TV Pioneer and Producer Bob Banner Dies at 89

Emmy winner helped fashion Carol Burnett’s popular variety shows in the 1960s.

Bob Banner, the Emmy-winning TV pioneer who produced variety shows fronted by Carol Burnett, Dinah Shore and Garry Moore, died Wednesday of Parkinson's disease at the Motion Picture & Television Fund retirement community in Woodland Hills. He was 89.

Banner served as an executive producer from 1967-70 on The Carol Burnett Show after producing and directing The Dinah Shore Chevy Show (for which he won his Emmy in 1958) and The Garry Moore Show in the ’50s. It was Banner who hired Burnett to replace an ailing guest, Martha Raye, on the Moore show, leading to a regular role.

During his half-century in show business, Banner also executive produced the syndicated shows Solid Gold, Star Search and It’s Showtime at the Apollo and the TV special Peggy Fleming Visits the Soviet Union; directed the cerebral Alistair Cooke-hosted Omnibus; and produced such telefilms as The Darker Side of Terror (1979), My Sweet Charlie (1970) and The Sea Wolf (1993).

Burnett said the soft-spoken Banner talked her into opening her variety show with a Q&A session with the audience.

“He said, ‘Carol, you can't just go out and do sketches,” Burnett recalled. “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.”

A native of Ennis, Texas, Banner began his career in the late 1940s at TV stations WBKB and then WMAQ in Chicago, where he worked on the puppet show Kukla, Fran and Ollie and directed Garroway at Large. He went on to produce Burnett TV specials, including Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall and Carol Plus Two, before becoming executive producer of The Carol Burnett Show.

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

Banner is survived by his wife Alice and sons Baird, Robert and Chuck.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.