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Barnaby Jones

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Barnaby Jones
GenreDetective fiction
Developed byEdward Hume
Theme music composerJerry Goldsmith
ComposerJeff Alexander
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons8
No. of episodes178 (list of episodes)
Executive producers
Running time60 minutes
Production companies
  • Woodruff Productions
  • (1978-1980)
  • (seasons 7-8)
  • QM Productions
Original release
ReleaseJanuary 28, 1973 (1973-01-28) –
April 3, 1980 (1980-04-03)

Barnaby Jones is an American detective television series starring Buddy Ebsen as a formerly retired investigator and Lee Meriwether as his widowed daughter-in-law. They run a private detective firm in Los Angeles, California. The show was originally introduced as a midseason replacement on the CBS network and ran from 1973 to 1980. Halfway through the series' run, Mark Shera was added to the cast as a much younger cousin of Ebsen's character, who eventually joined the firm.

Barnaby Jones 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 nine years of The F.B.I.. The series followed the characteristic Quinn Martin episode format with commercial breaks dividing each episode into four "acts," concluding with an epilogue. The opening credits were narrated by Hank Simms. Jerry Goldsmith composed the series' distinctive theme music.

The first episode of the show, "Requiem for a Son", featured a crossover with another QM program, Cannon, with William Conrad guest-starring as detective Frank Cannon. There was another crossover between the two programs in the 1975 two-part episode "The Deadly Conspiracy".


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. After this case, his widowed daughter-in-law, Betty Jones (Lee Meriwether), went to work for him at the detective agency. Jones was unusual, ordering milk in restaurants and bars, counter to the stereotypical hard-drinking detective.[2]

In 1976, the character of Jedediah Romano "J.R." Jones (Mark Shera), the son of Barnaby's cousin, joined the show. He had come from Chicago to try to solve the murder of his father, who was a retired police officer. After that case was closed, he stayed in Los Angeles to help Barnaby and Betty, while also attending law school. Initially a somewhat angry young man, J.R. soon became an easygoing, fun-loving character.

Besides the Joneses, the only other recurring character on the show was their police contact, Lt. John Biddle (John Carter). He was introduced in the latter half of the second season and appeared in most episodes thereafter, though often only briefly.

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, episodes were divided evenly between the two actors, Meriwether and Shera each being the focus of half of the season's episodes with Ebsen's involvement limited to slightly more than episodic cameos. Ratings went up in the sixth and seventh seasons, after Shera's character was added, but they plummeted during Season 8.

The show was canceled in 1980 due to declining ratings; Ebsen had also tired of playing the role.[3] After the series' cancellation, reruns aired in syndication.


Main cast[edit]

Guest stars[edit]

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 in the first season 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, Betty's aunt, 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, made guest appearances in six episodes, while Lee Meriwether's real-life daughter, Kyle Aletter-Oldham, made cameo appearances in two episodes.[4][5] 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.


SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
113January 28, 1973 (1973-01-28)May 6, 1973 (1973-05-06)
224September 16, 1973 (1973-09-16)March 31, 1974 (1974-03-31)
324September 10, 1974 (1974-09-10)April 15, 1975 (1975-04-15)
424September 19, 1975 (1975-09-19)March 18, 1976 (1976-03-18)
524October 7, 1976 (1976-10-07)May 19, 1977 (1977-05-19)
622September 15, 1977 (1977-09-15)March 2, 1978 (1978-03-02)
725September 21, 1978 (1978-09-21)April 19, 1979 (1979-04-19)
822September 20, 1979 (1979-09-20)April 3, 1980 (1980-04-03)


Season Time slot Rank Rating[6]
1 (1972–73) Sunday at 9:30 – 10:30 pm (EST) 25 19.9 (Tied with The Little People and The ABC Wednesday Movie of the Week)
2 (1973–74) 17 21.4 (Tied with Good Times)
3 (1974–75) Tuesday at 10:00 – 11:00 pm (EST) 33 19.6
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) 49 18.5
6 (1977–78) 22 20.6
7 (1978–79) 24 20.5
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)
Not in the Top 30

Home media[edit]

On February 16, 2010, CBS DVD (distributed by Paramount) released season one of Barnaby Jones on DVD in Region 1 for the first time.[7] The episode "The Murdering Class" has had the word "nigger" bleeped out when one of the characters speaks, 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. This edit also exists on the VEI release.

As of September 2014, this release has been discontinued and is out of print.[8]

On May 4, 2015, Visual Entertainment announced it had acquired the rights to the series in Region 1.[9] It was subsequently announced that VEI would release Barnaby Jones—The Complete Collection on DVD on December 15, 2015.[10] 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

In other media[edit]


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 film The Beverly Hillbillies, adapted from Ebsen's television series of the same name (Jim Varney played Jed Clampett, the role that Ebsen had played on the television series, in the film). It was Ebsen's final theatrical appearance.


From 1978 to 1983, Barnaby Jones began broadcasting in off-net syndication. Beginning September 3, 2019, MeTV began broadcasting Barnaby Jones reruns.


  1. ^ "Philip Saltzman, Producer of 'Barnaby Jones'". Los Angeles Times. August 21, 2009. Retrieved August 23, 2009.
  2. ^ "Barnaby Jones". Nostalgia Central. June 17, 2014.
  3. ^ Etter, Jonathan (July 1, 2015). Quinn Martin, Producer. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-1-4766-0506-7.
  4. ^ "Bonnie Ebsen". IMDb. Retrieved December 28, 2021.
  5. ^ "Kyle Aletter". IMDb. Retrieved December 28, 2021.
  6. ^ Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle (June 24, 2009). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946-Present (Ninth ed.). New York: Ballantine Books. pp. 1686–1688. ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4.
  7. ^ Lambert, David (November 17, 2009). "The Buddy Ebsen/Lee Meriwether Series is (Finally) Announced for DVD!". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Archived from the original on November 21, 2009. Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  8. ^ "Barnaby Jones (Paramount): The First Season". Michael's Movie Mayhem.
  9. ^ Lambert, David (July 27, 2015). "Barnaby Jones - Buddy Ebsen is the Focus of this Cover Art Preview from VEI". Archived from the original on July 31, 2015. Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  10. ^ "Possible Date for 'The Complete Collection: Limited Edition'". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Archived from the original on November 22, 2015.

External links[edit]