Perhaps Andy Griffith was a perfectionist. That might explain why he wasn’t all that impressed with his former Andy Griffith Show co-star Don Knotts‘ performance on the 1980s situation comedy Three’s Company.
Knotts portrayed Ralph Furley on the ABC comedy.
Here’s why Griffith was brutally honest with Knotts about his role as Ralph Furley.
Knotts played Barney Fife for 5 years
The Barney Fife actor played the deputy sheriff’s role for five years on the rural comedy, bringing his own brand of physical comedy to the part.
The two stars’ moments on screen offered “a glimpse of the magic that could unfold when Andy and Don shared a scene: Barney’s almost unbearably taut delivery, the twinkle of love in Andy’s eyes, and the impeccable timing that linked the two actors,” according to Daniel de Vise, author of Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show.
The show’s creator, Sheldon Leonard, said of the pair: “There was such an electricity, there was such chemistry apparent on the screen when we saw it in the dailies in the next day after we shot it.”
Don Knotts also played Ralph Furley on ‘Three’s Company’
When actor Norman Fell left his role as Mr. Roper for the show’s spin-off The Ropers, the show’s producers reached out to Knotts to fill in the spot that Fell and his Mrs. Roper co-star Audra Lindley left vacant – no audition necessary.
“They just decided they wanted me,” Knotts told the Television Academy Foundation. “Norman Fell was playing the landlord. They put him and the actor who played his wife in a series of their own. And they needed a new landlord so they borrowed me.”
Knotts had watched and enjoyed the show, branding his character with an array of comedic facial gestures and literal physical collapses along with star John Ritter.
“John Ritter was very funny, I thought they were all funny,” he recalled. “It was a very broad comedy show, lots of broad jokes, lots of physical humor. John Ritter is a physical comedian, he could do great falls. I found myself doing falls on the show.”
For his part Ritter, who died in 2003, returned the compliment to his comic idol, as he told Come and Knock on Our Door: A Hers and Hers and His Guide to ‘Three’s Company‘ author Chris Mann.
“It’s amazing how much we learned just by watching a pro like Don,” Ritter said. “Few people realize what a consummate actor he is. [Director] Dave Powers and I were jumping up and down when Don came in. It was like, ‘Santa’s coming!’”
Griffith’s harsh assessment of Knotts as Ralph Furley
The Matlock star told the Television Academy Foundation what he really thought of Knotts’ performance as Furley.
Without being prompted on the topic, Griffith offered his friend’s role as an example of a program that “isn’t funny.” Knotts was a recurring character on Griffith’s legal drama Matlock after his time on Three’s Company.
“I thought Don was awful on Three’s Company,” Griffith said. “I told him when he came into Matlock.
“I said, ‘Lord, Don bring it down, bring it down, you were on Three’s Company too long’ because he was performing the same way with those big huge takes and everything.”