Producers wanted Barnaby Jones to be a ''foxy grandpa,'' according to Buddy Ebsen

Would you consider Barnaby Jones to be a ''foxy grandpa?''

The Everett Collection

Barnaby Jones. The formerly retired private eye who went back into business after his son was murdered. Now, it might be easy to see Buddy Ebsen in the role of Jones, as he portrayed the investigator for eight seasons (though much less so in seasons seven and eight), but Ebsen didn't really see himself stepping into the shoes of Barnaby Jones. 

It all starts with what the higher-ups at CBS wanted the character of Jones to be in the first place. The answer was, they didn't really know. The show sort of came about in an odd way overall, according to its star.

"Originally, the producers (Fred Silverman and Quinn Martin) booked me for a guest on Cannon," Ebsen said in a 1974 newspaper article from The Robesonian. "I don't remember what the part was to be... but, all of the sudden, they switched [me] guesting on Cannon to a 13-week group of shows with Cannon guesting on my first one!"

Thus, the character and show of Barnaby Jones were born. Once that was settled, next came figuring out what the veteran investigator's character would be like.

"There was no pilot... It was a gamble... and, apparently it's paying off," said Ebsen. "That's how Barnaby started and, really, nobody had any idea what Barnaby should be." 

It led to an interesting idea, one that Martin obviously thought Ebsen could deliver on. Ebsen didn't think so. 

"Quinn Martin said something about a 'foxy grandpa,' and I said I could never deliver a 'foxy grandpa,'" Ebsen explained. "He said, 'well, just play him like yourself.' So, I take the view that police, cops, detectives, no matter what age, are human beings and I try to play my part like a human being." 

So he may not have been deemed a "foxy grandpa," but Ebsen didn't really see himself as a private eye either. The plain-spoken Ebsen played Barnaby the best way he could, which led critics to say the character and actor had very few differences. Did Ebsen think the same?

"I don't know," he said. "But when they started this notion, which didn't come from me, I would have never cast myself as a detective." 

One clear difference between the character and actor for this role?

"Well, I don't drink that much milk," Ebsen said.

Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

30 Comments

CouchPotato19 16 months ago
Cannon was the true "foxy detective"!! OOH-YEAAAH!!!
Charlotte 16 months ago
Barnaby would be no where without his secretary.
JJ614 16 months ago
No, I wouldn't.
But I enjoy the show and Buddy Epstein (oops - now your Green Acres commercial/Eva has ME saying it wrong! LOL) Buddy Ebsen's role.
(I'm actually surprised in today's world that the name Epstein isn't bleeped out of that GA episode and the commercial.)
Tampammm 16 months ago
I don't get the "foxy" part, but I think he was kind of cool and suave as the retired detective. Great show, one of the best in that genre!
JHP 16 months ago
Love him on the show - NEVER had milk at a bar Laugh Out Loud
Can't see him being anything else but Barnaby
Besides the show had a foxy one - yep Lee
tootsieg 17 months ago
Barnaby and Jed had plenty of women hitting on them.
Runeshaper 17 months ago
Buddy Ebsen was an excellent actor!
JJ614 Runeshaper 16 months ago
He was. And I so wish the skin paint hadn't caused him trouble so he could have been in the original Wizard of Oz movie!
Runeshaper JJ614 16 months ago
That would have been AWESOME!
Mblack 17 months ago
He looks like his character in Breakfast at Tiffany's in those photos.

I saw it long after Beverly Hillbillies, it was such a contrast to Uncle Jed.
harlow1313 17 months ago
Dang, and I thought he got the part as CBS's next "boy-toy," a pin-up for the ladies. Sigh. I am easily confused.
cperrynaples harlow1313 17 months ago
Well, we know a certain poster who prefers Gomer Pyle...LOL!
tadlem cperrynaples 17 months ago
I don't think Gomer was much of a looker, but if he wanted to sing to me, I'd let him!
harlow1313 cperrynaples 17 months ago
I always found her avatar of Gomer in a bikini to be thought provoking.
JHP tadlem 16 months ago
ahhhhh "john-jake-ginglehimer-schmit!!!"
JJ614 harlow1313 16 months ago
Not so much for me the original run. But now that I'm almost 70, yeah, he's pin-up material! ❤️
LoveMETV22 17 months ago
" Would you consider Barnaby Jones to be a ''foxy grandpa?''
-----------------------------------------------------------
Not really sure of what Quinn Martin or the higher-ups at CBS were thinking.
I do think he was a versatile actor though.
Load previous comments
JHP MrsPhilHarris 16 months ago
No I meant it the other way - Nancy culp wasn't foxy but off-screen those two were not EVEN nice to each other...could go deeper into this thread but rather not
MrsPhilHarris JHP 16 months ago
I heard Mr. Drysdale and Miss Jane were friendly off screen. He called her Slim and when dementia started taking over his mind, she would visit him.
JHP MrsPhilHarris 16 months ago
well Nancy and Raymond - I didnt know that - He played the Banker so so well
MrsPhilHarris JHP 16 months ago
Mr. Drysdale, Miss Jane and Jethro are my favourite characters.
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?