J.J. Starbuck

Created by Stephen J. Cannell
(1941-2010)

“I reckon a diamond is just a hunk of coal that stuck to the job.”

Did someone say Texas?

Just in case anyone missed the point, TV’s cornpone-spouting J.J. (JEROME JEREMIAH) STARBUCK (played by Dale Robertson) wears ten-gallon hats, cowboy boots and fancy western shirts, drives a flashy limo with steer horns on the hood and a horn that plays “The Eyes of Texas,” and spouts a steady stream of folksy homilies.

Good thing he’s loaded or someone might point out what a dang annoying fool he is.

Although maybe we should cut him a little slack. He was just a workaholic businessman turned Texas billionaire jackass who made his fortune in oil and a slew of slick  investments, when his wife and son were killed when their plane. That was the turning point for J.J.–after that, he handed over the reins to his company to his second-in-command, Charlie Bullets, and hit the road in his 1961 Lincoln Convertible, figuring it was his duty to help out “good folks” in trouble using his considerable influence and contacts.

About halfway through its first (and only) season, Robertson broke his leg, and they wrote it into the show, bringing on the character of E.L. “Tenspeed” Turner, the fast-talking black con artist refugee from an earlier Cannell show, Tenspeed and Brownshoe,  to lend ol’ J.J. a hand and do the driving. The clash between straight shooter J.J. and Tenspeed, who never met a corner he didn’t want to cut, should have been a hoot.

But it didn’t work. The show was scrapped after one season.

THE EVIDENCE

  • “You look happier than a termite in a sawmill.”
  • “If you want something done, find the busiest person to do it.”

TELEVISION

  • J.J. STARBUCK
    (1987-1988, NBC)
    Writers: Stephen J. Cannell, Babs Greyhosky, Randall Wallace
    Directors: Corey Allen, Larry Shaw, Kim Manners, Bob Bralver, James Whitmore Jr.
    Executive Producer: Stephen J. Cannell
    Theme song: “Gone Again”
    Performed by Ronnie Milsap
    Starring Dale Robertson as J.J. STARBUCK
    with Ben Vereen as E.L. “TENSPEED” TURNER
    Also starring Jimmy Dean (David Huddleston in the pilot) as Charlie Bullets
    and Shawn Weatherly as Jill Starbuck
    Guest stars: David Huddleston, Bill Bixby, Patty Duke, Robert Conrad, Richard Mulligan, Stuart Whitman, Telly Savalas,

    • “Pilot” (September 26, 1987)
    • “A Killing in the Market” (September 29, 1987)
    • “Murder In E Minor” (October 20, 1987)
    • “The Blimpy Who Yelled Blue” (October 27, 1987)
    • “First You’ve Got To Go To The Picnic” (November 3, 1987)
    • “Incident At Sam September” (November 10, 1987)
    • “Gold From The Rainbow” (December 5, 1987)
    • “Graveyard Shift” (December 15, 1987)
    • “The 6% Solution” (December 26, 1987)
    • “The Circle Broken” (January 16, 1988)
    • “Murder By Design” (January 23, 1988)
    • “Cactus Jack’s Last Call” (February 13, 1988)
    • “A Song From The Sequel” (February 20, 1988)
    • “Permanent Hiatus” (February 27,1988)
    • “Rag Doll” (April 19, 1988)
    • “The Rise And Fall Of Joe Piermont” (June 28, 1988)
    • “That Old Black Magic” (unaired)
    • “Everyone’s A Critic” (unaired)

FURTHER INVESTIGATION

Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

One thought on “J.J. Starbuck

  1. Starbucks was indeed one of the lesser Columbo clones as well as Cannell in a decline, but Kelsey Grammer, Richard Mulligan, and a few of the earlier inverted murderers provided a twist on the old formula, and Tenspeed’s reemergence was a neat bit of Cannelliverse building, like the Sonny Spoon open panning a pile of former Cannell eyes auditioning for a gig.

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