Barney Fife gets serious
When you hear the name of Barney Fife, deputy sheriff on the classic The Andy Griffith Show, what comes to mind? Well, he was smug and self-confident, over-analytical, overzealous, and a bit of a blowhard. But how about eloquent, intense and heartwarming? No, you say? Well, you'd be wrong, because there was one particular episode where he was just that, all in defense of his partner Sheriff Andy Taylor.
Jump ahead and I'll tell you all about it.
The episode was entitled "Andy on Trial" and it aired during the second season of The Andy Griffith Show. If you didn't see the opening credits you could swear that it was a legal drama of that era. The premise is this: a news mogul swears revenge on Sheriff Taylor after he is arrested. He sends one of his reporters to Mayberry to dig up dirt on Andy. Posing as a college student writing a paper on local law enforcement, the reporter interviews Deputy Fife to get some information. During the interview Barney, being himself, tries to impress the young lady by telling her that Andy is too kindhearted and lax to be a sheriff, and he would do things differently if he were in that position.
When the mogul receives this information he files a lawsuit against Andy for malfeasance. His goal: to remove Andy from his position as Sheriff of Mayberry. This is where the show gets very serious. The prosecution grills Barney on his statements and actually gets him to admit that he said them. There's no bluster in Barney this time around, no self-confidence. This is a Barney who realizes that he may have finally gone too far.
It looks like Andy will be out of a job. Then, Barney asks to address the court. With a seriousness instilled by the circumstances, he begins a speech defending Andy's role as sheriff. In a nutshell, he says that Andy is the heart of Mayberry, and the town would not be the same without him. In the end, the charges against Andy are dropped and all returns to normal; including Barney's bluster.
This was one of the most dramatic episodes that I could remember from TAGS, and from Don Knotts as well. After seeing him in so many roles where he played the bumbling nobody, this really showed his true acting chops. If you ever happen to come upon this episode when it airs on TV Land again, make sure to tune in and watch . . . you'll be pleasantly surprised.