Thomas Banacek is a clever and well-to-do insurance investigator living in Boston. He makes good money by solving the most intricate and unusual mysteries, and is very proud of his Polish heritage. His contacts include his street-smart chauffeur Jay and British bookstore owner Felix. Written by
Marty McKee <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Peppard originally signed to star in a weekly hour series, but NBC instead chose to make "Banacek" a 90-minute show that would alternate with two other series on NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie. Peppard's contract was not modified, however, leaving him free to leave the series after two seasons to pursue other projects. See more »
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After years of playing what he described to TV Guide as "tight-jawed men of action" in routine theatrical films, George Peppard made his small-screen bow as the star of "Banacek," one of three series ("Madigan" and "Cool Million" were the others) that rotated under the umbrella of The NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie when it premiered in September 1972 (following in the successful footsteps of the original Mystery Movie trio of "Columbo," "McCloud," and "McMillan and Wife" which moved to Sundays for their second season).
Almost every TV cop had a gimmick in that era, be it a wheelchair ("Ironside"), a Stetson ("McCloud"), or a walking stick ("Longstreet"). Thomas Banacek's appeal had much to do with his being Polish, and the sleuth (actually an insurance investigator) had enough confidence and sex appeal to counter any ethnic joke that came his way. When he wasn't seducing the leading ladies, he was correcting those who mispronounce his name ("It's Bana-CHECK"), more often than not with a smart-a** response.
Like "Columbo," this show's mysteries weren't who-done-its so much as they were how'd-they-do-it? Each episode opened with a mysterious disappearance (a football player vanishes after being tackled in one show, a priceless artifact or an airplane disappears in another) that Banacek would spend the bulk of each 90-minute episode attempting to solve. Smoking fine cigars, and displaying an expertise on the more elegant things in life that would make James Bond envious, Banacek could be insufferably arrogant, and Peppard inhabited the character to perfection.
"Banacek" was introduced in a two-hour World Premiere movie which aired on NBC in the 1971-72 season, then went on to headline 16 episodes from 1972-74. Despite healthy ratings, Peppard, whose contract with Universal and NBC originally called for a weekly series, and was therefore easily broken, bowed out in the hope of producing and directing a film about Long John Silver. When that project failed to materialize, he returned to series TV in the lesser "Doctors Hospital" in 1975 but enjoyed his greatest success as the leader of "The A Team" in the 80s. But "Banacek" remains his finest work in the television medium.
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