‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ or ‘Barnaby Jones’: Which Did Buddy Ebsen Appear in More Episodes Of?

by Taylor Cunningham

Buddy Ebsen had an impressive career during his 65 years in Hollywood. But he’s probably most known for his starring roles in The Beverly Hillbillies and Barnaby Jones. There was only a two-year break between the two series, so Buddy was a familiar TV face for nearly two decades. But out of the two Emmy nominated shows, which one gave Ebsen more airtime?

The Beverly Hillbillies struck black gold in 1962. And their rags to riches story played out for nine years. Buddy Ebsen played the lead role of Jed Clampett, so he graced the screen in each and every episode.

After The Beverly Hillbillies wrapped up in 1971, Ebsen filmed a couple of episodes for other popular series such as Gunsmoke and Bonanza. Then in 1973, he won the part of Barnaby Jones. As his character’s name suggests, Ebsen also played the lead role in that show. The CBS detective series ran for eight years. And again, he appeared in every episode.

So which series filmed more episodes? The Beverly Hillbillies filmed 274 episodes throughout its nine seasons on CBS. And Barnaby Jones filmed nearly 100 fewer episodes during its eight seasons. That television series came to a close after Buddy Ebsen made 178 appearances.

Two Chance Encounters Stopped Buddy Ebsen From Retiring Before Staring in ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’

With a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and two ever-iconic TV series under his belt, it’s surprising to think that Buddy Ebsen ever struggled during his career. But according to Sun-Sentinel.com, he hit a rough patch in 1953, and one of the industry’s top agents told Ebsen to retire. 

But thanks to Ebsen’s steadfast determination and two chance encounters, he went on to become one of the most famous actors of his time. 

“I was stubborn. I inherited that from my mother. She used to tell me, never, never, never quit,” Ebsen said in a 1995 interview.

Nunnally Johnson was his first lucky encounter. Ebsen went to the director and screenwriter’s home. And upon looking at Ebsen, Johnson asked, “Are you as tall as Gregory Peck?” Ebsen believed he was as tall as Gregory Peck. And because of his height, he landed a job.

“Three days later I was working in Germany with Peck in the picture Night People. It was pure chance,” Ebsen said.

The Beverly Hillbillies star shared his second encounter with Mr. Walt Disney.

During the 1930s, Ebsen was rehearsing for Broadway Melody of 1936. And on one particular day, he wore a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt. In a perfect alignment of stars, Walt Disney happened to show up on set that day. If that’s not fate, we don’t know what is.

“I’m convinced [Disney] remembered that and put me on his favored list,” Ebsen said. Because in 1955, Disney cast Ebsen in Davy Crockett. That gig led to a long-term contract, which in turn got the attention of The Beverly Hillbillies creator. And from there, the rest is history.