper pretended he was gay to avoid conflict with those who would look down on that sort of male-female arrangement to pull off his living situation. In 1979, Don Knotts joined the show as the new landlord, Ralph Furley. His nightmare of a brother, Bart, owned the Hacienda Palms Apartment building. He hesitantly appointed Ralph the building’s manager.
Don Knotts’ character would have been a jarring sight for fans of The Andy Griffith Show. For one, the bulk of Deputy Barney Fife’s episodes took place before the show transitioned to color. Second, even if it had been in color from the beginning, he was often sporting his brown uniform.
Long story short, the ascot-wearing, extremely colorful Ralph Furley character did not gel with many Griffith fans’ perception of Don Knotts. In an interview with Page Six, Don Knotts’ daughter, Karen, talked about why they disapproved.
“They thought it was too far away from the kind of values they grew up with,” she said. “People always tend to associate him with his characters,” she said. “And that frustrated me because I thought my dad was so interesting.”
Don Knotts Dedicated Most of His Time to ‘The Andy Griffith Show’
Don Knotts cared deeply for his role of Deputy Barney Fife and The Andy Griffith Show in general. But the time commitment he made to the show didn’t make for a good balance with his family life.
“We didn’t see him a lot, because he worked 10, 12 hours a day. And when he was home, he was always holed up in his room working on his lines and stuff like that. At that time, we kids were pretty young, and he confided whatever he was feeling about working on the show to my mom,” Karen told Fox News in 2018.
Even still, Knotts found ways to spend time with his daughter Karen. After long days on set, the grind didn’t stop. But at least he involved his daughter in the process.
“I remember watching and listening to him rehearse. He asked me to run lines,” Karen continued.