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TV producer Bob Banner, at 89; known for hit variety shows

BOB BANNER BOB BANNER (Waxahachie Daily Light)
Associated Press / June 17, 2011

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LOS ANGELES — Television producer and director Bob Banner, whose credits included the Dinah Shore, Garry Moore, and Carol Burnett variety shows as well as the television movies “The Darker Side of Terror,’’ “My Sweet Charlie,’’ and “Sea Wolf,’’ has died at age 89.

Mr. Banner died Wednesday of Parkinson’s disease at the Motion Picture & Television Fund retirement community in suburban Woodland Hills, a family spokeswoman, Lauren Cottrell, said to the Los Angeles Times.

Born in Ennis, Texas, he began his career in Chicago in 1948 as a production assistant on the children’s puppet show “Kukla, Fran & Ollie.’’

In a Dallas Morning News interview in 2000, the Northwestern University graduate told of his initial embarrassment at working on the show.

“I didn’t want to tell the people at Northwestern that I had been assigned to do a puppet show,’’ Mr. Banner said.

“A puppet show didn’t seem quite like theater at Northwestern.’’

When “Kukla’’ became a hit, however, Mr. Banner boasted of his role.

“I went around Northwestern saying I was on ‘The Kukla, Fran & Ollie’ show,’’ he said.

“This show I didn’t want to admit I was involved with changed my life.’’

He later produced and directed “The Fred Waring Show’’ and went on to be a director on “Omnibus,’’ hosted by Alistair Cooke.

Mr. Banner won a directing Emmy in 1958 for “The Dinah Shore Chevy Show.’’

He went on to produce Burnett TV specials, including “Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall’’ and “Carol Plus Two,’’ before he became executive producer of “The Carol Burnett Show.’’

Burnett said Mr. Banner talked her into opening the show with questions and answers.

In an interview, Burnett recalled the circumstances.

“He said: ‘Carol, you can’t just go out and do sketches. The audience has to get to know you first as a person.’ I said, ‘I can’t do that. I’d be terrified that, A, the audience wouldn’t ask anything and, B, that they would.’ But he talked me into it, and it became one of my favorite things to do,’’ Burnett said in an interview.

Mr. Banner’s executive producer credits also included “The Jimmy Dean Show,’’ “Solid Gold,’’ “Star Search,’’ and “It’s Showtime at the Apollo.’’

He was also executive producer of the 1988 AIDS benefit concert “That’s What Friends Are For,’’ hosted by singer Dionne Warwick.

Mr. Banner leaves his wife, Alice, and sons Baird, Robert, and Chuck.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete.