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A tall, mop-haired, drawling hoofer in musicals of the thirties, a respected
stage star/playwright in the forties, Fess Parker's grizzled sidekick in
"Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier", in the fifties, and the rustic
patriarch of "The Beverly Hillbillies" in the sixties...Each decade
introduced a new, successful direction in the career of multi-talented
'Renaissance Man', Buddy Ebsen (1908-2003). The seventies would be no
exception, as then 65-year old Ebsen would bring his wisdom, sense of
justice, and undeniable charm to one of the decade's most popular, if
formulaic detective shows, Quinn Martin Productions' "Barnaby Jones"
As a retired cop, the murder of his son, a successful private investigator, would bring the elder Jones back, not only to solve the crime, but to continue his son's business, aided by his daughter-in-law, Betty (the beautiful Lee Meriwether, 38). Barnaby was a prickly old codger, more care-worn and serious than Ebsen's 'Jed Clampett', and each episode would focus more on the perpetrators of the crimes he would ultimately solve, than on his personal life, which would give the program an almost "Columbo"-like slant. There was nearly always an 'innocent' to save, and many episodes would climax in shootouts and foot chases, where the ancient Jones would always 'run down' the younger criminals (making the series a favorite target of contemporary humorists).
The addition of young cousin Jedediah Romano ("Call me J.R.") Jones, in the person of 27-year old Mark Shera, in 1976, while geared to attract younger viewers, actually improved the series, as it lightened the overall 'tone', and gave Ebsen a 'student' to give 'Yoda-like' advice to. Together, Barnaby, Betty, and J.R. made quite a team!
While the series would air it's final episode in 1980, and Ebsen would move on to great success as a painter and author over the next two decades, he would revive the detective in his final film appearance, in the big screen version of THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, in 1993. Barnaby Jones, as prickly as ever, would still be taking cases at 85!
This is one of my all time favorite private eye shows. Barnaby Jones was probably the last person you would think of as a private investigator, but he mixed good old fashioned detective work with all the then modern techniques (just check out the lab in his office). Lee Meriwether was perfectly cast as his daughter-in-law/secretary Betty and after a few years they brought in the muscle in the form of Barnaby's cousin J.R.(don't call me Jedidiah) Jones. Too bad they don't show reruns of this show anymore. It was an all time classic.
I remember watching this show as a kid and finding it immensely enjoyable. I watched it in reruns during summer afternoons (cue nostalgic music), though I can't recall the exact years that I caught it. Probably the early 80s. I was young enough where the formulaic nature of the show that has been mentioned in other reviews here didn't taint the show in any way for me. I didn't watch the show religiously and it has been a long time since I saw any episodes, but the thing that sticks with me about it is the casual, laid-back atmosphere, the cast's charm-particularly Buddy Ebsen's-and, yes, Barnaby regularly running down much younger men on foot. Of course, my memory could be playing tricks on me. I just watched a movie, "Coach", with Cathy Lee Crosby, that I had watched in the late 70s and found enormously erotic, and I couldn't believe how tame and unerotic (with the exception of one kiss) it was, proving that you can't go home again. If this series is ever released on DVD, I'll probably buy it, hoping that maybe this time I will be able to go home again. My fear is that, having seen so many TV shows and movies since then, the formulaic nature of the show will be more apparent to me, which could make the show get tiresome in a hurry.
An excellent 1970s detective show with a heart. Lee Meriwether is superb as the supportive Betty Jones. As the series progressed Betty was allowed out of the office and into the fray. Mark Shera as Jedidah Jones was an unnecessary attempt to attract younger viewers. Barnaby could always handle any young punk that he came across without any help.
This show always made me chuckle. Every show had the same plot. Barnaby runs
down the kidnappers with his 3 ton Ford LTD, gets shot at, ducks, and kills
the kidnappers with a single shot. Then Barnaby frees the young blonde woman
tied up in a barn.
The opening of the show was good too. And the always showed who plays the guest characters. Many 70's shows always had a title to the particular show. (Streets of San Fransico) That's one thing, which is missing about todays shows. Many shows today, don't even a have an opening or a list of credits. One must look up a show in the imdb to see who the actors are. Of course nothing can top the opening of "Hawaii Five-O", that was the best part of that show.
Although the physical constraints of age limited the action somewhat in
Barnaby Jones, this senior citizen had none of his mental faculties
impaired when on a case.
In a pilot that was an episode of the Cannon TV series, Frank Cannon is hired to investigate the death of Hal Jones a colleague. Hal had taken over the detective agency from father Barnaby who decided to retire as senior citizens are wont to do. But his fires are banked with the homicide of his son and Buddy Ebsen and daughter-in-law Lee Meriwether take over the agency with her as Ebsen's secretary. Thus a successful television series was born.
Ebsen was a cagey old bird who a lot of bad guys thought was past his prime. They'd always trip themselves up because they thought he was not really paying attention to what they said. The Medicare set loved Barnaby Jones.
But TV is always after that youth market and after a few seasons Mark Shera was added to the cast as J.R. Jones, a nephew gone into the business with the uncle. Now the rough stuff could be dealt with in house if needed.
Buddy Ebsen as a performer reinvented himself more than Madonna. Over his 95 year life we saw him as musical dancing performer, Georgie Russell companion to Davy Crockett, Jed Clampett of the Beverly Hillbillies, Barnaby Jones, and finally Roy Houston uncle of Matt Houston. And there are a lot more single roles than that, films like Attack and Breakfast At Tiffany's which was a different Ebsen all together from the rest. Was this man ever versatile.
An inspiration to senior citizens everywhere.
During the seasons this Quinn Martin production was popular, my late father used to say that it was hard to believe that the same man who played Barnaby Jones had once played Jed Clampett. To be sure, for many years Buddy Ebsen had been an outstanding, versatile actor. Just the opening music allowed the viewing public to notice this: "Beverly Hillbillies" started off with light, banjo-playing music, followed by the singing of Lester Flatts and Earl Scruggs, whereas Barnaby Jones started off with "cold", "rough", and serious music by Jerry Goldsmith. While Barnaby Jones was, again, "a good ole' boy", even if he was in his middle 60's in 1973, he was a sophisticated man, having studied chemistry and clinical psychology,(again, unlike Jed Clampett.) Simultaneously, he was good at his job, so much so that even the most sophisticated of criminals were, in one sense of the phrase, in awe of him. He also occasionally portrayed the fact that the widower was quite a lady's man: in one episode the first season, it was agreeably surprising to see him and Kathy Crosby (ca.forty years his junior) ride away together in his new Ford. Along with him, Mark Shera (Barnaby's cousin Jedediah Romana, or J.R.) was a welcome addition, but my favorite icon was Lee Meriwether, who played his daughter-in-law Betty; that beautiful lady was still that way ca. twenty years after being chosen Miss America in 1955. Also, as a minister, (though I wasn't that in the 70's) I liked it that the show was wholesome in a decade when wholesomeness was gradually deteriorating. Though he wasn't a suave Mannix, a mean-but-kind bouncer Cannon, (though the late 60's man could handle himself well when necessary) he was one who was capable of putting pieces together and, thus, of solving the crime. Because of the show's wholesomeness, the complicated nature of the plots, as well as the other reasons, it was a show I virtually never missed, all the way from 1973 to 1980. A great T.V. series
Another one of Quinn Martin's great 70's TV series, as a previous user said this show did come of as unintentionally funny at times due to the advanced age of the always entertaining Buddy Ebsen! I remember there would always be a scene in almost every episode where Mr Ebsen would stiffly run after someone. I kept thinking as a little kid that Buddy Ebsen looked soooo Skinny and frail that a puff of air could knock him down! Yet despite all of this, the show held our viewing interest for six seasons, perhaps we were drawn to the subliminal message that milk is good for your bones because it was obviously helping Barnaby Jones not to snap like a matchstick!
Buddy Epson & Lee Merriwether- very good acting & put together with
Quinn Martin another winning combo. Actually, this show was CBS payback
to Buddy who was extremely upset with CBS for canceling the Beverly
Hillbillies while they were still a hit show. He kind of felt like he
lost his family there & felt the execs at the network were a little
Buddy was right about that. This show is well done & CBS had raided ABC to get Quinn Martin to do this & Cannon. CBS wanted to change it's country image & these shows became a moderately successful way to do that. Trouble is CBS execs wasted more of the number 1 networks success & by the 1908's after they forced Walter Cronkrite to retire & dumbed down & tarted up their news with Dan Rather, they had pretty much become a second rated network.
This show's success along with MASH & a few others kept them on top through the 1970's. Buddy Ebsen was so talented that he could play almost anybody & make them believable. He comes off here as a fine detective & Lee Merriwether came into her own during this show.
Ebsen is one of the few TV actors to be part of successful shows in the 1950's, 60's, & 70's. It is a fitting tribute to such a unique talent who made his first splash in movies in the 1930's. He has an enduring legacy and this show is the last piece of it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
OK, I'll admit I am only slightly familiar with Barnaby Jones, but
thats a good thing! I watched this series vary sparingly as a pre teen
and for me to remember much of it would mean I led a really dull
childhood. I gather it was there to appeal to the seniors, Lord knows
why I would watch it. I guess I'd watch any Quinn Martin production at
that time (Cannon I do remember, that fat guy would blast away!). I was
a BIG Beverly Hillbillies fan so I guess thats why I would watch ol
Barnaby in action. Some thoughts, Barnaby was up there in the years so
I don't remember a whole lot of fist a cuffs, or long running chases, I
don't even remember him shooting anyone (but he may have), I think one
look of him pointing a gun at you would make you think him saying "look
Mister, I've got one foot in the grave anyway, I'll take you down with
me if you make a move". But good ol Barnaby was always cool to think
about when he'd be looking for that information at a bar, he'd always
order a glass of milk, OH BROTHER! THATS CLASSIC, LOL. Buddy your one
of the best!
UPDATE! 2014. CBS released this show on DVD so I got a chance to catch up with Buddy and I realized at least one thing. This show had long legs because if you look at it when it originally aired in the 1970's, CBS ran this show at 10 pm on Sundays it's first few seasons then 10pm on Thursday nights the rest of it's run. IT WAS AN EXCELLENT SLEEPING AID! Seriously, I watched the pilot first episode with Frank Cannon (who is another hoot, the guy never misses with a snub nose .38 no matter how far away he is), and even with Frank involved this show is a serious snoozer! Then I watched the next episode from season 1 with William Shatner as the bad guy and I drew this conclusion. Barnaby got the stupid murderers with high expectations but little thought process involved. Besides being boring, this show has lame stupid villains. More power to it's long run but I'm pretty sure it was old people tuning in that felt comfortable watching Buddy while they fell asleep after 10pm with the TV on. That milk thing was probably something subliminal to put the viewer to sleep. Seriously. 4 of 10, it's so boring that the retro stuff doesn't even work here, try Cannon, Mannix, Hawaii 5 0, Hill Street Blues, Kojak, Streets Of San Francisco, Ironside, Berretta, Columbo, Starsky and Hutch, I mean any of those shows blow away watching Barnaby Jones. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.
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