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.
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."
Watch Barnaby Jones on MeTV!
Tuesday–Saturday at 4 AM*available in most MeTV markets
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.
Thanks MeTV. Interesting story. It would have been fun to enjoy a luncheon with Buddy Ebsen, not so sure on the Nixon part though.