Barnaby Jones was a television drama that aired on January 28th, 1973, and concluded on April 3rd, 1980. It aired for eight seasons and had a total of 178 episodes, each of which ran for sixty minutes. The show became immensely popular over the years, and its ratings swelled greatly during its sixth and seventh seasons.
This drama was produced by Quinn Martin, executive producer extraordinaire who specialized in crime-related television shows.
The show started off with a gritty premise. Retired private investigator Barnaby Jones (who was played by Buddy Ebsen) came out of retirement after the tragic and mysterious murder of his son. He works tirelessly alongside his son’s widow, Betty Jones (who was played by the stunning actress Lee Meriwether) to find his son’s killer. While the premise of the show was far too grisly for younger audience members, it was extremely popular amongst adults looking for more thrill in life.
Part of what made this show so captivating was Barnaby Jones’ character. The producers and writers could have easily created another hard-boiled private eye with a serious drinking problem. However, they put a spin on the classic private eye story by creating a rather unusual protagonist. Rather than ordering hard liquors at bars, detective Barnaby Jones preferred to drink milk. Not only did this add an element of humor to the show, but it also surprised audiences who had been expecting yet another classic noir kind of show. This kept audience members on their toes, something many writers and producers have to work hard to accomplish.
Furthermore, the show included plenty of exciting guest stars, including William Shatner, Patrick O’Neal, and Sean Penn. It featured many talented actors, including up-and-coming actors who had yet to become famous. Similar to the television show ER, Barnaby Jones was the perfect opportunity for young actors to make an appearance and supplement their acting experience.
Of course, behind the scenes, the actors were far more relaxed than the gritty show’s premise might suggest. In today’s video, we’re going to take a look at what went on when the cameras weren’t rolling, as well as some of the impact that Barnaby Jones had on popular culture. Make sure you stick around until the very end of the video, where we’ll reveal which show almost had a crossover episode with Barnaby Jones! Before we get started, be sure to click the like button, and don’t forget to subscribe and click that notification bell so you can stay up to date with all of our videos!
Facts Verse Presents: Richard Nixon LOVED Barnaby Jones- Did You?
The Show Featured Some Surprising Villains
Barnaby Jones featured many surprising plot twists and character quirks. Part of what made the show so exciting was that audiences began to expect the unexpected. Fans of the show were especially surprised by two of the actors who played major villains on the show.
One of the villains of the show was Robert Reed, who played a journalist named DeWitt Robinson in the 1977 episode “Death Beat.” Robert Reed’s character in Barnaby Jones was a far cry from his typical roles. In the show, his character was so devoted to his job as a journalist that he was willing to commit murder to get a good headline! Of course, this was very different from his most well-known role; the father of the Brady Bunch. Who would have thought Mike Brady could also be a cold-blooded murderer?
Another surprising actor was cast as another villain on the show. William Shatner, known best for his portrayal of Captain Kirk in the famous Star Trek series, played a man who faked his death in the episode “To Catch a Dead Man.”
Andre Previn Declined to Compose the Show’s Theme Song
The creators of Barnaby Jones attempted to hire Andre Previn as the composer for the show’s theme song. Andre Previn was an accomplished musician, and he was even the conductor for the London Symphony Orchestra. Sadly, Andre Previn didn’t want to lend his musical expertise to the show, and the creators had to scramble to find a different composer.
After Andre Previn turned down the offer, the creators enlisted the help of Jerry Goldsmith, who composed the theme song for the TV show The Waltons. Jerry Goldsmith agreed to the job, but he almost tried to back out after he witnessed the show’s pilot. Apparently, the gritty drama wasn’t to his taste, and he would have preferred to not compose a theme song to a show he didn’t like. However, he begrudgingly fulfilled his role, and it ended up being one of his most successful endeavors.
President Richard Nixon Adored the Show
Nothing improves a show’s ratings quite like being endorsed by a celebrity. When that celebrity just so happens to be the President of the United States, well, your show is sure to be a success. While visiting Palm Springs, Buddy Epsen ran into the former US President in 1984. Richard Nixon was starstruck, and he monologued about his love for the show. He even mentioned that he almost started a fan club for the show. As a former movie star himself, Richard Nixon was well-known for endorsing the shows and movies that he loved. If you also loved Barnaby Jones, click the like button to let us know!
The Show Had an Incredibly Prolific Producer
Barnaby Jones was produced by Quinn Martin, but his fame certainly didn’t start or end with that show! For 21 years straight, Quinn Martin had at least one television show running on prime time. Sometimes, during the 1960s and 1970s, he would have up to four different series running simultaneously across various television networks. Under his own production company, QM productions, Quinn Martin also produced shows like Cannon, The Invaders, and The F.B.I. Furthermore, he has been a member of the Television Hall of Fame since 1997. This is one man who has certainly been successful in his field.
Lee Meriwether Also Played Catwoman
In Barnaby Jones, Lee Meriwether played the widow of Barnaby’s murdered son. Together, she and Barnaby teamed up to form a crime-fighting duo hell-bent on finding his murderer. While the dynamic duo was a far cry from the usual hard-boiled detectives that were common in the 1970s, audiences fell in love with their charming personalities.
However, while Lee Meriwether’s performance as Betty Jones was quite impressive, she had an even more impressive role up her sleeve. In 1966, she played Catwoman in the famous film Batman. She also acted in a multitude of other films and TV shows, including The Time Tunnel, All My Children, and The Munsters.
The Show Was Initially a Spin-Off of the Show Cannon
Quinn Martin created the show Cannon in 1971. This dramatic crime series followed Frank Cannon, a former member of the LAPD, as well as a veteran from the Korean War. This crime show focused on Frank Cannon solving mysteries for private clients. Quinn Martin put a lot of time and effort into the show, and in 1973, he decided he wanted the show to have a spin-off series. The character Frank Cannon appeared in the pilot of Barnaby Jones, and there were several crossover episodes later on in the series.
Buddy Ebsen Frequently Took Naps On Set
When Barnaby Jones first aired, Buddy Ebsen was 64 years old. Furthermore, his commute from his home to the set was quite long and taxing on the old actor. As a result, he took frequent naps on the set of the show. Some cast and crew members even remarked that he would fall asleep while standing up! While most TV shows are alive with bustle while the cameras aren’t rolling, most of the cast and crew knew to keep the atmosphere quiet and calm as a result of Buddy Ebsen’s age. Of course, whenever it was time to start filming, Ebsen was awake and on his feet in an instant.
Children of the Cast Member Made Frequent Appearances
The relaxed setting of Barnaby Jones made it the perfect opportunities for cast and crew members to invite their children on to the show. Many young aspiring actors were lucky enough to guest star on several episodes. Buddy Ebsen’s daughter, Bonnie Ebsen, made a special appearance on the show, as well as Lee Meriwether’s daughter, Kyle Aletter. After she showed up on Barnaby Jones, Kyle Aletter would later go on to model for The Price is Right. Allowing the children of cast and crew members to appear on the show was a generous offer that provided the young actors with lots of experience.
Buddy Ebsen Later Wrote a Book Based on the Series
In 2006, Buddy Ebsen’s novel Sizzling Cold Case was published posthumously three years after the actor died. However, Sizzling Cold Case wasn’t the only novel Buddy Ebsen published. Aside from acting, Buddy Ebsen was also a fairly prolific writer, and he found joy in writing romance and mystery novels.
The Show Almost Had a Beverly Hillbillies Crossover
While filming Barnaby Jones, Buddy Ebsen was also busy playing the role of Jed Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies. He came up with the idea of filming a crossover episode where he played both characters simultaneously. However, the writers had no idea how to create a plot that would make any sense, and the idea was scrapped. Still, it’s a fun idea to imagine!
Barnaby Jones was extremely popular for its surprising twists and great acting. Were you more surprised to learn that the show almost had a crossover with The Beverly Hillbillies, or that Buddy Ebsen fell asleep on set? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe to Facts Verse for more!