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HTF DVD REVIEW: Barnaby Jones: The First Season


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#1 of 56 Matt Hough

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Posted January 31 2010 - 02:00 PM

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Barnaby Jones: The First Season

Directed by Walter Grauman et al

Studio: Paramount
Year: 1973
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Running Time: 662 minutes
Rating: NR
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English
Subtitles: CC
MSRP: $ 42.99

Release Date: February 16, 2010
Review Date: January 31, 2010
 
 
The Series
3.5/5
 
After a hugely successful nine-year run on The Beverly Hillbillies, Buddy Ebsen wasted almost no time at all jumping into another hit series. Barnaby Jones, another Quinn Martin production in an era when his shows seemed to rule the airwaves, gave Ebsen another healthy seven year reign as a top television star. And the show was an immediate hit premiering in the middle of the 1972-1973 television season and ranking at number 25 among the most popular shows on the air at the end of its first thirteen-episode season.
 
Barnaby Jones was not designed as a mystery series in which Ebsen’s cagey, folksy private investigator was searching along with the audience for whodunit. Almost every episode began with the audience witnessing the crime first hand. Rather, the show operated on a modified Columbo-type scenario in which we see Jones searching for clues to an identity we already know while we as an audience wonder why the crime was committed. By the end of each of these closed-ended episodes, both Barnaby and we have our answers.
 
The first episode set up the show’s premise. Barnaby had been a long-time private investigator in business with his son, but he had been retired for four years when, in the opening episode, his son is killed and Barnaby, with the assistance of William Conrad’s Frank Cannon moonlighting on this new show to give it a shot in the arm for CBS, goes on the prowl for the killer and the reason for his son’s death. Helping Barnaby with secretarial duties is his daughter-in-law (and now widow) Betty (Lee Meriwether). Barnaby is a one-man gang in terms of investigation procedures. In addition to doing his own legwork and swilling glasses of milk at every opportunity, he has his own darkroom and can develop his own pictures, and he has his own lab in which he can do his own forensics. (We learn later in the season that Barnaby has a degree in forensic science.)
 
The cases during the first season mainly dealt in murder, often with frame jobs done to innocent parties. Among the more interesting episodes, however, were some that veered away from that rather pedestrian crime occupation. In one, Barnaby is duped into transporting heroin across the Mexican border and must work overtime to track down the facts of his being hoodwinked. In the season’s best episode, an ex-con Barnaby helped finger is released from prison with vengeance on his mind stalking and taunting Barnaby and Betty over the course of four days until he can carry out his murder scheme.
 
The guest cast is a litany of guest stars from this particular era of American television: Bradford Dillman, Robert Hogan, William Shatner, Janice Rule, Gary Lockwood, Eric Braeden, Sharon Acker, Richard Hatch, Lloyd Bochner, Jack Cassidy, Cathy Lee Crosby, Anne Francis, Estelle Winwood, Jackie Coogan, Arlene Golonka, Roddy McDowell, Marlyn Mason, Reni Santoni, Claude Akins, Dabbs Greer, Neva Patterson, Bill Bixby, Louise Troy, Barry Sullivan, Meg Foster, Geoffrey Lewis, Gary Owens, and Peter Haskell.
 
Like many Quinn Martin productions, the episodes are each divided into four “acts” (though there is no prologue or epilog with Barnaby Jones). The following are the thirteen episodes contained on four discs in this first season box set:
 
1 – Requiem for a Son
2 – To Catch a Dead Man
3 – Sunday: Doomsday
4 – The Murdering Class
5 – Perchance to Kill
6 – The Loose Connection
7 – Murder in the Doll’s House
8 – Sing a Song of Murder
9 – See Some Evil…Do Some Evil
10 – Murder-Go-Round
11 – To Denise, With Love and Murder
12 – A Little Glory, A Little Death
13 – Twenty Million Alibis
 
 
Video Quality
4/5
 
The programs are framed in their original 1.33:1 broadcast aspect ratio. In comparison to the dirty, badly color-timed promos which are attached to each episode, it takes only seconds to see what a remarkable job of remastering Paramount has achieved with these programs. Though a few stray dust specks and an occasional bit of debris or print damage may still be glimpsed, these programs on the whole look great with strong color, excellent sharpness, and fine contrast. Fleshtones are accurately represented, and black levels are surprisingly impressive. Apart from some sporadic moiré and a hair or two that were obviously part of the original photography, there isn’t much to criticize here. Each episode has been divided into 6 chapters without the promos and 7 chapters with them.
 
 
Audio Quality
3.5/5
 
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono mix when decoded by Prologic comes through clearly and distinctly in the center channel. Typical of its era, all dialogue, music, and sound effects are blended into a more than adequate mono audio track which does the job splendidly conveying what’s being heard and seen on the screen. Occasionally poor ADR for  outdoor shots is present and not unexpected, and there is some strange echoing of voices in several studio shot scenes in episode #11.
 
 
Special Features
1/5
 
Each episode contains a one minute promotional preview of the episode to come. These may be watched or skipped from the user menu on each disc.
 
The first disc in the set contains trailers for Mannix, Cannon, Jake and the Fatman,  and Hawaii Five-O.
 
 
In Conclusion
3.5/5 (not an average)
 
What a pleasure to have the first season of Barnaby Jones join the growing roster of CBS/Paramount procedural releases. The episodes here look very good and despite the lack of real bonus material, the box set still is one I can heartily recommend.
 
 
 
Matt Hough
Charlotte, NC
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#2 of 56 younger1968

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Posted January 31 2010 - 02:03 PM

i am looking forward to this released. I always like Buddy Ebsen and it will good seeing him act again. I am also looking forward to Matt Houston as well, because he played the uncle in that series.

#3 of 56 Jeff*H

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Posted January 31 2010 - 02:28 PM

As a die-hard fan of Mannix, Hawaii Five-0, Cannon, Rockford Files and Streets of San Francisco, picking this show up seems like a no-brainer!  Enjoyed the review, too.
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#4 of 56 Dave Scarpa

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Posted February 01 2010 - 12:54 AM

Problem is how long till CBS puts this on the back burner like Streets, Rawhide, Gunsmoke, Mod Squad, etc Instead of throwing a bunch of series on the wall, can we get one to stick and finish one first.
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#5 of 56 Ethan Riley

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Posted February 01 2010 - 02:50 AM



Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Scarpa 

Problem is how long till CBS puts this on the back burner like Streets, Rawhide, Gunsmoke, Mod Squad, etc Instead of throwing a bunch of series on the wall, can we get one to stick and finish one first.
Don't resent Barnaby Jones for taking the place on the schedule of other shows; that's not the way they do things. They have to put out volume ones of whatever shows they think will sell, because volumes ones always sell better than the rest in the series. (Which is why I always shake my head in wonder over CBS/Paramount's tendency to split seasons into two; thereby making TWICE as many volumes to suffer drop-off from diminishing returns...)

 

 


#6 of 56 HenryDuBrow

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Posted February 16 2010 - 02:59 AM

I agree with this review, had my set for about a week now and it looks gorgeous, it's just a wonderful release!

#7 of 56 peggy

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Posted February 16 2010 - 03:40 AM

Great to hear, I am really looking forward to my set getting here. You never know how they are going to turn out so this sounds promising.


#8 of 56 Jeff*H

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Posted February 16 2010 - 03:01 PM

Picked this up today and watched the first episode, which features William Conrad guest-starring as Frank Cannon.  I was amazed by the picture quality (similiar to the remastered quality seen in the Mannix and Hawaii Five-0 DVDs), and was saddened by the realization that Cannon's own series doesn't look this nice on DVD.  I'm very curious why they didn't make the effort on that one, another popular Quinn Martin show just as Barnaby Jones is.
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#9 of 56 younger1968

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Posted February 17 2010 - 05:01 AM

i watch two episodes last night and the quality is very good. I also watch cannon as well and it looks it very good shape. I just hope we get to see more of barnaby jones, but, i guess it will depend on sales. I also like buddy ebsen and look forward to seeing him on Matt Houston in March 2010.



#10 of 56 Jack P

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Posted February 18 2010 - 05:45 PM

The transfers are indeed exceptional and I've been having fun with the set, HOWEVER, I have just come across a very bizarre edit on the first episode of Disc 2 (episode #4) in which the psycho college student originally used a certain word that began with the letter n as part of the expression the "n------in the woodpile." when he talks about framing a black man for a killing he was part of.  This infamous word has been bleeped over with a loud tone, and I can't believe that this was the case with the original broadcast since in the anything goes world of the 70s the n-word was appearing with greater frequency on certain programs.

At any rate if it is a new edit, shame on CBS/Paramount because this isn't a sympathetic character using the expression it's a psycho.    Has Political Correctness gotten this much out of hand that we're now going to see this kind of selective editing on other programs from now on?



#11 of 56 Matt Hough

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Posted February 19 2010 - 01:37 AM

I noticed this, too, and started to make mention of it in the review, but I inevitably didn't. I doubt seriously if it was originally bleeped. It is indeed the PC Police on parade.

#12 of 56 Gary OS

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Posted February 19 2010 - 01:50 AM

     Quote:
Originally Posted by MattH. 

I noticed this, too, and started to make mention of it in the review, but I inevitably didn't. I doubt seriously if it was originally bleeped. It is indeed the PC Police on parade.

Well, that's really a shame because any sane person would be able to take into account the type of character making such comments (in this case a psycho).  The entire "PC Police" issue has really burned me up when it comes to dvd releases over the last decade.  From censoring Tom & Jerry cartoons to Maltin's comments on Disney Treasure sets to disclaimers all over the place on different sets, the whole thing makes me sick.  But to use a loud "bleep" noise to censor this is really over the top.  Just mute it if your that thickheaded and scared.  But don't bleep it out with a sound.  All that does is call more attention to the remark.  Seems to be the antithesis of what the PC people should want.  Or maybe not.  Perhaps they want to call attention to these things.  Whatever.  It's ridiculous no matter how you slice it.

Gary "I can't believe CBS/P continues to do these assinine things with their releases" O.


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#13 of 56 HenryDuBrow

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Posted February 19 2010 - 05:27 AM

At least the picture's great looking and I'll keep buying for sure, but it's still a bummer the way the PC Police mess around with some parts of history essentially, who are they trying to protect by changing factual things anyway. A misunderstood/misplaced act of nobility. You can almost see (though not condone) what's behind it for family cartoons but not a crime show, have we really become that prude and scared of our own shadow... 



#14 of 56 peggy

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Posted February 19 2010 - 08:40 AM

I received my set yesterday and have watched the first three episodes. I am trying to pace myself but that is hard to do since I can't get over the quality of these episodes.  It is amazing, so clear and I am seeing things I have never seen before. They did a great job on these and they are definitely worth the price (at least to me).


#15 of 56 The Obsolete Man

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Posted February 19 2010 - 08:52 AM

If this bit of dialogue was, indeed, retroactively censored, I would have preferred an uncensored dialogue track option like we get on newer shows (like Family Guy).

Also, if CBS/P did this bit of retroactive censoring because of current PC values, we should all be glad they're not the studio releasing All in the Family, Good Times, Sanford and Son, or The Jeffersons.

With AITF in particular, we'd never hear anything but one long bleep tone!

Otherwise, though, I'm looking forward to receiving the set and checking out Barnaby Jones for the first time.


#16 of 56 Bryan^H

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Posted February 19 2010 - 11:08 AM



Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary OS View Post

   It's ridiculous no matter how you slice it.

Gary "I can't believe CBS/P continues to do these assinine things with their releases" O.


Like the Sesame Street Old School volumes, and WBs 70's cartoon collection vol.1.
"Warning, this dvd is intended for adult collectors.  Not recommended for children".

......?.....

It's a scary world we live in. 

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#17 of 56 The Obsolete Man

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Posted February 19 2010 - 11:13 AM



Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryan^H 




Like the Sesame Street Old School volumes, and WBs 70's cartoon collection vol.1.
"Warning, this dvd is intended for adult collectors.  Not recommended for children".

......?.....

It's a scary world we live in. 
Wow, even the 70s Cartoon collection got that warning?

I could sort of understand it for the Looney Tunes sets, with their WW2 Era Nazi stuff and Blackface gags, but the 70s cartoons?

Wow.

But surprisingly, even though the Three Stooges were once beloved by kids, and people are probably showing the Stooges shorts to their kids today, their box sets didn't get a warning.



#18 of 56 Jack P

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Posted February 19 2010 - 11:28 AM

Since CBS believes that this word should be so obtrusively censored in a dramatic show, I sure would hate to think of what they might do if they had the distribution rights for "Blazing Saddles!"


#19 of 56 The Obsolete Man

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Posted February 19 2010 - 12:54 PM

You know, there are a few films starring Fred Williamson from the early 70s that include the word in question in the title. They were films originally distributed by Paramount.

Two of 'em have never had official releases ("The Legend of... Charley", and "The Soul of... Charley"), and the third was released by VCI (I believe) under the (shortened) title "Boss".

I guess this could be an explanation of why they were never officially released on DVD by Paramount. Well, that, and that they're all just cult Blaxploitation films.


#20 of 56 Jack P

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Posted February 19 2010 - 02:49 PM

Well here's a nicer thing worth taking note of.    All of us who have suffered through CBS's cost-cutting stunts on songs/music and even spoken dialogue with song titles on "The Fugitive" and "The Odd Couple" can take satisfaction that Marlyn Mason's two minute performance of "Try To Remember" in the episode "See Some Evil, Do Some Evil" was left alone for this release.     Admittedly it would have been very tough to cut it because the performance continues faintly in the background for a critical scene where Barnaby gets up and leaves to make a phone call to the police, so it could be that maintaining basic story comprehension is the reason why CBS was willing to spring in this instance.

A pity they weren't so conscientious when it came to the butchery they did in the latter seasons of "The Odd Couple."





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