Banacek DVD competition

Monday, 03 February 2014 15:13 Written by 

Banacek - Seasons 1 and 2 on UK DVDJust over a decade before he played Hannibal Smith, The A Team's cigar-chomping mercenary leader, George Peppard wowed audiences in the detective series Banacek. Thomas Banacek is a Polish-American insurance investigator, based in Boston, with a speciality for cracking bizarre, seemingly unsolvable cases of lost property. For his standard fee of 10%, the delightfully smug PI can be counted on to locate missing people, valuables and relics. And now YOU have a chance to win one of three copies of both seasons of Banacek on DVD, thanks to those nice folk at Fabulous Films, and Cult TV.

Although Banacek does most of the legwork himself, his small team of associates includes Jay Drury, his opinionated driver (Ralph Manza – Bud in Newhart) and Felix Mulholland, a debonair Boston antiquarian bookseller and researcher (Murray Matheson – Mr Agee in “Twilight Zone: The Movie”). Like many sleuths, Banacek is constantly underestimated, and he can certainly handle himself when criminals attempt to bring his investigations to a premature and often fatal conclusion.

The character of Carlie Kirkland was part rival investigator, part love interest, and appeared in the “Detour to Nowhere” Pilot movie. As played by Christine Belford (later to play Susan Farragut in Dynasty), she would return as a regular in the second season run, notching up six episodes in total. Meanwhile, George Murdock (Dr Salik in the original Battlestar Galactica) played Banacek’s sparring partner Cavanaugh in five episodes over both seasons.

The show features some top-drawer guest stars, which is a positive feast for those into Cult-TV-star-spotting. In season one we have the likes of Margot Kidder (Lois Lane in the Christopher Reeve “Superman” trilogy), Stefanie Powers (April Dancer in The Girl from UNCLE, and Jennifer Hart in Hart to Hart), Kevin McCarthy (“Invasion of the Body Snatchers”), William Windom (Commodore Decker in Star Trek “The Doomsday Machine”), Conrad Janis (Fred McConnell in Mork and Mindy), Broderick Crawford (Dan Matthews in Highway Patrol), Brenda Vaccaro (Shirley in “Midnight Cowboy”), Pernell Roberts (Adam Cartwright in Bonanza), Joel Fabiani (Stewart Sullivan in Department S), Ted Cassidy (Lurch in The Addams Family), David Wayne (The Mad Hatter in the Adam West Batman), David Doyle (John Bosley in Charlie’s Angels), and Mike Farrell (Captain BJ Hunnicut in M*A*S*H).

Look out for Jamie Farr (Klinger in M*A*S*H) as the uncredited Ludlow in the episode “Ten Thousand Dollars a Page”, and now-producer and director Penny Marshall, once Laverne in Laverne and Shirley, as a receptionist in “The Greatest Collection of Them All”. Also of note in the first season is Stafford Repp (Chief O’Hara in the Adam West Batman) playing a Police Chief in a cameo in the episode “Project Phoenix”, while writer Stanley Ralph Ross gets a small role as a character called Larry Fields in an episode he penned, “A Million The Hard Way”.

Banacek - Seasons 1 and 2 on DVD from Fabulous FilmsSeason two had as some of its guest stars Gary Lockwood (“2001: A Space Odyssey”), Anne Baxter (Olga, Queen of the Cossacks in the Adam West Batman), Cesar Romero (The Joker in the Adam West Batman), John Saxon (Maskatron in The Six Million Dollar Man), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing in Dallas), Richard Jordan (Harley Gage in The Equalizer), Alan Fudge (CW Crawford in The Man from Atlantis), Anne Francis, Sterling Hayden (Capt McCluskey in “The Godfather”), Tim O’Connor (Dr Huer in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century), Pamela Hensley (Princess Ardala in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century), Gretchen Corbett (June Sterling in Otherworld), Candy Clark (as Candace Clark, best known as Mary-Lou in Bowie’s “The Man Who Fell To Earth”), and soap divas Linda Evans (Krystle in Dynasty) and Victoria Principal (Pam Barnes in Dallas).

Linden Charles played recurring character Henry DeWitt, having made his debut in the final episode of season one. George Peppard, meanwhile, added strings to his bow, by acting as second unit director on seven of the eight season two episodes.

Unlike a lot of detective series, Banacek is very viewer-friendly, meaning it typically gives members of the audience plenty of time and useful information so that they can work out most of the clues for themselves. When the time comes for the big reveal, there is little of the frustration that, say, Hercule Poirot might engender when he apparently pulls the solution out of thin air. Mensa membership is not a requirement here!

All the stories are set up with an intriguing introduction that is guaranteed to get viewers hooked – the nearest parallel at the time was the earlier British production Department S, where a ‘locked room’ mystery would be set up prior to the opening titles (and interesting that one of that show’s stars, Joel Fabiani, actually gets to guest on Banacek). Take, for example, the case of an American football player who vanishes from the field of play in front of millions of fans both in the ground and watching live on TV. Another great episode features a high-tech, crash-proof car that disappears from a non-stop haulage train travelling at 50 miles an hour. These baffling scenarios might appear to be impossible but peal back the layers and satisfyingly it all makes sense in the end.

Banacek the man is a great creation - part James Bond, part Columbo. He has the gravitas and sex appeal of the former and the disarming smarts of the latter.

Humour plays sizeable part in each story. Part of it is down to the interplay between the PI and Jay the chauffeur, who frequently voices his theories on a case, these opinions met with either a raised eyebrow or shot down in flames by his employer. Banacek commonly has a rival investigator trying to beat him to the punch, and our star always takes the high road with comical effect despite frequent, mildly racial abuse about his name and his ancestry.

The show was created by Anthony Wilson, formerly a story consultant on Bonanza, then a story editor on Lost in Space, and would later develop Planet of the Apes for television. For the “Detour to Nowhere” pilot, the legend that was to become Steven Bochco served as Associate Producer, while Paul Playdon oversaw the series proper. Playdon is significant as he had been a writer and script consultant on the original Mission: Impossible, which shares a lot of its set-up DNA with. He would go on to work as a writer and producer on the likes of The Magician, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Switch, and CHiPs.

The 70+ minute, TV-movie cases originally ran in 90 minute slots as part of the NBC Mystery Movie strand on a Wednesday night. The idea had begun on Wednesdays, rotating the line-up of Columbo (Pilot movie screened on Monday 1 March 1971, before joining the Wednesday ‘wheel’ on 15 September 1971), McCloud (Pilot movie shown on Tuesday 17 February 1970, before an eight episode first season weekly from 16 September 1970, then joining the Wednesday ‘wheel’ on 22 September 1971), and McMillan & Wife (made its premiere on Friday 17 September 1971 before being added to Wednesdays from 29 September 1971). This trio then moved to Sunday nights for the 1972-73 season, adding a wild-western forensics format in Hec Ramsey to the line-up.

The Banacek pilot movie, “Detour To Nowhere” did well when screened on Monday 20 March 1972, and the decision was made to have the format as one of the spokes of a new line-up of Wednesday Mystery Movies. The first of these, “Let’s Hear It For The Living Legend” screened on 13 September 1972, and was supported by further formats Madigan (Richard Widmark reprieving his role from the same-titled 1968 movie, making its debut on 20 September 1972 for six episodes), and Cool Million getting a run of four episodes from 25 October 1972 (the Pilot movie having screened on Monday 16 October 1972).

Only Banacek made it to a second season on a Wednesdays, from 3 October 1973, and found itself then supported by Faraday and Company (four episodes from 26 September 1973), Tenafly (Pilot movie Monday 12 February 1973, four subsequent episodes from 10 October 1973), and The Snoop Sisters (Pilot movie screened Monday 18 December 1972, then four episodes from 19 December 1973).

Banacek did well enough for there to be active attempts to mount a third season of stories, but, according to Grant Taylor in the ‘Viewing Notes’ of the Australian release of the series, George Peppard’s personal life got in the way. He was just divorced from second wife, actress Elizabeth Ashley (Aunt Mimi in Treme), and Peppard, allegedly, was concerned that she would get a huge chunk of his earnings from a third run as part of her settlement. And with that, so went the whole battle for life of the Wednesday Mystery Movie strand, the concept only continuing just on Sundays.

Some trivia for you now. The address plate on Banacek’s home at number 85 said “T Banacek – Restoration”, and when asked whether that meant “Furniture or pictures” he replied “Usually not. What I restore is treasure.” He grew up in Skully Square, Boston, which soon became the base of the National Meridian Insurance Company. His father was a research scientist in Warsaw, but moved to America to take up a job as a mathematician.

Finally, we couldn’t review Banacek without mentioning his bizarre, off-the-wall ‘old Polish proverbs’. Thanks to these have all been documented, so here they are to mystify your friends with...

  • If you're not sure that it's potato borscht, there could be orphans working in the mines.
  • A truly wise man never plays leapfrog with a unicorn.
  • Read the whole library, my son, but the cheese will still smell after four days.
  • Twelve good horses and silver candlesticks won't stop the snow from falling in Bialystock.
  • It's harder for the spider to catch the fly, than for the fly to catch the horse.
  • Only someone with nothing to be sorry about smiles at the rear of an elephant.
  • Even though a man anoints himself with fragrant oils, he can still wind up with a broken face.
  • When the wolf is chasing your sleigh, toss him a raisin cookie but don't stop to see if he eats it.
  • Only the centipede can hear all the footsteps of his uncle.
  • If the butterfly has teeth like the tiger, he'd never make it out of the hanger.
  • A wolf that takes a peasant to supper probably won't need any breakfast.
  • Just because a dress is red satin doesn't mean it comes off easily.
  • A wise man never tries to warm himself in front of a painting of a fire.
  • Though the hippopotamus has no stinger in his tail, the wise man would rather be sat on by the bee.
  • When an owl comes to a mouse picnic, it's not there for the sack races.
  • No matter how warm the smile on the face of the sun, the cat still has her kittens under the porch.
  • The chicken that clucks the loudest is the one most likely to go to the Steamfitter's Picnic.
  • A duck with three wings and a loaf of bread is brother to the turkey.
  • Even a thousand Zloty note can’t tap-dance.
  • If your socks are not in your shoes, don't look for them in Heaven.

I whole-heartedly recommend these two box sets to fans of detective series that do not take themselves too seriously. This show is the complete package, featuring snappy writing, fascinating conundrums, good actors and some great locations. The 1970s music is also pretty funky!

Banacek - Complete Seasons 1 and 2 (1972-1974) are released as 4-disc DVD box sets on 10 February 2014, courtesy of Fabulous Films. Their respective running times are 670 minutes and 568 minutes approx. They each carry a ‘PG’ certificate and retail for £39.99, or less from

And now, thanks to Cult TV and Fabulous Films, you have the opportunity to put one of three copies available to win on to your mantelpiece, in our prize competition. All you have to do is tell us the answer to the following question: Which country are we told that Banacek’s old proverbs come from?  Fill in your details via the form below, hit send, and one of the prizes could be yours!




Winners will be announced on CULT TV ON YOUR RADIO, Tuesday 18 February 2014 between 6.00pm and 7.00pm GMT with your hosts alex:g and Tom Mutiny on

Competition Rules: The winners will be the first three correct entries drawn at random from those received by Noon GMT on Tuesday 18 February 2014. One entry per person only - multiple entries will be disqualified. The Editor's decision is final, and no correspondence will be entered into. Current Cult TV Production Team and employees of Fabulous Films and their associated companies are not allowed to enter. No cash equivalent for the prize on offer. All entrants agree to be added to Cult TV’s postal mailing list, and will be sent details of Cult TV’s events and happenings - please note our mailing list is NOT used by anyone else. Please contact us directly if you do not wish to join the list. This competition is only open to UK postal addresses.




Last modified on Tuesday, 11 February 2014 11:40

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