Banacek

Banacek

1972 - United States

Thomas Banacek, a shrewd Polish-American investigator portrayed by George Peppard, embodies suavity, wit, and exceptional intelligence. He consistently outsmarts both criminals and authorities while recovering stolen goods for the Boston Insurance Company. His commission stands at a modest ten per cent of the recovered items. Much like the modern Caribbean murder mystery series Death in Paradise, Banacek’s intrigue extends beyond mere ‘whodunnit’ scenarios. Equally crucial to the plot is the ‘howtheydunnit’ aspect, as the Boston-based private investigator unravels seemingly impossible thefts. And to maintain the lifestyle he’s grown accustomed to, Banacek never settles for anything cheap.

Banacek lives on historic Beacon Hill and rides around in a chauffeur-driven 1973 Fleetwood Cadillac, he also owns and sometimes drives an antique 1941 Packard Darrin convertible. A customized 1969 American Motors AMX was built by for the second season. He has impeccable taste in clothes, women and wine and moves in well-to-do circles.

Banacek

Banacek, primarily a solo operator, occasionally receives assistance from two key figures: his native New York driver, Jay Drury (played by Ralph Manza), and Felix Holland (portrayed by Murray Matheson), the British proprietor of Mulholland’s Rare Book and Print Shop. Felix is known for his witty remarks and shares a fervour for chess and jigsaw puzzles. Interestingly, he’s the sole character in the series who addresses Banacek by his first name. Another distinctive trait of Banacek is his penchant for quoting peculiar yet remarkably insightful Polish proverbs. Armed with a sharp eye for detail and an ability to connect seemingly disparate clues, Banacek tackles each case in pursuit of the truth.

Christine Belford, who portrays private investigator Carrie Kirkland, becomes a regular character in season 2. Carrie was once Banacek’s lover, but now she stands as his rival. Although she initially appeared in the pilot, her return in the second season for a handful of episodes is particularly noteworthy—these episodes are the most entertaining ones.

In 1972, Banacek made its debut as part of the rotating NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie slot. This series, initially launched in 1971 with shows like Columbo, McCloud, and McMillan and Wife, successfully transitioned to Sunday nights. However, a second wheel of shows on Wednesdays, including Cool Million, Madigan, The Snoop Sisters, and Tenafly, didn’t fare as well and lasted only a single season each. Banacek was the only one of them to last beyond its first season.

Banacek

The series, despite blending humour with intricate plots, failed to achieve strong ratings. However, critics warmly embraced the show. Notably, the Polish American Congress honoured it for its positive portrayal of Polish Americans. Television critics also praised Banacek, leading to its renewal for a third season. Unfortunately, before the third season could commence, George Peppard quit the show to prevent his ex-wife, Elizabeth Ashley, from receiving a larger share of his earnings in their divorce settlement. This complication effectively dashed any hopes of reviving Banacek during Peppard’s lifetime.

The show boasted numerous guest stars which included – Stefanie Powers (Hart to Hart), Broderick Crawford (Highway Patrol), Brenda Vaccaro, Stella Stevens, Mike Farrell (MASH), Cesar Romero (Batman), John Saxon (Enter the Dragon), Linda Evans (Dynasty), Victoria Principal (Dallas), Penny Marshall (Laverne & Shirley), Ted Cassidy (The Partridge Family) and Stirling Hayden. In the first season, Margot Kidder makes an appearance and references Superman, long before she portrayed Lois Lane in the Superman movies.

Banacek

Banacek elicits mixed opinions, primarily due to the lead actor’s performance. Unfortunately, Peppard fails to infuse the character with much charm; instead, he comes across as arrogant, smug, and needlessly confrontational. Critics found his portrayal one-dimensional, as he meanders through the story with little change in expression. Peppard would have far more success with The A-Team.

Published on April 7th, 2024. Written by Marc Saul for Television Heaven.

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