After Barnaby Jones had worked as a private eye for many years, he decided to retire and left the business to his son Hal. When Hal was murdered while working on a case, Barnaby came out of retirement to find the killer. His widowed daughter-in-law, Betty Jones joined forces with him to solve the case. The two decided that they worked so well together that they would continue to keep the detective agency open. Jones was unusual, ordering milk in restaurants and bars, counter to the stereotypical hard drinking detective.
Until the cancellation of Cannon, the characters of both series moved back and forth between the two shows.
In 1976, the character of J.R., the son of Barnaby's cousin, joined the cast. He had come to try to solve the murder of his father, but stayed around to help Barnaby and Betty, while also attending law school.
During the first year of the series, a common theme would be where Jones would make an astute observation or collect a sample, such as mud on a car's tire. The criminal, in some cases, called his accomplice and had a conversation along the lines of "there's a Mr. Jones and he's asking a lot of questions," after which the criminal was assured that Jones would be "taken care of". In view of his advancing age – Ebsen was in his 60s for most of the series – Jones rarely engaged in fistfights in the climatic scene of a given episode; instead, anticipating a violent act from an adversary Jones would draw his revolver and get the drop on the villain, or he would use self-defense tactics — e.g., slamming the door on a shotgun-toting villain, or using a judo hold to subdue the bad guy — or relied on others, like J.R., or the police, to overpower and detain the criminals.
Toward the latter part of the series, as Ebsen aged and expressed an interest in slowing down a bit, Meriwether and Shera's characters became more prominent, allowing Ebsen to reduce his role; during the last two seasons, the episodes were divided evenly among the three actors, with Ebsen, Meriwether and Shera each being the focus of a third of the season's episodes.
|Buddy Ebsen||Barnaby Jones||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*|
|Lee Meriwether||Betty Jones||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*|
|Mark Shera||Jedediah Romano "J.R." Jones||*||*||*||*|
|John Carter||Lt. John Biddle||*||*||*||*||*||*||*|
|Season One||January 28, 1973||May 6, 1973||13|
|Season Two||September 16, 1973||March 31, 1974||24|
|Season Three||September 10, 1974||April 15, 1975||24|
|Season Four||September 19, 1975||March 18, 1976||24|
|Season Five||October 7, 1976||May 19, 1977||24|
|Season Six||September 15, 1977||March 2, 1978||22|
|Season Seven||September 21, 1978||April 19, 1979||25|
|Season Eight||September 20, 1979||April 3, 1980||22|
- At a Glance: Additional information about the series
|Season One||February 16, 2010||4|