Buddy Ebsen didn't understand why Barnaby Jones was popular

Quinn Martin had some thoughts of his own, though.

Public opinion is a fickle thing. What is popular one week could be discarded the next. There are few reliable ways to predict what an audience will connect with. It's even harder to guess what viewers are willing to sit through commercial breaks for.

Producers, however, make their name by betting network money on what will be popular. It's not a clearly defined skillset, but there is a history of successful and unsuccessful attempts. One certain thing, though: Buddy Ebsen was at the center of another hit when he debuted as the title character in CBS's Barnaby Jones.

While the ratings are hard to argue, the "why" of it all is a little more confusing. There is no particular quality, no one single reason that made Barnaby Jones a hit. Ebsen wasn't exactly the typical Hollywood hot commodity in 1973. But Barnaby Jones brought a ton of viewers to its timeslot. Ebsen, for his part, was baffled by the success, as he explained in a 1979 interview with AP Television Writer Jerry Buck.

"My position and policy is not to poke around too much into blessings," said Ebsen.

"We just try to do good stories, use good actors and do it in such a way that people believe it. If you tell a good story, that's good enough. You don't have to analyze it."

Executive producer Quinn Martin offered his own explanation, saying "It's a classic idea with a star that's well done. It will never be a show that gets a lot of attention. I think it can go on for as long as Buddy wants to do it. I don't think it could go on without him. The key to the show is Buddy."

Ebsen reveled in the chance to prove his critics wrong. While the press continued to predict that Barnaby Jones would fade away, the show continued to amass respectable viewership. Ebsen loved it and made his own prediction, calling his autobiography My First 50 Years in Show Business. He was aiming for fifty more.

Watch Barnaby Jones on MeTV!

Tuesday–Saturday at 4 AM

*available in most MeTV markets
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

3 Comments

Coldnorth 19 days ago
Why wonder, just enjoy the popularity
Runeshaper 25 days ago
Buddy Ebsen was such a talented actor. I think Quinn Martin was correct is attributing the success of Barnaby Jones to Ebsen.
harlow1313 25 days ago
"Buddy Ebsen didn't understand why Barnaby Jones was popular"

I must say, I too am puzzled.
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?