PT - Banacek - 010 - Detour to Nowhere
Updated: Jan 26
Season 2 of the Predictably Treacherous Podcast begins with the pilot episode of Banacek, "Detour to Nowhere" (1972)
Welcome everyone to season 2 episode 1 of "The Predictably Treacherous Podcast". This season we'll be looking at Banacek and today's episode is the pilot, "detour to nowhere". This episode was directed by Jack Smight and written by Anthony Wilson. The original air date was March 20th, 1972.
Before we get into the episode let's get into the background of Banacek. Here's what Wikipedia had to say about Banacek https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banacek
"Banacek is an American detective TV series starring George Peppard that aired on the NBC network from 1972 to 1974. The series was part of the rotating NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie anthology. It alternated in its time slot with several other shows, but was the only one of them to last beyond its first season."
...also from Wikipedia's article on The NBC Mystery Movie
"The NBC Mystery Movie is the umbrella title of an American television series produced by Universal Studios, that was broadcast by NBC from 1971 to 1977. At times, it was divided into two versions that were broadcast concurrently during different nights of the week: The NBC Sunday Mystery Movie and The NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie.
The NBC Mystery Movie was a "wheel show", or "umbrella program" that rotated several programs within the same time period throughout the season. For its initial 1971–72 season, it featured a rotation of three detective dramas that were broadcast on Wednesday nights for 90 minutes, from 8:30–10:00 p.m. in the Eastern Time Zone."
"The three original 1971–1972 season shows of The NBC Mystery Movie were:"
"The umbrella series was counted a great success in its first season and finished at number 14 in the Nielsen ratings for the 1971–1972 season. Columbo was nominated for eight Emmy Awards and won four categories. This success prompted NBC to move the series to the competitive 8:30-10:00 Sunday evening time period for the second season as The NBC Sunday Mystery Movie. In addition, a fourth show was added ("Hec Ramsey") to the rotation, lasting two seasons (1972–1974)"
"NBC also launched a clone of the umbrella series, The NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie, which debuted in the original time period and featured three new programs:"
"During the 1973–1974 season, the programs rotating on Sunday remained the same, while on Wednesday, Cool Million and Madigan were canceled and Banacek rotated with three new series:"
"Rescheduling to Tuesday nights as The NBC Tuesday Mystery Movie during January 1974 was not enough to help boost ratings, and the midweek series was cancelled. The Sunday series continued, anchored by the popular trio of Columbo, McCloud, and McMillan and Wife."
"During subsequent years, these rotated with a fourth series, which changed each year (1972–1977), including:"
"Of all the wheel series, only the original three — Columbo, McCloud and McMillan & Wife — survived for the entire run of the Mystery Movie. Most of the others were very short-lived, and, with the exception of Hec Ramseyand Banacek, were all only on the air for one season. Quincy, M.E., which was the next to last new Mystery Movie series to premiere, ended up outlasting the parent series itself; midway through the final Mystery Movieseason, Quincy was taken out of the wheel lineup and retooled into a one-hour weekly series that ran for seven more seasons, coming to an end in 1983.
Although the Mystery Movie series was cancelled at the end of the 1976–1977 season, NBC kept Columbo in production and a seventh season consisting of five films premiered on November 21, 1977. After the fifth film aired in May 1978, NBC cancelled Columbo as well."
Alright, so that's the broader context of where Banacek fits in with the other mystery shows of the time. Let's look a little more closely at Banacek. It starred:
born 1928 and died in 1994 of pneumonia while battling lung cancer
married 5 times, 3 children
Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) which people seem to either love or hate.
Banacek and The A-Team
Ralph Manza as Jay Drury
born 1921 and died in 2000
character actor with over 160 appearances in film and tv
married for 52 years and 4 kids
Murray Matheson as Felix Mulholland
born 1912 and died 1985
various tv and film
Christine Belford as Carly Kirkland
Music by Billy Goldberg
various tv and film
" Banacek was well received by television critics, and as a result was picked up for a third season. However, before the third season could start, Peppard quit the show to prevent his ex-wife Elizabeth Ashley from receiving a larger percentage of his earnings as part of their divorce settlement. The complication ended any chance of reviving Banacek during Peppard's lifetime. A&E continued rebroadcasts of Banacek in syndication."
Theory of Banacek
- Crime (shown but we don't know what happened.)
- Banacek Intro (he's doing something wonderful or with a beautiful woman)
- Banacek investigates the mystery (the following recurring tropes occur)
Felix provides counsel
Polish Proverb - Banacek provides a polish proverb that is supposed to lend some insight into some aspect of the crime.
Jay guesses wrong - Jay provides his pet theory about the crime
Physical Skills - Banacek demonstrates his physical skills
Lady's Man - Banacek is shown to be a babe-magnet
Banacek's name - People mispronounce Banacek's name.
- The Big Reveal - Banacek explains the entire crime to a room full of episode stakeholders
OK, let's get to today's episode, the pilot, "Detour to nowhere"
When an armored truck under police escort carrying 1.6 million in gold bars goes missing, Banacek travels to Vantage Texas to try and recover the property and collect the 10% on offer from Meridian Insurance.
The episode opens with an armored car being escorted by police through the desert of Texas to the Oklahoma border. The police in the trailing car call the Oklahoma escort waiting a few miles ahead on the other side of the Oklahoma-Texas border and ask if they can see the caravan approaching. They can't. A sniper on a hill with a metal bracelet with writing on it shoots out the tire of the trailing cop car and it skids out. Inexplicably, the armored car continues on and pulls away. The cops with the blown out tire change it and speed after the armored car that is now out of site. The Texas escort again contact the Oklahoma escort waiting at the border and they still can't see the armored car that should be in site by now. The pursuing cops and escort cops drive towards each other and meet at some barrels on the road near the town of Vantage. We see the armored car tracks leading off the road and into the desert. The camera follows the tracks that lead to a steep valley. The bodies of the two armored car drivers can be seen on the rocks below and the armored car is nowhere in site.
Queue the Banacek theme music with Banacek rowing in a river while the intro music plays. Then we get shots of Boston in winter. This may be in the top three to five for worst theme music in a show. This makes a big difference. Think of your favorite shows and when that theme starts playing you start singing along or humming along and you're all in!
Murder, She Wrote knew how to do it. (MSW theme)
So did Golden Girls (Golden Girls theme)
So did Gilmore Girls (Gilmore Girls theme)
Miami Vice definitely knew how to do it. (Miami Vice theme)
Maybe that's why Banacek is all but forgotten now.
Banacek drives his fancy 1941 Packard Darrin convertible ( according to an article in "The Daily Drive") into his gated home. Inside he opens the mail. Looks like he has a subscription to "The Vantage Sentinal" newspaper. He also receives the "Daily Assurance Reports". Banacek circles an ad under "Recoveries and Rewards" and cuts out an article with some enormous scissors. His house looks like a country club.
He pops an 8-track type tape into a...something like a VCR. Then watches a news report on a TV that is revealed behind a painting on his wall. But then he seems to change channels to another news program that goes through the minutia of the entire crime and possible explanations for how it was carried out. Let's listen to the clip. (newscast clip)
...the report has way too much detail. It explains how the crime was carried out and frames the questions that the audience needs to think about and that Banacek will attempt to answer. How was this crime committed? Who did it? Where did the armored car go? etc.
Banacek has a smug look on his face.
The Polish Proverb
So Carly Kirkland is a foxy little number who is pretending to be just someone that banacek met at Felix's bookstore but she is actually an undercover agent with Meridian Insurance. She and Banacek are about to have dinner when Carly asks him what he thinks happened to the armored car in the robbery. We get this proverb in response:
(polish proverb clip)
In Vantage, Banacek meets with Earl Lewis, the one man show running the newspaper. They go to a local bar to talk and a drunk is wrestling with some guy and the drunk bumps into Banacek and spills his beer. Banacek says the guy should apologize and pay for the beer. The drunk orders a beer and dumps it on Banacek's tweed jacket. Banacek gets up and does some ridiculous roundhouse backhand to the guys kidneys then an awkward backhand knuckles to the guys nose and the guy gets knocked out. I can't believe that this scene made it to the final cut of the episode...it looks so ridiculous. The locals take the drunk away and Banacek sits down. The bartender compliments Banacek on his moves, hands him a towel and then continues on like nothing happened. Let's listen to the clip (bar fight). He says "anyways you should talk to Charlie Burns friend Joe Hawk." No one calls the police or confronts Banacek because he just laid out a local or even ejects his from the bar for fighting. Everyone just moves on like nothing happened. It seems comical because its so out of place but its clearly meant to be serious. The bartender actually says, "Anyways..." and continues their discussion.
Back at his motel, Carly is there waiting for him. She's in a night gown. She's interested. Banacek tells her that he's "not much for long range plans" and Carly is ok with that because Banacek is supposed to be some babe-magnet, let's listen to the clip. (babe-magnet clip) Carly tells him that she is going to beat him to the missing money. So they understand each other. Too bad they have zero chemistry. Then it's implied that they do it.
Back at the hotel Banacek calls Felix in Boston. He asks him about the tribe of Native Americans that Joe belonged to. Felix tells him that when they die they are buried with their weapons and jewelry. Banacek pieces together that Joe and Charlie were using metal detectors to rob the graves of Joe's tribe when they stumbled upon the armored truck.
The explanation happens towards the end of the episode. This is where Banacek explains, in the most smug way possible, to a room filled with episode stakeholders, what exactly happened.
We're at the Sheriff's office, Banacek begins clearing off the desk so that he can demonstrate.
He lays out some envelopes for a road and uses paperclips, a paperclip box, and erasers for objects in his explanation. We are shown clips of the actual heist mixed with clips of Banacek's explanations using the objects on the desk all while hearing Banacek's voiceover.
There are a few important points:
- newspaper guy and jessup used holden's construction equipment from nearby storage yard to pre-dig a hole on one side of the road by the oil drum blockaide. they covered it with brush to disguise it.
- The newspaper guy and jessup approached the armored car once it reached the oil drum blockaide. The guards were in on it. One guard gets out of the armored car and kills the other guard, then Jessup kills first guard.
- A dune-buggy makes fake tracks on the other side of the road leading to the precipice. This draws attention away from the side with the hole. The truck was buried near the road because a heavy truck couldn't be driven too far out in the soft desert sand.
- Once the dune-buggy gets to the cliff edge it is removed with a small crane which then sets the dune buggy down on the hard rocks where it could drive off without making additional tracks.
- Jessup and the newspaper guy were planning on getting the gold out later once the investigation dies down.
The next scene we are shown a crane excavating the armored truck while a tv newsman is interviewing Carly. He tells Carly that her company's investigator did a great job but he mispronounces Banacek and "Bana-sec". Carly smiles wryly.
And there we have it. Unintentionally amusing at points, as a good 70's mystery show should be.
The hallmarks for this show are Banacek's smugness, male-chauvinism, overly-attractive women, and turtlenecks.
Next week teaser
Next week on the Predictably Treacherous Podcast, "Let's hear it for a living legend."
When a professional football player disappears during a game being broadcast on live television, Banacek is called in by the team owner to find the man and explain the mystery.
Tune in Next week!