Barnaby Jones debuted on CBS as a mid-season replacement in 1973. The detective series starred Buddy Ebsen as the titular investigator who, with the help of his widowed daughter-in-law, Betty Jones played by Lee Meriweather, ran a private detective firm in LA. Halfway through the show’s run, Mark Shera added to the cast as J. R. Jones, Barnaby’s much younger cousin.
Ebsen previously played Jed Clampett on the Beverly Hillbillies, while Lee Meriweather had played Catwoman in the memorable 1966 film version of Batman. They might have seemed like an unlikely pairing – especially for a crime-solving team – but audiences couldn’t seem to get enough of their undeniably charming on-screen chemistry.
Barnaby Jones was the brainchild of TV legend Quinn Martin, the man behind hit dramas like The FBI, The Fugitive, The Invaders, Cannon, and The Streets of San Francisco.
The series not initially expected as a huge hit, but it ended up running for 178 episodes over eight seasons. For four of it’s seasons, Barnaby Jones even broke into the top 30. And as you will soon see, even a former US president considered himself a fan of the series.
Join Facts Verse as we try to get to the bottom of just how and why Barnaby Jones eventually Cancelled. Rumor has it, Buddy Ebsen personally canceled the show, but if you want to know the real reason why you’ll have to keep watching.
It Was Supposed To Be A Spin-off Of Cannon
Initially, the plan for the Barnaby Jones pilot episode for it be aired as an episode of Cannon. Barnaby would then presented to the audience as a direct spin-off of that series. It eventually decided, however, just to air the pilot independently from the get-go.
That said, in the first episode, ‘Requiem for a Son’, Cannon’s William Conrad guest-starred as detective Frank Cannon. So, technically Barnaby Jones still takes place in the same television universe as that series.
There would later be another Cannon crossover in the 1975 two-part episode ‘The Deadly Conspiracy”.
Richard Nixon Was A Huge Fan Of The Show
According to an article published in the Milwaukee Journal in 1984, former President of the United States, Richard Nixon, desired to join the Barnaby Jones fan club known as the Barnaby Jones Luncheon Club.
On one occasion, Ebsen ran into Nixon in Palm Springs. The disgraced former POTUS apparently started gushing about how he had seen every episode of the series and could quote just about every line.
Ebsen subsequently wrote the fan club’s president Jordayne Thomas requesting that Nixon made a member. Unfortunately, it’s never revealed whether or not Tricky Dick ever made an official card-carrying member of the club.
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And don’t go anywhere just yet. Stay tuned to find out why Buddy Ebsen eventually decided to call it quits and wrap up the series. Join Facts Verse as we try to get to the bottom of just how and why Barnaby Jones eventually Cancelled.
A Beverly Hillbillies Crossover Planned
Maybe in an alternate universe this plan might have actually come to light, but for all of us here in this universe, we’ll forever left wondering what might have been.
The idea was that a crossover episode would developed between the two series in which Ebsen would portray both Barnaby Jones and Jed Clampett.
The proposed pilot’s script never materialized, so it’s potential plot remains a mystery, but the little that we do know about it implies that the episode would have seen Jones coming to the rescue of Jed in some sort of way.
Even though that crossover never happened, Ebsen did make an appearance as Barnaby Jones in the 1993 Beverly Hillbillies film. Ebsen’s brief cameo was pretty fun to see regardless of the fact that the film was a massive flop.
In case you’re curious, actor Jim Varney played Jed Clampett in that dud of a flick.
Composer Jerry Goldsmith Hated Pilot
Principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, Andre Previn, was the producer’s first pick to compose Barnaby Jones’ theme song, but he ended up turning down the gig.
After seeing the pilot episode, veteran film television composer Jerry Goldsmith tried desperately to get out of having to score the series even though he had already signed on to do so. From what he had seen so far, Goldsmith found the show to be pretty abysmal. Granted, this was an opinion that shared by many critics at the time as well.
Despite his reservations, Goldsmith convinced to set his feelings aside and write the theme song and score the pilot anyway. In the end, Barnaby Jones ended up running longer than any of his other series, with the lone exception being The Waltons. Join Facts Verse as we try to get to the bottom of just how and why Barnaby Jones eventually Cancelled.
Keeping It In The Family
Buddy Ebsen’s daughter, Bonnie Ebsen, appeared in the series six times. Her first three appearances were merely bit parts. For her fourth and fifth appearances, she was given top billing. And for her final appearance, she was billed as the Special Guest Star.
Lee Meriweather’s daughter, Kyle Aletter, likewise appeared on the show twice as a guest star.
Additionally, Barnaby Jones’ executive producer Quinn Martin’s daughter, Jill, appeared on the program three times as a guest star.
Arguably the most notable example of a crew member’s family member appearing on the show was Producer Leo Penn’s son Sean Penn. In fact that appearance marked the esteemed actor’s screen debut!
Ebsen Struggled To Keep Up With The Pace of Filming
JR was added to the cast, and Shera and Meriwether were given increased focus after Buddy Ebsen expressed his desire to take a step back from the series due to his advancing age.
Ebsen was 64 years old when the series premiered, and the actor had a very long commute every day to the studio from his Valley home.
Crew members often would catch Ebsen taking naps on the set. Sometimes, he would fall asleep in his car or even while standing up. Unlike some other flashier sets, the Barnaby Jones set was fairly quiet without much going on when the cameras weren’t rolling.
Director of Photography William W. Spenser recalled that Ebsen always seemed to know when a scene was ready to shoot. He would wake up automatically and immediately jump into character.
During the last two seasons of the series, episodes were divided evenly between Shera and Meriweather and Buddy Ebsen. Ratings briefly went up in the sixth and seventh seasons after Shera was added to the cast, but they nosedived during the eighth season.
The series was ultimately canceled in 1980 due to it’s lackluster ratings. Ebsen had also grown tired of playing the role and wanted to move on with his life. After Barnaby Jones was canceled, reruns began airing in syndication. Join Facts Verse as we try to get to the bottom of just how and why Barnaby Jones eventually Cancelled.
In 2015, Visual Entertainment released Barnaby Jones: The Complete Series on DVD. Beginning in September 2019, MeTV began airing Barnaby Jones reruns.
Where The Cast Are Today
Although Ebsen had expressed the desire to step away from acting, he went on to appear in the ABC drama Matt Houston playing the titular lead’s uncle, Roy Houston, during the series’ third season. He later narrated a documentary series called Disney Family Album on the Disney Channel and made his final guest-starring appearance in a 1994 episode of Burke’s Law.
Ebsen died of respiratory failure on July 6, 2003, at the age of 95.
Three years after his death, a Barnaby Jones novel that Ebsen had penned titled Sizzling Cold Case was published. This wasn’t the only book that Ebsen published either, as late in his life, he wrote a handful of books ranging from romance to mystery.
Lee Meriweather went on to have a recurring role as the character Ruth Martin in the daytime soap All My Children. After that series ended in 2011, Meriweather has continued to work on stage, on television, and in features films.
She’s recently made appearances in shows like Hawaii Five-O, Desperate Housewives, The League, and Don’t Trust The B in Apartment 23. At 87, she has pretty much retired from acting, although she still makes the occasional appearance at fan conventions.
Mark Shera never quite found success as he had on Barnaby Jones, but he did make numerous guest appearances on shows like The Love Boat, Murder She Wrote, Dragnet, and Beverly Hills 90210. Join Facts Verse as we try to get to the bottom of just how and why Barnaby Jones eventually Cancelled.
He’s now 72 years old and has been retired since 2002.
Actor John Carter had the recurring role of Police Lieutenant John Biddle on Barnaby Jones. He went on to appear in films like Scarface, Worth Winning, Random Hearts, and The Hoax.
Carter passed away, succumbing to pneumonia on May 23, 2015, at the age of 87.
Seeing as how the television industry seems to have ran out of ideas at this point, it only seems inevitable that Barnaby Jones will someday get the reboot treatment. But for all of you out there that remember the series fondly as we do, Buddy Ebsen will always be the REAL Barnaby Jones.
Buddy Ebsen was an incredibly talented and diverse actor who shined in just about every role he ever took on. The fact that he eventually decided to pull the plug on Barnaby Jones owing to his advancing age seems like something that he shouldn’t be faulted for. At that point, he earned the right to call a few shots. Join Facts Verse as we try to get to the bottom of just how and why Barnaby Jones eventually Cancelled.
Did you know that Barnaby Jones broke into the top 30 most-watched TV shows for four out it’s eight seasons and that Buddy Ebsen eventually grew tired of the role and decided to call it quits? Let us know in the comments.
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