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Despite his shortcomings, Barney is zealous about law enforcement, regularly spouting off penal codes and ordinances to thugs and jaywalkers alike.
An emotional powderkeg, Barney often overreacts with panic, despair or bug-eyed fear.
most notably a nervous "man on the street" character, upon which Knotts' based the personality of Barney Fife, who himself was a hyperkinetic but comically inept counterpart to Mayberry's practical and composed Sheriff Andy Taylor.
Another gag has Barney locking himself or together with Andy in one of the jail cells, with the keys just out of reach.At the same time that The Steve Allen Show was ending, Knotts was looking for work.When he saw the episode of The Danny Thomas Show featuring Andy Taylor, he called Griffith suggesting that his sheriff character might reasonably need a deputy.In an interview with The Archive of American Television, Griffith admitted: "The second episode was called 'Manhunt' and I knew by that episode that Don should be the comic and I should play straight for him. In 1971, the character, whose name is not explicitly mentioned, appears in the premiere episode of The New Andy Griffith Show, visiting the mid-sized city of Greenwood to catch up with Mayor Andy Sawyer, who looks exactly like Andy Taylor and shares some of Taylor's earlier mannerisms.That made all the difference." Fife appeared on The Andy Griffith Show from the show's beginning in 1960 until 1965, when Knotts left the show to pursue a career in feature films. Nearly two decades would pass before the character was again reprised in the reunion film Return to Mayberry in 1986.
He takes a minor infraction, blows it out of proportion, and then concocts an elaborate solution (sometimes involving inept civilians, like Otis Campbell or Gomer Pyle) to resolve it.