Monday, January 4, 2021

The Five Best Episodes of "Banacek"

Banacek with his trademark cigar.
George Peppard starred as free-lance, Boston-based insurance investigator Thomas Banacek in a pilot movie and 16 episodes of Banacek. The series aired as part of the NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie in 1972-74. He was assisted in each episode by his friend, bookstore owner (and researcher) Felix (Murray Matheson) and chauffeur Jay (Ralph Manza). The episodes were typically 75 minutes (without commercials) and focused on elaborate thefts. Here are our picks for the five best episodes:

Stefanie Powers.
1. Let's Hear It for a Living Legend  - A professional football player disappears from the field during a nationally televised game. An ingenious, yet deceptively simple, crime highlights this episode that also features Stefanie Powers as a guest star. She and series star George Peppard have great chemistry; it's a shame she couldn't return for a second outing. An added bonus for NFL fans is the brief appearances from real-life former players John Brodie, Ben Davidson, and Deacon Jones.

2. No Stone Unturned - A massive three-ton piece of modern art is stolen from a museum. We're talking an object so large that the museum's glass front had to be removed so the artwork could be emplaced by a crane. So how was it nabbed during an opening night party without anyone knowing? I admit that my enjoyment of this episode was enhanced by the fact that I figured out how the basics of how the theft was accomplished!

Margot Kidder.
3. A Million the Hard Way - A Las Vegas casino has one million dollars stolen from a tamper-proof display case in the middle of a busy room with an armed guard on duty. This may be the most complex caper in the Banacek series. Plus, Margot Kidder is on hand as a part-time photographer, displaying the kind of spunk that would earn her the role of Lois Lane in Superman (1978).

4. Fly Me — If You Can Find Me - A jet has to make an emergency landing at a small desert airport. One pilot stays with the aircraft while the other crew members spend the night in a nearby motel. The next morning, the airplane and the pilot are gone! This is another crime which is clever despite its simplicity. If you think about it, there's really only one way the plane could have been stolen. But, in this case, another question is why was the plane stolen? The above-average guest star cast features Sterling Hayden and a pre-Dallas Victoria Principal.

5. Now You See Me, Now You Don't - An amateur magician, wanted for embezzling, disappears from a theatre surrounded by the police. This caper employs a trick featured prominently in one of Agatha Christie's mystery novels. It works effectively here, though there's a secondary impact that's pretty hard to swallow (no plot spoilers!).

4 comments:

  1. I'd say that Stefanie Powers would have great chemistry with anyone! I couldn't buy the idea that Banacek would ever "get serious" with any woman. Too full of himself, and too fond of his revolving-door-of-girls lifestyle.

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  2. No Stone Unturned is the only episode of which I have a solid memory. I know I watched Banacek, but haven't seen it since the original run. It would be very easy to count the years but it won't be good for my state of mind to do so.

    I find your entre rundown interesting. I may have to revisit the series in the future.

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  3. BANACEK was one of the great 70s mystery series. Every episode an impossible crime and mostly the solutions really are satisfying.

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  4. This sounds good! I've heard about Banacek for years but never watched the show. "Now You See Me, Now You Don't" seems particularly intriquing. I'm glad most of the NBC Mystery series made it to DVD.

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