Buddy Ebsen believed the humanity of Barnaby Jones was paramount
Action sequences are easy. Accurately portraying humanity can take a little longer...
Sometimes, police and detectives in action series can feel more like superheroes than actual human beings. It's like they're able to smell crime from a mile away and go above and beyond what should be physically possible for a person to accomplish to serve justice. While it's not necessarily an easy job, some television shows move to excess in an attempt to keep a viewer's interest, even if that means making their protagonists less relatable.
Buddy Ebsen, well known for playing formerly retired private investigator Barnaby Jones, seemed to be conscious of this issue in television and was quick to ensure that it didn't make an appearance in his own series. According to an article in The San Francisco Examiner, Ebsen stated, "Barnaby Jones, he's a human being. Not some supercop packing a six-shooter."
Ebsen was aware that humanity was the primary motivator for his character, and explained, "Barnaby's interested in people. Knows some are good, some are bad. People fascinate him. Gravitates to studying people in relation to the bad things they do."
While many other crime protagonists rely on brute strength to catch the bad guy, Ebsen seemed to place importance on the fact that Barnaby Jones's specialty wasn't besting criminals physically, but rather, mentally. He said, "Barnaby outwits, outthinks, and out-knowhows criminals. He knows all the tricks. He was catching heavies before the present crop was born."
He continued, "Not much on physical violence. Prefers to use this..." he said, gesturing to his head.
Moreover, while many crime shows keep up an air of pessimism, keeping in the theme of depicting crime as the byproduct of the gritty underbelly of the world, Ebsen maintained that what made Barnaby Jones a good detective was that he had remained untouched by that darkness. It made the character a better investigator and ultimately, a better man.
Ebsen said, "Barnaby hasn't been hardened by the seamier side of people; he has regard for the human race."