Banacek, Season Two (Part 1)

Continuing our look at TV’s impossible-crime specialist of the early 1970s. Entries on Season One are here and here.

“No Stone Unturned” by Stephen Lord, Robert Van Scoyk, Lee Santley and George Sheldon Smith.

What seems to happen: a three-ton statue disappears from the art gallery where it was about to be unveiled, even though nobody could have come near it with the kind of equipment needed to move (or destroy) it. 

Like last season’s “The Two Million Clams of Cap’n Jack”, this episode has a surprisingly large number of people sharing writer credit, and like “Cap’n Jack,” it’s a really good one. The solution is both ingenious and fairly clued. I also have to give my younger brother full marks on this one; he was able to spot how it was done when I couldn’t. At age ten. Sometimes I hate my younger brother. 

“If Max Is So Smart, Why Doesn’t He Tell Us Where He Is?” by Robert van Scoyk.

What seems to happen: a supercomputer disappears from a locked, guarded building overnight. 

You can tell this episode was written during the era of movies like “I Could Never Have Sex With Any Man Who Has So Little Regard For My Husband” and “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds”. The solution is not a bad one, but somehow I found it a letdown.

“The Three Million Dollar Piracy” by Stanley Ralph Ross, Robert Van Scoyk (this guy got around, didn’t he?) and Jack Turley.

What seems to happen: A coach (the kind drawn by horses), studded with valuable jewels, is packed in a protective crate and loaded into the hold of a ship. When the crate is inspected before the ship can sail off, the coach is gone, and the only clue is a hole burned into the side with a blowtorch – one far too small for the coach to have gone through.

Another very good one, with some great misdirection. You can usually find a similarity between a Banacek solution and at least one story written earlier, but the mechanics of this one actually remind me of a later mystery written by an author who knows his way around an impossible crime. I won’t be any more specific than that!

“The Vanishing Chalice” by Morton Fine.

What seems to happen: As in last season’s “A Million the Hard Way”, something valuable is on public display and in full view of lots of people. When they all take their eyes off it for a brief moment, it disappears.

Not a good one. I don’t believe for a moment that the method could work, although the identity of the culprit was well-concealed.

To be concluded with the last four Banaceks in due course!

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8 thoughts on “Banacek, Season Two (Part 1)

  1. I remember watching Banacek in the 1970’s and liking the show’s focus on brains instead of guns. And of course George Peppard was a very handsome fella, with a kind of deadpan roguishness in his portrayal. I thought the Polish-proverb gimmick was just silly, but the attitude of the show toward women really rubbed me the wrong way. Given that it bothered you, a young boy, imagine how it struck a college-age female with feminist leanings! The treatment of Carly, the insurance investigator who was a sometime romantic interest for Banacek, especially exasperated me. I’ve often wondered how this show would translate to our somewhat-less-sexist time, still with its smart-and-sexy hero but with female characters who weren’t just bits of crumpet. Maybe even a Tracy-Hepburn type romance….In my dreams, I guess!

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    1. Yeah, if there were a Banaeck reboot, they could keep a lot of things from the original unchanged, but they’d have to update his attitudes toward women. Or they could make the new series about investigator Teresa Banacek (Thomas’ granddaughter?), who has a male rival/semi-boyfriend who keeps coming up with wrong solutions…

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      1. A female Banacek would be great! She could refute Polish-Princess jokes instead of making up proverbs. I think there would still be a double standard when it came to her love-life, though.

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    1. The story was that Peppard didn’t want his soon-to-be-ex-wife (Elizabeth Ashley) getting any further share of his earnings, so he walked away from the series. It was apparently a really nasty divorce!

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