Barnaby Jones

Barnaby Jones
Developed by Edward Hume
Starring Buddy Ebsen
Lee Meriwether
Mark Shera (1976–80)
Theme music composer Jerry Goldsmith
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 8
No. of episodes 178 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Quinn Martin (1973–78)
Philip Saltzman (1978–80)[1]
Running time 60 minutes
Distributor Worldvision Enterprises
CBS Television Distribution
Original network CBS
Original release January 28, 1973 (1973-01-28) – April 3, 1980 (1980-04-03)
Related shows Cannon

Barnaby Jones is a television detective series starring Buddy Ebsen and Lee Meriwether as a father and daughter-in-law who run a private detective firm in Los Angeles, California. The show was introduced as a midseason replacement on the CBS network and broadcast from 1973 to 1980. Halfway through the series run, Mark Shera was added to the cast as the cousin of Ebsen's character, who joins the firm. William Conrad guest-starred as Frank Cannon of Cannon on the first Barnaby Jones episode, "Requiem for a Son", and the 1975 two-part crossover episodes, "The Deadly Conspiracy". The series was produced by QM Productions (with Woodruff Productions in the final two seasons). It had the second longest QM series run (seven and a half seasons) following the eight years of The FBI. The series bore the Quinn Martin trademark where commercial breaks divided each episode into 4 "Acts" concluding with an epilogue. The opening credits were narrated by Hank Simms.


Ebsen and Meriwether

After Barnaby Jones (Buddy Ebsen) had worked as a private eye for many years, he decided to retire and left the business to his son Hal. When Hal was murdered while working on a case, Barnaby came out of retirement to find the killer. His widowed daughter-in-law, Betty Jones (Lee Meriwether), joined forces with him to solve the case. The two decided that they worked so well together, they would continue to keep the detective agency open. Jones was unusual, ordering milk in restaurants and bars, counter to the stereotypical hard-drinking detective.[2]

Until the cancellation of Cannon, the characters of both series moved back and forth between the two shows. In 1976, the character of J. R. (Mark Shera), the son of Barnaby's cousin, joined the cast. He had come to try to solve the murder of his father, but stayed around to help Barnaby and Betty, while also attending law school.

During the first year of the series, a common theme would be where Jones would make an astute observation or collect a sample, such as mud on a car's tire. The criminal, in some cases, called his accomplice and had a conversation along the lines of "there's a Mr. Jones and he's asking a lot of questions," after which the criminal was assured that Jones would be "taken care of". In view of his advancing age (Ebsen was in his 60s for most of the series) Jones rarely engaged in fistfights in the climactic scene of a given episode; instead, anticipating a violent act from an adversary, Jones would draw his revolver and get the drop on the villain, or he would use self-defense tactics such as slamming the door on a shotgun-toting villain, or using a judo hold to subdue the bad guy, or rely on others (such as J.R. or the police) to overpower and detain the criminals.

Toward the latter part of the series, as Ebsen aged and expressed an interest in slowing down a bit, Meriwether's and Shera's characters became more prominent, allowing Ebsen to reduce his role; during the last two seasons, the episodes were divided evenly among the three actors, with Ebsen, Meriwether, and Shera each being the focus of a third of the season's episodes.

The show was cancelled in 1980 due to declining ratings; Ebsen had also had enough of playing the role.[3] After the series' cancellation, reruns could be seen in syndication.

Movie reprise

During the mid-1990s, Meriwether and Shera expressed interest in a Barnaby Jones reunion television movie, but could not talk Ebsen into joining the project. However, in 1993, Ebsen reprised the role of Barnaby Jones in the big-screen remake of his most famous television series, The Beverly Hillbillies (Jim Varney played Jed Clampett, the role Ebsen played on the television series, in the film). It would be his final theatrical appearance.

Guest stars

Among the guest stars who appeared over the years were Conlan Carter and Gary Lockwood, who appeared together in the third episode of the series entitled "Sunday: Doomsday" on February 25, 1973. Other guests, just in the first year alone, included:

In later seasons, guest stars included Wayne Maunder, formerly on CBS's Lancer western series, and Ron Hayes, who played Sheriff Oscar Hamlin in the episode "Target for a Wedding." Marshall Colt, later cast with James Arness on McClain's Law, guest-starred in two episodes in 1979. Donald May played the role of Curt Phillips in the 1978 episode "Blind Jeopardy". Character actress Lurene Tuttle played Emily Carter in the 1980 episode "The Killin' Cousin".

Many familiar actors made guest appearances, and others who were newcomers went on to become well-known, including:

Buddy Ebsen's real-life daughter, Bonnie Ebsen, and Lee Meriwether's real-life daughter, Kyle Aletter-Oldham, made cameo appearances in one episode. Future Trapper John, M.D. stars Pernell Roberts, Gregory Harrison, and Charles Siebert all made guest appearances on one episode. Future WKRP in Cincinnati stars Loni Anderson and Gary Sandy made guest appearances, as well.

Broadcast history

Season Time slot
1 (1973) Sunday at 9:30 – 10:30 pm (EST)
2 (1973–74)
3 (1974–75) Tuesday at 10:00 – 11:00 pm (EST)
4 (1975–76) Friday at 10:00 – 11:00 pm (EST)
(September 19 – November 28, 1975)
Thursday at 10:00 – 11:00 pm (EST)
(December 4, 1975 – March 18, 1976)
5 (1976–77) Thursday at 10:00 – 11:00 pm (EST)
6 (1977–78)
7 (1978–79)
8 (1979–80) Thursday at 10:00 – 11:00 pm (EST)
(September 20 – November 29, 1979)
Thursday at 9:00 – 10:00 pm (EST)
(December 20, 1979 – April 3, 1980)

DVD releases

On February 16, 2010, CBS DVD (distributed by Paramount) released season one of Barnaby Jones on DVD in Region 1 for the first time.[4] The episode "The Murdering Class" has had the word "nigger" bleeped out when one of the characters speaks, because it was considered offensive in the 2000s, although one can still hear the "n" sound of the word; because of this audio edit, the release was not called "The Complete First Season". The episodes on the DVD include their broadcast trailers.

As of September 2014, this release has been discontinued and is out of print.[5]

On May 4, 2015, it was announced that Visual Entertainment had acquired the rights to the series in Region 1.[6] It was subsequently announced that VEI would release Barnaby Jones- The Complete Collection on DVD on December 15, 2015.[7] The 45-disc set features all 179 episodes of the series as well as a bonus prequel episode.

DVD Name Ep# Release Date
Season One 13 February 16, 2010
The Complete Collection 179 December 11, 2015

See also


External links

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