What I learned from watching Barnaby Jones

Elena Tucker
6 min readOct 4, 2023

Partly out of nostalgia, partly for my love of mysteries of all sorts, and partly for grins and giggles, I started watching Barnaby Jones. And other than pointing and laughing at the rotary phone, the “bunny ears” of the old box television sets, the huge cars everyone always left with windows down, the awful 1970s fashions, scrawny men and scrawny women, people smoking everywhere — on planes, in hospitals, in cramped offices, ugly furniture and ugly pretty much everything else, this is what I learned:

There are several common mistakes every criminal made in the 1970s (and apparently, never learns from either their own or other’s mistakes. Therefore, as a result of hours of watching this show from the previous century, and not withstanding the fact that forensics were shit back then and the police on the TV show were either lazy, incompetent or both, I have created a blueprint of things not to do to commit a perfect murder.

Rule Number One: Never lie. Oh, it would not do to confess, but I mean tell the most of the truth you can. If you, the murderer, hated the victim, always admit it. If you had a fight with the victim, always admit it. Since you were in the vicinity (and you were, you were right there, and unless you have a greatest alibi) admit it. Most people don’t have alibies at the ready. That’s all right. Mark Twain said, “Always tell the truth. This way, you don’t have to remember anything.” Wise words. Adhere to them. Randy Wayne White, a tremendous mystery writer, once wrote, “One of life’s truths — never lie to a cop. Tell him a simple untruth, and he will suspect you of murder.” So, don’t lie. Just stop talking after a certain point.

Rule Number Two: Never commit a second murder to cover up the first. When you are circling the drain for crime number one, just give up. The jig is up. That’s it. You will not get away with it. If it is a witness, if it is a co-conspirator, a lover, a brother, your best friend or even your bitterest enemy, killing them as a way to cover up murder number one is a temporary and very short-term solution. All it’s going to do is add more years to your sentence. … Unless you just want to kill them for fun, then by all means.

Rule Number Three: Never go back to fix something or pick up something. Especially not if the detective or someone playing detective mentions it. Go back to Rule Number Two and smell the roses. That’s it. Either the jig is up, or you’re being baited. If the jig was up, you’d probably be…

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Elena Tucker

Writer and storyteller, immigrant, wife, mom, knitter, collector of jokes, lover of cheap, sweet wine.