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Barney Fife was the fictional deputy sheriff in the American TV sitcom The Andy Griffith Show. Played by the late Don Knotts, Fife was the hyperkinetic but comically inept counterpart to Mayberry's cool-headed Sheriff Andy Taylor. To the other people in town, Barney was generally viewed as a blowhard, whose services in the line of duty seldom matched his interpretation. He was smug and self-confident until a real-life situation arose, wherein he would become exasperated. He was known for being overly analytical or overenthusiastic about an otherwise benign situation, especially in regard to the crime in Mayberry. He would often take a simple situation, blow it out of proportion, and then devise an elaborate plan (sometimes involving other inept townspeople, like Gomer) to resolve it, only causing more trouble as a result, and then get bailed out by Andy in the end. Despite his ineptitude, he had a strong passion for his career as a law enforcement officer, regularly spouting off penal codes and police jargon in any applicable situation.
In one episode, Barney finds a poem written about him in graffiti on the side of a wall. It said:
"There once was a deputy called Fife, Who carried a gun and a knife. The gun was all dusty, And his knife was all rusty, Because he never caught a crook in his life."
He blamed Andy's son Opie (Ron Howard) for the incident but he later found out Opie could not write yet.
One major source of trouble with Barney is his abilities with a firearm. After several occasions of accidently discharging his revolver (usually a Colt "Official Police" model .38 caliber), Andy restricted Barney to carry only a single bullet which was to be kept in his shirt pocket. The bullet(s) always seemed to find its way back into the pistol where predictably it would be accidently discharged, sometimes when Barney was demonstrating his famous "fast draw". There was a running gag on the show in which Barney would instruct inexperienced gun users on the safe use of firearms, show them how to properly handle the weapon, and then return it to its holster whereupon it would invariably fire into the floor. Andy, who would be silently standing by, would then hold out his hand, and Barney would once again have to hand over his gun.
Although Barney enjoys singing, he has no vocal talent. This fact was a common thread throughout the show, and is highlighted by several episodes, most notably "Barney and the Choir" and "The Song Festers". He is also self-deceived over his prowess in the art of Judo. Barney often puts on a show of bravado to mask his insecurity and lack of confidence. His behavior often made him appear arrogant and foolish, but he was at heart a kind, caring person. He is an inveterate gossip and finds it almost impossible to keep a secret, even when it is a matter of police business (for example, an armored car full of money coming through the town).
When he's not patrolling the streets of Mayberry, Barney spent his free time dating a local girl named Thelma Lou (played by actress Betty Lynn). Thelma Lou was Barney's main girlfriend throughout the show, although he also dated other women, in particular, a diner waitress named Juanita, who is never seen but only referred to. Barney remained a bachelor throughout the show's run and given his propensity to "play the field" Barney could be understood as somewhat of a rogue when it came to women. Barney took up residence in different places including the local YMCA and Mrs. Mendelbright's boarding house. When not on duty, he was usually seen in a fedora and his "salt-and-pepper" suit.
Barney's middle name remains a mystery but according to the episode "Class Reunion" Barney's middle name is Milton. But sometimes he is called "Bernard P. Fife", but Andy says at one point, "I thought your middle name was Oliver!"
Barney 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. It is explained that Barney Fife had left Mayberry to take a job as a detective in Raleigh. Knotts reprised the character in guest appearances each season until The Andy Griffith Show left the air in 1968.