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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.
"Banacek" was one of the four rotating show that came on during NBC's
Mystery Movie Series that was produced in the 1970's. The show lasted from
1972-1975(three years),and it was rotated among the other mystery shows that
came on before this including "Columbo","McMillian and
"McCloud". I got the chance to see this seldom seen series recently and to
me it was throughly enjoyable watching the late George Peppard ten years
before he would go into his most entertaining roles as Hannibal in "The
A-Team". Peppard's character wasn't your average run of the mill P.I. or
police detective by the way,but he was an insurance investigator for a huge
Boston firm who tracks down stolen merchandise for a generous commission.
But the interesting part of the show is how the items were stolen and
towards the end it was how the items were recovered,giving all the clues and
necessary to solve the case and Banacek always had a knack of figuring out
step by step how the items were taken,how the culprits planned their heist
and how the left the clues behind to where the stolen items were located
which Banacek systematically broke it down the premise into solving the
case,and Peppard's character was a master of this that really provided the
bulk of the entertainment,and also the brilliant strategy to every
episode,even though the show ran for 90 minutes which was the best part of
the show. By the way,every episode had a "Old Polish Proverb' that Banacek
would recite to give the show some great humor.
The show had great plots,wonderful locations,even though the show's setting is in Boston,but in provided Banacek to travel to distant locations to solve baffling mysteries. Several episodes are very good including one intitled "Ten Thousand Dollars A Page",directed by Richard T. Heffron,and had special guest stars David Doyle,and George Lindsey (yes,Goober)as a police detective,and Ted Cassidy. Another one is titled "To Steal A King",directed by Lou Antonio. There is also fast work from other directors who contributed to this series as well including Jack Smight,Andrew McLaglen,Virgil Vogel,and Oscar Rudolph.
Banacek had it all,sense of style,extremely wealthy,always around a array of females which some were equal,and had the ability to solve the most impossible crimes for the reward money....it other words Banacek was the coolest!!!!
The show didn't last very long,because George Peppard walked away from this successful series because of the grind of the show and also contract disputes. It would have been nice enough if Peppard came back to the role but Peppard made the role,and made the show as well. Great series from the golden age of the early 1970's. Catch the episodes on the Hallmark Channel.
The theme song was written by Quincy Jones.
Polish-American Thomas Banacek, antiques collector, insurance agent, and amateur sleuth, appeared in this enjoyable series in the early 1970s. Played by the lovely George Peppard, pre-A Team. Each week he tries to solve a mystery, on commission of course, with the help of his rare bookseller friend, Felix (the peerless Murray Matheson), and his driver, Jay (the excellent Ralph Manza). Sometimes we got girl power too in the shape of feisty Carlie Kirkland (Christine Belford). Banacek slides his way through each case with ease - whether tackling disappearances, drug running, gold bullion disappearances, and the like. He usually ends up with a pretty girl as well who he's met while he's been investigating. Absolute rubbish but I loved it. And his catchphrase 'There's an old Polish proverb' must have suited Peppard as he wheeled it out again in his Chinatown TV movies some years later (as 'There's an old Chinese proverb', of course).
George Peppard WAS the show. Short hair when long hair was cool, wealthy
and Bostonian, a ladies man with no equal, and the ability to solve
impossible thefts for the insurance reward money. He was the man to see
when all else failed. I still watch the re-runs when I get the chance.
Sadly, too few shows were made. It was one of the four rotating Mystery
Movies on NBC for a time. Supposedly, George Peppard walked away from a
successful series because of the grind of the show. He was in nearly
scene and had to do voice overs too. Or else, one problem with the show
that may have led to the decision to end the series was that, although
entertaining and having great characters, the crimes were starting to get
derivative and easier for the viewer to know the general solution to the
problem in hand.
The inspiration for this show, for me, was the movie, THE THOMAS CROWNE AFFAIR. Take the important bits of the movie, a brilliant crime, Boston, wealth, the upper-crust life style, an insurance detective, and change the star from the thief to the recovery expert and you have the TV series, BANACEK. Of course, the added "hook" was making him Polish. This brand of Polish was the antithesis of every joke you've ever heard.
It would have been nice had George Peppard made some BANACEK REVISITED shows before he died. Like the NEW PERRY MASON, they would have been welcomed by his many fans. Peppard owned the role. Someone may play a similar role again, but they will not re-create the BANACEK mystique. George Peppard put his mark on that character for all time.......
Okay, Banacek wasn't exactly a P.I.-he was an investigator for the Boston
Insurance Company who tracked down stolen goods for a generous commission.
This show starred the late George Peppard ten years before he entertained us
all as Hannibal in the A-Team.
Before I first saw this series, I thought to myself, "An insurance investigator-how boring." This series proved me wrong. Yes, Banacek was an insurance investigator but it was the items he tracked down that provided the entertainment. They were never small relatively cheap items, always something costing millions of dollars. In one of my favourite episodes, Banacek tried to track down a missing football player (yes, really).
Fans of Columbo will like this show as Banacek solved his cases whilst the rest of us scratched our heads wondering what was going on. There was a fair bit of action at times but it was the way in which Banacek would systematically solve the case that provided the bulk of the entertainment.
All in all, a fantastic show.
"Banacek" has also been aired in polish TV during seventies. Polish
people were partly proud, partly disappointed watching these series.
People were laughing watching it and started to make jokes about this
TV series. Main reason of jokes were "typical polish" proverbs often
cited by investigator.
I can assure you - none of his proverbs really exist in Polish. All of them were invented by script writers. Many years later, when someone tried to "invent old tradition" saying something which sounded archaic but in fact was invented by him people used to say "Do not be such Banaczek".
Btw. proper polish spelling of his name is "Banaczek" and should be pronounced as "Bana-check"
This was a very good show. It had a wonderful theme song, was funny and intelligent and never failed to disappoint. There were never any sex scenes in bed. It was like the "Monk" of its day in that at the end he would tell exactly how the crime ocurrred and the perpetrators would be arrested. It was exciting and entertaining all in one package and hardly any of the women were dressed as prostitutes. I would easily take this over the trash that they show today any day. Highly recommended. It managed to be entertaining without insulting your intelligence. The plots were very intriguing and well written and you didn't see any overweight people.
George Peppard starred as Thomas Banacek, a private insurance
investigator of Polish descent based in Boston who became involved in
various insurance fraud cases involving art, books, coins, horses, etc.
He demanded and received a big fee for his services, which made him a
very wealthy man, and enabled him to live well indeed, and he was quite
the natural ladies man, in just about every episode! He was helped by
his sidekick/chauffeur Jay Drury, played by Ralph Manza, whose theories
about the cases were always wrong, and also Murray Matheson as Felix
Mulholland, a book seller who provided Banacek with vital information
he needed to solve his cases, all of which were very entertaining.
This had a memorably breezy theme, and was great fun to watch. Sadly, this only lasted two years and 17 episodes, because Peppard quit for personal reasons, which was a great pity, since this show could have gone on as long as "Columbo" did.
Banacek sexist? More a case of the show seeing men and women as they are before political-correctness forced us to publicly pretend otherwise. Very liberating to go back and watch it. The only real flaw with the show was too much outdoor shooting in obvious Southern California locations (mountains in the background, LA smog, semi-arid landscapes that would be at home on Columbo, industrial and small business areas with Emergency and Adam-12 written all over them, and signs with names like "Pacific Metal Company") and not enough in the Boston area. You get a heavy dose of real Boston footage in the opening credits (and it looks like they did some filming in the city) but a lack of studio money no doubt kept them from going east more than they did, but a great show otherwise! I still enjoy watching Banacek solve those cases while verbally dueling with Jay, Felix, and his competition from the insurance companies.
I just wanted to clarify something. Banacek was indeed an insurance investigator. From reading a lot of the posts on the board i get the impression that people thought he worked for Boston Insurance such as an employee would. If I'm not mistaken i believe he was an independent contractor whom Boston Insurance hired/used when they needed something found. Not quite the same as actually working for them. He worked for himself and contracted to or with them on an as needed basis. Wouldn't it be totally awesome to be able to earn anywhere from $200,000 up to close to a million for like 48 hours work> Wow if anyone knows where a person can sign up for such a job please pass it along LOL Only in the annuls of television. Isn't it great :-) Mike
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