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Series / Banacek

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"A truly wise man never plays leapfrog with a unicorn."

Banacek (one of the rotating elements of The NBC Mystery Movie) is a short-lived, light-hearted detective TV series starring George Peppard which aired on NBC from 1972 to 1974. Peppard played Thomas Banacek, a suave, Polish-American freelance investigator based in Boston, who solved seemingly impossible thefts. He then collected from the insurance companies 10% of the insured value of the recovered property.

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.

Banacek was part of the NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie lineup, and was the only spoke of this Wheel Program to run in both seasons.

Banacek provides examples of:

  • Anachronistic Clue: In "The Vanishing Chalice", one of the clues to the solution of the mystery is that a figure of a Greek soldier in the display is holding a sling, despite no soldiers of that period being armed with slings. The thief planted it there so he would have access to a rock.
  • Animal Assassin: In "Horse of a Slightly Different Color", a jockey is murdered by being knocked unconscious and dumped in a stall with a wild stallion that tramples him to death.
  • Casino Episode: One episode is "A Million the Hard Way" in which a casino put $1 million in cash in a display case for patrons to pose beside. The money disappears while an elderly couple are being photographed beside it.
  • Character Title
  • Computer Equals Tapedrive: In "If Max Is So Smart, Why Doesn't He Tell Us Where He Is?", the object stolen is Max; a 1970s supercomputer with spinning tape drives and blinking lights that takes up half a room. It's a justified trope in this case as the computer is a fake. All the lights, dials and spinning reels really are for show in-universe. The cabinets that the components are mounted to have wood paneling on the back that are designed to be reversed and fitted to look like the far wall.
  • Cymbal-Banging Monkey: In "The Three Million Dollar Piracy", a scene opens with a cymbal banging monkey when Banacek visits the office of the president of a toy company. The monkey has no bearing on the plot whatsoever.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Banacek rarely gives a straight answer, and even when he sounds sincere, no one believes him. For instance, in "The Three Million Dollar Piracy", he continually congratulates Carlie on her engagement and compliments her fiancee Henry. She figures Banacek is trying to break them up.
    • Felix is no slouch. When they discuss Felix's signed Hollywood pinups in "The Three Million Dollar Piracy", Banacek asks him if he has one of Alfred Hitchcock, Felix ask him if he wants to see the one of Hitchcock in a bikini or a thong.
  • Delivery Guy Infiltration: In "If Max Is So Smart, Why Doesn't He Tell Us Where He Is?", various flunkies are preventing Banacek from getting into a hospital room to talk to the owner of the stolen supercomputer. Banacek dons a white coat, picks up two bunches of flowers, and waltzes into her room unnoticed. Bonus points for him proceeding to arrange the flowers in a vase while conducting his interrogation.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: A Running Gag in the series is Jay turning up somewhere to deliver a message to Banacek, only to be distracted by the plethora of scantily clad women in the area to the point that he forgets why he is there till Banacek presses him on it.
  • Fall of the House of Cards: In "Fly Me — If You Can Find Me", Felix is attempting to break the world record for the tallest house of cards. The whole thing comes tumbling down when Banacek calls him, and Felix realises that he has built the house of cards over the top of the phone.
  • Film the Hand: In "No Stone Unturned", the crane operator does this as the documentary film maker tries to film inside the crane cab as he is loading the sculpture. Banacek later wonders exactly what it was he didn't want the camera to see.
  • Forklift Fu: A thief uses a forklift in an attempt to kill Banacek on the docks in "The Three Million Dollar Piracy".
  • A Handful for an Eye: In "Horse of a Slightly Different Color", Banacek is able to disarm a gunman by flinging a soapy cloth into his eyes.
  • Hero of Another Story: Felix usually has a much younger woman with him as he plays chess or works on a jigsaw puzzle, and seems to know a little about everything or can find out about it very quickly. We never finds out his backstory, but one can easily imagine him as an older version of Banacek.
  • Impossible Theft: Every episode involves Banacek investigating some sort of impossible theft; whether that is due to size (e.g. a 3 ton sculpture), location (e.g. a car stolen off a moving train), or security (e.g. a book from a sealed case ringed with alarm systems).
  • Incredibly Obvious Bug: One is planted in Banacek's home in "Rocket to Oblivion".
  • Insurance Fraud: The thefts are frequently orchestrated by the owner or by someone working for the owner to swindle them or the insurance company.
  • Knowledge Broker: Antique book dealer Felix Muholland fills this role; tracking down whatever esoteric piece of information Banacek needs to crack a particular case. Interestingly, he is the only character who ever refers to Banacek by his first name.
  • A Lady on Each Arm: In "Rocket to Oblivion", Art Gallagher arrives at the exposition with a girl on each arm. He later brings both of them with him to the Summation Gathering.
  • Landing Gear Shot: Used in "Now You See Me, Now You Don't" to establish that Banacek has travelled from Los Angeles to Los Vegas.
  • Lovely Assistant: In "Now You See Me, Now You Don't", the vanishing Stage Magician was using his daughter as his lovely assistant. She is as seemingly in the dark about what happens to her father as everyone else.
  • Mile-High Club: Banacek and his Girl of the Week get it on in a light plane in "A Million the Hard Way".
  • Monumental Theft: Objects stolen include a 3 ton sculpture, and and an immobilized DC-8 jetliner.
  • Once an Episode: Jay suggests a solution to the mystery, which Banacek immediately finds a flaw with.
  • Pretty in Mink: The girl Banacek brings back to his house at the start of "Horse of a Slightly Different Color" is wearing a fur coat, which she takes off as she she drapes herself seductively in front of the fireplace.
  • Pronouncing My Name for You: Banacek has to correct someone's pronunciation of his name in every episode. Not Banna-seck but Banna-check. (And sometimes he corrects the spelling: "B-A-N-A-C-E-K, just like it sounds.")
  • Replaced with Replica: In "The Vanishing Chalice", Banacek discovers that the chalice that was stolen from the museum was actually a fake, with original having been stolen earlier.
  • Running Gag: Banacek's Polish proverbs; Jay suggests his solution to the mystery; Jay being handed multiple tickets while protesting "but officer..."
  • Secret Other Family: In "The Three Million Dollar Piracy", Banacek discovers that one of the suspects is married to two different women. A ship's officer, he maintains the charade by telling one wife that he is shipping out a couple of weeks before he actually does, and telling the other that he is returning two weeks after he actually does.
  • Sexy Coat Flashing: Banacek's Girl of the Week does this in "Fly Me — If You Can Find Me"; wearing a raincoat with nothing on underneath it.
  • Sexy Stewardess: Banacek's Girl of the Week in "Fly Me — If You Can Find Me" is a sexy stewardess: one of the two very attractive flight attendants who were on the stolen plane.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Banacek and Felix are often shown playing chess. Banacek can mentally recreate the position of the pieces on the board for a game he played several days ago.
  • Stage Magician: In "Now You See Me, Now You Don't", Banacek investigates when an amateur stage magician literally disappears during the middle of his vanishing act.
  • Stolen by Staying Still:
    • In "Ten Thousand Dollars a Page", a valuable book is stolen by having it drop into a specially constructed niche in it display case. It seems to vanish and the display case shows no sign of having being opened because it hasn't.
    • In "The Vanishing Chalice", the eponymous chalice is seemingly stolen during its unveiling. Using a carefully arranged distraction, the thief slipped an angled mirror in front of the chalice so that it reflected the surrounding drapes and made it appear that the niche was empty.
  • Summation Gathering: At the end of every episode, Banacek would gather all of the suspects together at the scene of the crime to explain how the crime was committed and expose the guilty party.
  • Tap on the Head: Banacek gets floored by a tap on the head in "Horse of a Slightly Different Color".
  • Toyota Tripwire: In "Now You See Me, Now You Don't", a gunman forces Banacek to get into his car and then goes to climb in the passenger side. As he does so, Banacek reverses and knocks him down with the open door.