Barnaby Jones (1973–1980)


Barnaby Jones (TV Series 1973–1980)

Barnaby Jones was a former private eye who temporarily came out of retirement to track down the killer of his son Hal, who had taken over the family business. After bringing Hal's murderer to justice (with the assistance of fellow CBS gumshoe Frank Cannon), Jones decided retirement just wasn't his bag after all, and rehung his shingle with the assistance of daughter-in-law Betty, who ran the office and Barnaby's personal crime laboratory, and (later) young distant cousin Jedidiah, who did the cases' legwork.
IMDb   6.8 /10
TheMovieDb    7.8 /10
FilmAffinity   5.5 /10
Creator Edward Hume
Release Date1973-01-28
Runtime1h 0min
GenreCrime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Content Rating
AwardsNominated for 2 Primetime Emmys. Another 2 nominations.
CompanyQuinn Martin Productions (QM)
Barnaby Jones 178 episodes, 1973-1980
Betty Jones 178 episodes, 1973-1980
Jedediah Romano "J.R." Jones 93 episodes, 1976-1980
Lt. John Biddle / ... 85 episodes, 1973-1980

Barnaby Jones

Barnaby Jones is a television detective series starring Buddy Ebsen as a formerly retired investigator and Lee Meriwether as his widowed daughter-in-law, who 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 FBI. 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.

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".


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.

In 1976, the character of Jedediah Romano "J.R." Jones (Mark Shera), the son of Barnaby's cousin, joined the cast. He had come to try to solve the murder of his father, who was a retired police officer, but after that case was closed, he stayed around to help Barnaby and Betty, while also attending law school. (The only other recurring character on the series was the Joneses' police contact, Lt. John Biddle, played by John Carter, who was introduced in the second season and appeared in most episodes thereafter.)

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 among the three actors, with Ebsen, Meriwether and Shera each being the focus of a third of the season's episodes. 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. After the series' cancellation, reruns aired in syndication.


Main cast

  • Buddy Ebsen as Barnaby Jones
  • Lee Meriwether as Betty Jones
  • Mark Shera as J. R.
  • John Carter as Lt. John Biddle (recurring role)

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 in the first season alone included:

  • Claude Akins
  • Richard Anderson
  • Meredith Baxter
  • Carl Betz
  • Bill Bixby (Meriwether's real-life ex-classmate)
  • Geraldine Brooks
  • Richard Bull
  • Darlene Carr
  • Jack Cassidy
  • Dabney Coleman
  • Jackie Coogan
  • Glenn Corbett
  • Cathy Lee Crosby
  • Meg Foster
  • Robert Foxworth
  • Anne Francis
  • Lynda Day George
  • Richard Hatch
  • James Hong
  • Claudia Jennings
  • Lenore Kasdorf
  • Margot Kidder
  • Geoffrey Lewis
  • Ida Lupino
  • George Maharis
  • Nora Marlowe
  • Kenneth Mars
  • Roddy McDowall
  • Leslie Nielsen
  • Nick Nolte
  • Don Porter
  • Stefanie Powers
  • Robert Reed
  • Janice Rule
  • Wayne Rogers
  • William Shatner
  • William Mundy
  • Joan Tompkins
  • Jessica Walter

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:

  • Susan Dey
  • John de Lancie
  • Gail Edwards
  • Shelley Fabares
  • Morgan Fairchild
  • Ed Flanders
  • Mark Goddard
  • Larry Hagman
  • Ed Harris
  • Linda Harrison
  • David Hedison
  • Don Johnson
  • Tommy Lee Jones
  • Don Keefer
  • Vera Miles
  • Patrick O'Neal
  • Sean Penn
  • John Ritter
  • Madeleine Stowe
  • Susan Sullivan
  • Daniel J. Travanti
  • Joan Van Ark
  • Carl Weathers
  • Robert Webber
  • Eve McVeagh
  • James Woods
  • Simon Scott

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.


SeasonTime slotRankRating
1 (1973)Sunday at 9:30 – 10:30 pm (EST)2519.9 (Tied with The Little People and The ABC Wednesday Movie of the Week)
2 (1973–74)1721.4 (Tied with Good Times)
3 (1974–75)Tuesday at 10:00 – 11:00 pm (EST)Not in the Top 30
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)
Not in the Top 30
5 (1976–77)Thursday at 10:00 – 11:00 pm (EST)4918.5
6 (1977–78)2220.6
7 (1978–79)2420.5
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

On February 16, 2010, CBS DVD (distributed by Paramount) released season one of Barnaby Jones on DVD in Region 1 for the first time. 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.

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

DVD NameEp#Release Date
Season One13February 16, 2010
The Complete Collection179December 11, 2015

In other media


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.


Beginning September 3, 2019, MeTV began broadcasting Barnaby Jones reruns.

External links

  • Barnaby Jones on IMDb
  • Barnaby Jones at
  • Absolute Barnaby
  • Barnaby Jones – Crime Drama TV Series of the Seventies