Ted Knight (Wikimedia Commons/CBS Television)
When we think of the funniest supporting roles in sitcom history, there are a few obvious characters that stand out: Don Knotts as bumbling Barney Fife, the goofiest deputy on The Andy Griffith Show. Vivian Vance as Ethel Mertz, loyal friend and partner in crime to I Love Lucy's Lucy Ricardo. Tom Poston as slightly-slow-on-the-uptake handyman George Utley on Newhart. And then there's the blusteringly vain newsman we always loved to laugh at – The Mary Tyler Moore Show's Ted Baxter, played to perfection by Ted Knight.
Knight easily could have been typecast as an incompetent buffoon, thanks to his masterful performance in seven seasons of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. But the actor had skills beyond playing convincingly dumb – like his rich and unmistakable voice. It got him gigs, like a season as announcer on Saturday morning TV staple The Super Friends.
Knight's ability to play pompous – and that commanding voice – came in handy again for his biggest movie role. As Judge Smails in Caddyshack, he wrestled with Rodney Dangerfield's irreverent golfer and intimidated the local youths.
In the last years before Knight's death on August 26, 1986, he worked in one last memorable performance – as concerned dad and illustrator Henry Rush on the sitcom Too Close For Comfort. Knight got to use his talent for ventriloquism when he talked with – and for – puppet Cosmic Cow. And he also used his physical comedy skills as he fell off a seemingly never-ending series of couches and chairs.
Written by Linnea Crowther