In the book, Etter recalls:
Banyon creator-producer Ed Adamson had developed Banyon as a showcase for his pal Robert Forster. In 1969, Adamson had seen a Gregory Peck Western called The Stalking Moon. In it, Forster played an Indian. Reveals Forster, “Ed saw a scene in that movie with me and a young Indian lad. He wrote my name down when the credits came up and said, to himself, ‘I’m gonna hire that guy someday,’” which Adamson did for the March 15, 1971, movie-pilot, Banyon.Unfortunately, the transition from the pilot to the Friday night TV series meant the recruitment of producer Quinn Martin--a veteran of such shows as The Fugitive, The F.B.I., The Streets of San Francisco, and Cannon. His management of a program that he had not created apparently stirred up more than a bit of tension.
Directed by Robert Day, the well-produced 1971 Warner Bros. pilot had former cop turned private detective Miles C. Banyon trying to clear himself of a murder charge after his young female client is found dead in his office, killed by his own gun.
Film noir made sense in a show whose title character was a detective in the Sam Spade-Philip Marlowe tradition. In other words, a down-on-his-luck private detective who’d take almost any kind of case, and was often beaten up by thugs. As evidenced by the series’ pilot, “Ed Adamson was very much into all of that,” says pilot director Robert Day. “He really was into the Maltese Falcon and all those 1930s and ’40s shows. He was into that very much, and he wanted to keep it almost verbatim. I really liked his original script. He was a clever writer.” As was the pilot’s co-writer, Richard Alan Simmons. He and Ed Adamson had their own ideas on how to do the Banyon pilot. Those ideas weren’t the same. The two men did not get along.Etter explains that doing a period drama created a number of challenges, not the least of which were location shoots that required camouflaging modern elements of L.A. and keeping out-of-period pedestrians from walking through the scenes. Re-shooting drove up the cost of Banyon. But, notes Etter,
So, when NBC decided to do the Banyon series one year later, with Quinn Martin as their producer, Ed Adamson was not happy. “Ed felt ownership of the idea at the very least,” says Robert Forster. “He created the show. He was the primary source and the link.” “Ed Adamson really resented any interference from the QM organization,” remembers [director] Ralph Senensky. “There was an air of hostility between him and the QM people. I didn’t have any actual out and out problems with it, but Quinn did make it a point to come to me and thank me after I’d finished one of the shows. He very seldom did that. Ed Adamson was a real problem. He was caught in the fact that this was his baby, and that he was doing it under Quinn’s umbrella. Ed didn’t want to be told what to do. Especially since he was ill at the time. So he figured he was gonna do it his way, which he did.”
[I]t wasn’t really the expense of doing Banyon that killed the show. It was the sudden loss of its creator, Ed Adamson. “Ed died during the shooting of the show,” recalls [casting director] Meryl O’Loughlin. “It was such a shock to everybody. One day he was there, the next day, he was dead.” “We had an order of fifteen episodes,” adds Forster, “and on the thirteenth episode, Ed died. He died at home. He was at my house Saturday night. Sunday I got a call from his wife, Helene. She told me Ed had just passed away. We talked about keeping the show going with Dick Donner running and producing the show, but we were sort of on the edge with the ratings.”Too bad. Banyon debuted during the first year I became interested in TV crime dramas, but I wasn’t able to see all of the episodes during their original broadcasts, and I haven’t been aware of their being shown since. Within the last year, I was able to procure a good-quality DVD copy of the pilot film and a lesser print of the series’ first episode; but I hold out hope of Banyon one day being resurrected as a DVD full-series set.
Given the loss of its creator-producer Ed Adamson, its weak ratings, and its powerful competition (the last hour of the CBS Friday Night Movie, ABC’s popular hour-long sitcom, Love American Style), NBC opted to cancel Banyon.
By the way, Jonathan Etter’s biography of Martin deals also with that producer’s other series, including Barnaby Jones, The Invaders, and the Burt Reynolds vehicle, Dan August.