NBC's MYSTERY MOVIE rotating anthology series produced several of my very favorite seventies television series including McCLOUD, HEC RAMSEY and COLUMBO. Another on that list would have to be BANACEK. I was never a big George Peppard fan. I find his acting both before and after this series to be either dismally dull or annoyingly smug. Yes, that includes A-TEAM.
But here, as a Polish-American millionaire insurance investigator in Boston, he is the very personification of the word cool, helped along by some wonderful writing and often amazingly clever mystery plots.
And also a great supporting cast. Although he owns and sometimes drives a gorgeous 1941 Packard, Banacek is most often chauffeured in a limo by Jay (played by Ralph Manza), a very traditional comic sidekick as one might find in movies of The Falcon, The Saint or the Lone Wolf.
Murray Matheson is the brains of the operation as Felix, intellectual owner of an antiquarian bookstore and our hero's go-to guy for any and all obscure info or even the word on the street.
Thomas Banacek's heritage is played up often. At the time, Polish jokes were big and Polish organizations weren't happy about that. Smart, sexy Banacek with his own "old Polish proverbs" became a popular role model for such groups.
Christine Belford appeared on the show semi-regularly as a rival insurance investigator and sometimes "love"interest. Around this same time, she and Peppard starred opposite each other in a clever but now forgotten feature film mystery entitled THE GROUNDSTAR CONSPIRACY. Originally, I found her character grating for some reason, but in later viewings I've quite enjoyed their cat and mouse games.
The show ran, as did its fellow Mystery Movies, in a more or less monthly 90 minute or 2 hour slot. There were only two seasons with critical success but middling ratings. Supposedly Peppard, then going through a rocky divorce, exited after that so his soon-to-be ex wouldn't get half of his earnings under California law.