The Name of the Game (TV series)
|The Name of the Game|
|Created by||Jennings Lang|
Susan Saint James
|Theme music composer||Dave Grusin|
|Country of origin||USA|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||76 (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Richard Irving
|Running time||90 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Universal Television|
|Distributor||NBC Universal Television Distribution|
|Original run||September 20, 1968 – March 19, 1971|
The Name of the Game is an American television series starring Tony Franciosa, Gene Barry, and Robert Stack that ran from 1968 to 1971 on NBC, totaling 76 episodes of 90 minutes. It was a pioneering wheel series, setting the stage for The Bold Ones and the NBC Mystery Movie in the 1970s. The show had an extremely large budget for a television series.
The series was based on the 1966 television movie Fame Is the Name of the Game, directed by Stuart Rosenberg and starring Tony Franciosa. The Name of the Game rotated among three characters working at Howard Publications, a large magazine publishing company — Jeff Dillon (Franciosa), a crusading reporter with People magazine (before there was a real-life People magazine); Glenn Howard (Gene Barry, taking over for George Macready, who had originated the role in the earlier film), the sophisticated, well-connected publisher; and Dan Farrell (Robert Stack), the editor of Crime magazine. Serving as a common connection was newcomer Susan Saint James as Peggy Maxwell, the editorial assistant for each.
The show had a striking, imaginative rotating opening graphic, which in turn put up the three lead actors with their faces forming out of repeatedly appearing collages of their names, each slightly differing, along with a jazzy, pulsating theme by Dave Grusin. This graphic originally put the featured lead first, then the other two as 'starring in...', Franciosa set on pale blue background, Barry on red, and Stack on green. All three leads were thus depicted, although usually only one then actually appeared. Each episode then carried individual credits with the featured lead name 'in' followed by title and guest cast. When the show ran on Encore Mystery channel (1996–99), a single 'Stack-Barry-Franciosa' opening graphic was shown on every episode.
Barry made brief cameo appearances "as Glenn Howard," for series continuity purposes, in five Robert Stack episodes and four of Tony Franciosa's first season episodes. Franciosa did likewise "as Jeff Dillon" in a single first season Barry segment story, "The Taker." However, Franciosa and Stack never appeared in the same episode. Stack's character Dan Farrell was mentioned by name in a Franciosa episode, "Collector's Edition," in which Barry cameos and Peggy Maxwell phones Farrell, but he is not seen. This is the closest the show ever came to including all the three leads. Stack never made any cameo appearances in the other two leads' episodes.
Although the producers would have had audiences believe that each actor would appear every third week, in the first season there were 11 Barry segments, nine Stack segments, and only six Franciosa segments. The actual rotating order of the lead actors' episodes was inconsistent over the three seasons; sometimes Barry or Stack appeared for two consecutive weeks running, while it was not unusual for Stack and Barry episodes to alternate repeatedly with no Franciosa story between. Towards the end of season two, there were two Franciosa episodes only two weeks apart, suggesting the series' original transmission order was possibly rushed.
Jeff Dillon (Tony Franciosa)
Franciosa's "Jeff Dillon" segments were "current affairs" stories that ranged from industrial espionage ("The Other Kind of Spy"), to medical fraud and malpractice ("Keep The Doctor Away"), racial tensions ("The Black Answer"), or shady goings-on in an Army training camp ("The Prisoner Within"). The charismatic Jeff Dillon was a stylish, charming character with a boyish smile, a razor-sharp mind with an attention to detail, and a dogged persistent investigative style later used by (and now more associated with) the 1970s Mystery Movie character Columbo. Susan Saint James's award-winning character, research assistant "Peggy Maxwell," was ever-present in the "Jeff Dillon" segments. She even shared the lead with him on one occasion, in the season two episode "The King of Denmark." The "Jeff Dillon" segments featured an incidental theme tune unique to his stories.
Glenn Howard (Gene Barry)
Barry's "Glenn Howard" was a cool, self-made businessman who cut an elegant, impeccable, playboy millionaire figure. His tales usually involved big business ("The Perfect Image") or political intrigue ("High Card") set in powerful, wealthy circles. Howard also had a small but memorable number of more surreal "offbeat" escapades, such as "Love-In At Ground Zero," in which he was abducted by fanatical hippies and forced to witness their protest mass suicide during a secret chemical weapons test. Other memorable episodes included the spooky "Tarot," the wild "One of The Girls in Research," and the Western set episode "The Showdown." Howard's assistant, "Andrew Hill" (Cliff Potts), appeared in some first-season episodes. Mark Miller was featured as "Ross Craig" in some Howard tales.
Dan Farrell (Robert Stack)
Stack's "Dan Farrell" was a resolute, stern ex-F.B.I. investigator, a righteous figure with a tireless sense of justice (recalling his previous role as Federal Agent Eliot Ness in The Untouchables). Farrell's character had a tragic edge, unlike his two co-stars, being a widower (his wife's murder seen in flashback in the first season episode, "Nightmare"), which explained his more serious attitude. His stories were normally crime capers, often unusual types such as spree killers ("The Bobby Currier Story"), corruption in sport ("Brass Ring"), illegal use of prisoners as slave labor ("Chains of Command") and crooked charities ("Give Till It Hurts"). Most Stack episodes concluded with a negative image that transformed into the most recent cover shot of Crime Magazine.
Franciosa's dismissal and replacements
Franciosa was apparently fired amid some acrimony from the series' producers during the third season of the show's run, after completing three episodes. His other four contracted rotation stories were taken by guest actors, such as Peter Falk (later better known as Columbo) as Lewis Corbett in "A Sister From Napoli," Robert Culp as Paul Tyler in two episodes; "Cynthia is Alive..." and "Little Bear Died Running," and Robert Wagner as David Corey in "The Man Who Killed A Ghost." These episodes duly created the impression of Howard Publications being a large concern with many top reporters. Franciosa's face was still featured on the opening graphic for season three, with the guest leads billed as, 'Guest Starring in...', then depicted with their photos (from each episode) set on the closing credits as background.
According to writer Richard DeRoy, his teleplay for the third season episode "A Capitol Affair" was intended to establish Suzanne Pleshette as a new permanent character, gossip columnist Hallie Manville. The same episode included a role intended for Joan Crawford, but Crawford fell ill and was replaced by Mercedes McCambridge. Pleshette did not return as Manville in any subsequent episode.
Some notable supporting stars included a young, pre-Alias Smith And Jones Ben Murphy as Farrell's assistant Joseph Sample; Cliff Potts as Howard's assistant Andrew Hill taking a one off lead role in season one's "Pineapple Rose" episode. Mark Miller played Howard's other assistant Ross Craig. Darren McGavin took a guest lead as freelance newsman Sam Hardy (in 'Goodbye Harry'), and Vera Miles likewise as Howard's top female reporter, Hilary Vanderman (in 'Man of The People'). These three episodes all featured Gene Barry in cameos and were put under his segment.
Other guest stars included (alphabetically): Dana Andrews, Anne Baxter, Honor Blackman, Charles Boyer, Rossano Brazzi, Hoagy Carmichael, David Carradine, Ray Charles, Chuck Connors, Joseph Cotten, Nigel Davenport, Sammy Davis Jr., Yvonne De Carlo, Brandon deWilde, Ivan Dixon, Pete Duel, Sharon Farrell, Barbara Feldon, Jose Ferrer, Steve Forrest, Pamela Franklin, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Will Geer, Frank Gorshin, Robert Goulet, Peter Graves, Julie Harris, Noel Harrison, Burl Ives, Van Johnson, Shirley Jones, Louis Jourdan, Boris Karloff, John Kerr, Jack Klugman, Peter Lawford, Dorothy Lamour, Gypsy Rose Lee, Claudine Longet, Kevin McCarthy, Roddy McDowall, Sal Mineo, Ricardo Montalban, Laurence Naismith, Barry Nelson, Leslie Nielsen, Suzanne Pleshette, Pernell Roberts, William Shatner, Frank Sinatra, Barry Sullivan, Donald Sutherland, Russ Tamblyn, Mel Torme, Ike & Tina Turner, Lurene Tuttle, Jessica Walter, Dionne Warwick, Dennis Weaver, Robert Webber, Jessica Walter, James Whitmore, Brenda Vaccaro, and Robert Young.
The Name of the Game provided Steven Spielberg with his first long-form directing assignment: the dystopic science fiction episode, "L.A. 2017," written by Philip Wylie (who earlier wrote Barry's memorable offbeat episode 'Love in at Ground Zero' in season one). In the episode, Glenn Howard is hunted down in a lethally polluted Los Angeles of the future, where the fascist government is ruled by psychiatrists and the populace has been driven to live in underground bunkers to survive the pollution. At the end Howard wakes up to discover that it was a dream, which allowed the science fiction plot to fit into the modern day setting of the show.
Steven Bochco received one of his first writing credits on the series, and served as story editor for the third-season Robert Stack episodes.
Segment Producers / Executive Producers included David Victor ('The Man From U.N.C.L.E.' etc.), Dean Hargrove (U.N.C.L.E., Perry Mason Returns, Diagnosis Murder, etc.), Gene L.Coon (Star Trek, etc.), and Leslie Stevens ('The Outer Limits', 'Mystery Movies', etc.)
Following its first run on NBC, The Name of the Game was made available for syndication to local broadcast stations.
The Name of the Game has never had an official release on any home video format.
- Tony Franciosa as Jeff Dillon (first and second seasons; 3 episodes in 3rd season.)
- Gene Barry as Glenn Howard
- Robert Stack as Dan Farrell
- Robert Culp as Paul Tyler (third season, 2 episodes only)
- Peter Falk as Lewis Corbett (third season, 1 episode only)
- Robert Wagner as David Corey (third season, 1 episode only)
- Darren McGavin as Sam Hardy (second season, 1 episode only)
- Vera Miles as Hilary Vanderman (second season, 1 episode only)
- Susan Saint James as Peggy Maxwell (supporting role, one co-lead role)
- Ben Murphy as Joe Sample (supporting role)
- Mark Miller as Ross Craig (supporting role)
- Cliff Potts (credited as Cliff Potter) as Andy Hill (first season; supporting role, one lead role)