The story of the Barnaby Jones Luncheon Club

Star Trek wasn't the only show that brought fans together when it went off the air.

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Before we could all connect and engage in online spaces like MeTV.com, diehard television fanatics had to take it upon themselves to exhibit and explore their fandom in real life. Star Trek, famously, was one of the first shows that truly mobilized a fanbase, leading to clubs, meetups and conventions. Those diehard Star Trek fans even saved the show from premature cancellation, organizing and executing the most successful letter-writing campaign in television history.

Star Trek wasn't the only show that brought fans together after it went off the air. Another beneficiary of fervent fanaticism was the American detective television series Barnaby Jones, a spin-off of the successful QM Productions show Cannon. But that level of fandom might not be obvious to outsiders: Unlike its parent show, which saw a brief ratings surge in its third season, Barnaby Jones was never in the Top 10 of television ratings when it aired. In fact, in its fourth season, Barnaby Jones was the 59th most popular show on television. That wouldn't stop the series from developing a strong cult following as the show aired in re-runs.

One such impassioned fan, Jordayne B. (Skip) Thomas, became hooked on the show's daily 4 pm airings while recuperating from a then-recent surgery. In 1981, Thomas, president of the Le-Vert Galant Club in New York City, learned that his love for the show was more common than he'd previously imagined. It seems men of a certain age couldn't get enough of the well-mannered Jones, as portrayed by Buddy Ebsen of Beverly Hillbillies fame. Thus was born the Barnaby Jones Luncheon Club, which once boasted over 400 card-carrying members.

Among those heartfelt Luncheon attendees? None other than former president Richard M. Nixon, who at one event upstaged even Ebsen with his presence. "I don't look at much entertainment television," Nixon told the Spokane Chronicle in 1985. "But I liked Barnaby Jones."

The Luncheon welcomed folks from all walks of life, but it seemed one commonality was quite clear. They were mostly old men. Jack Cuddy, a Luncheon Club member and former officer with the NYPD, put it this way: "I'm here because some people think that just because a guy has gray hair, he can't investigate or make arrests." Septua- and octogenarians alike got heaps of inspiration from Barnaby Jones. The guest of honor at one event, Mr. Buddy Ebsen himself, had these closing remarks: "No one counts you out but yourself."

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18 Comments

JERRY6 12 months ago
I enjoy the show t's not great but doesentertain like most QM prodictins
murgatroid45 14 months ago
A cameo by Barnaby Jones was one of the only highlights of the disappointing Beverly Hillbillies movie.
Charlotte 14 months ago
MeTV needs to bring back the "Catch me if You Can" Sunday. All the good '70's detective shows are on and it's awesome!!!
Rob Charlotte 14 months ago
I like that idea
Runeshaper 14 months ago
Love Buddy Ebsen and I need to watch this show!
Lynn 14 months ago
I loved watching it when I came home from night classes at college. A perfect way to wind down!
Wiseguy70005 14 months ago
Barnaby Jones was not a spinoff of Cannon. There was no mention of Barnaby or an appearance on Cannon before the premiere of Barnaby Jones. That premiere was a crossover between the two series (which occurred again in Cannon's last season. This Is the same as saying that Richie Brockelman was a spinoff of Rockford Files or Sarge was a spinoff of Ironside. Both those were also crossovers because both of those characters had already been introduced in their own TV movies.
MrsPhilHarris 14 months ago
I have never seen the show.
ecarfar MrsPhilHarris 14 months ago
You should, it's pretty good. All the Quinn Martin shows are really good. I found them only a few years ago.
Oh wow. You are missing out. Give it a watch.
harlow1313 MrsPhilHarris 14 months ago
Well, I'm giving it the thumbs down.

To me, it seems like standard TV crime fare, and the Barnaby character strikes me as bland. I think it would play well with the Quincy, Matlock, Cannon crowd, depending some on how well you like the character, Barnaby.
McGillahooala 14 months ago
Barnaby Jones is a great show, but the last few episodes which were designed to set up a spin-off were terrible. Barnaby should have had a better ending than that. The guest stars took up most of the space and it was apparently going to be a comedy. Absolute travesty.
LoveMETV22 14 months ago

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Thanks MeTV. Interesting story. It would have been fun to enjoy a luncheon with Buddy Ebsen, not so sure on the Nixon part though.
LenVishnevsky LoveMETV22 14 months ago
And a glass of milk.
LoveMETV22 LenVishnevsky 14 months ago
Or in homage to "Leave it to Beaver's" younger characters, " A hunk of Milk."
ecarfar LoveMETV22 14 months ago
I kind of like that Nixon was a fan. Showed he was average guy like the rest of us, not a member of the privileged class.
McGillahooala ecarfar 14 months ago
Yeah Nixon was definitely not some elite character who was out of touch with common folks.
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