Banacek (one of the rotating NBC Mystery Movie series) is a short-lived, light-hearted detective TV series starring George Peppard on NBC from 1972 to 1974. It alternated in its timeslot with several other shows but was the only one to last beyond its first season. It was later rebroadcast on A&E Network.
The show had a mixture of humor combined with rather intricate plots that never generated strong ratings. Despite this, the show was well received by critics and was picked up for a third season. However, before the third season could start production, Peppard quit the show in order to prevent his ex-wife Elizabeth Ashley from receiving a larger percentage of his earnings as part of their divorce settlement.
Peppard played Thomas Banacek, a suave, Polish-American freelance investigator based in Boston, who solved seemingly impossible thefts (see locked room mystery). He then collected from the insurance companies 10% of the insured value of the recovered property. One of Banacek's verbal signatures was the quotation of strangely worded yet curiously cogent "Polish" proverbs such as: "If you're not sure that it's potato borscht, there could be children working in the mines"; "Though the hippopotamus has no sting, the wise man would prefer to be sat upon by the bee"; "A wise man never plays leapfrog with a unicorn"; "If a wolf is after your sleigh - throw him a raisin cookie, but don't stop to bake him a cake"; and "Just because the cat has her kittens in the oven doesn't make them biscuits."
Another recurring gag was for other characters to mispronounce his name, often (particularly in the case of rivals) deliberately. The name "Banaczek" (as pronounced in the show) is actually very rare in Poland. The closest Polish names in common use are Banaszak (bah-NAH-shack) and Banasik (bah-NAH-sheek). In fact, Banáček is a Czech surname.
Also featured were Ralph Manza as Banacek's chauffeur Jay Drury, Murray Matheson as rare-bookstore owner and information source Felix Mulholland and Christine Belford as Carlie Kirkland, Banacek's sometime-lover and always-rival.
Season 1 (1972-1973)
Season 2 (1973-1974)
Arts Alliance America has released the entire series on DVD in Region 1. Season 1 was released on May 15, 2007, without the series pilot. Season 2 was released on January 22, 2008 and included the pilot episode. On September 30, 2008, Arts Alliance released Banacek: The Complete Series, a 5-disc boxset featuring all 16 episodes.
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