|The Name of the Game|
|Created by||Jennings Lang|
Susan Saint James
|Theme music composer||Dave Grusin|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||76|
|Running time||90 minutes|
|Original release||September 20, 1968 -|
March 19, 1971
The Name of the Game is an American television series starring Tony Franciosa, Gene Barry, and Robert Stack, which aired from 1968 to 1971 on NBC, totaling 76 episodes of 90 minutes each. The show was a wheel series, setting the stage for The Bold Ones and the NBC Mystery Movie in the 1970s. The program had the largest budget of any television series at that time.
The series was based on the 1966 television movie Fame Is the Name of the Game, which was directed by Stuart Rosenberg and stars Tony Franciosa. The Name of the Game rotated among three characters working at Howard Publications, a large magazine publishing company—Jeffrey "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 Daniel "Dan" Farrell (Robert Stack), the editor of Crime magazine. Serving as a common connection was then-newcomer Susan Saint James as Peggy Maxwell, the editorial assistant for each.
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 had earlier written Barry's memorable offbeat episode "Love-In At Ground Zero" in the first season. 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. But 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.)
The show's opening graphic used each actor's name, zoomed out to form a line drawing of the face of each of the primary stars in turn, with the face each time being formed out of repetitions of the star's name, accompanied by 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 of them 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 the Encore Mystery channel between 1996 and 1999, a single "Stack-Barry-Franciosa" opening graphic was shown on nearly every episode (except 'Keep The Doctor Away', 'Goodbye Harry', 'The Takeover', and 'The Tradition' which each retained their original correct rotation order respectively). This single graphic also preceded almost all except those four episodes on re-runs which Cozi TV aired in 2014.
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 subsequently more strongly associated with) the 1970s Mystery Movie character Columbo. Susan Saint James's award-winning character, research assistant "Peggy Maxwell," was an ever-present supporting character in the "Jeff Dillon" segments (except the third-season episode; 'The Enemy Before Us' where Dillon returned to his New York home). She even shared the lead with him on one occasion, in the season two episode "The King of Denmark." (in which she had a 'one off' greater starring role but was billed second in the episode credits).
Barry's "Glenn Howard" was a cool, self-made businessman who cut an elegant, impeccable, playboy millionaire figure, similar to his longer-running character of Amos Burke in Burke's Law. 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.
Stack's "Dan Farrell" was a resolute, stern ex-F.B.I. investigator, a righteous figure with a tireless sense of justice, which recalled 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 whose wife's murder was shown, 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") or "televangelism" ("The Glory Shouter"), 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 was apparently fired amid some acrimony from the show's 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: Robert Culp as Paul Tyler in "Cynthia Is Alive and Living in Avalon" and "Little Bear Died Running," Peter Falk as Lewis Corbett in "A Sister from Napoli," and Robert Wagner as Dave 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 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. However, the episode was made towards the very end of the series run (as the 71st of 76 episodes), and Pleshette did not return as Manville in any of the few remaining episodes. The same episode included a role intended for Joan Crawford, but Crawford fell ill and was replaced by Mercedes McCambridge.
Surprisingly, all three series leads (Tony Franciosa, Gene Barry and Robert Stack) never appeared together in any episode. Barry made brief cameo appearances "as Glenn Howard," for series continuity purposes, in four of Stack's episodes ('Nightmare', 'Witness', 'The Bobby Currier Story' and 'High on A Rainbow') and four of Franciosa's first-season episodes ('Fear of High Places', 'Connie Walker', 'Collector's Edition', and 'Shine On Jesse Gil'). Franciosa did likewise "as Jeff Dillon" in a single first-season Barry segment story, "The Taker." However, Stack and Franciosa never appeared in the same episode. Stack's character of Dan Farrell was mentioned by name in the Franciosa episode, "Collector's Edition," in which Barry cameoed and Peggy Maxwell phoned Farrell, but he was 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's episodes. Barry also cameos in the third season Robert Culp 'subbing' for Franciosa episode; 'Cynthia is Alive...' appearing at the start and end of the episode.
Though the producers would have had audiences believe that each actor would appear every third week, in the first season there were eleven Barry segments, nine Stack segments, and only six Franciosa segments. The actual rotating order of the lead actors's 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 that the show's original transmission order was possibly rushed.
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 executive assistant Ross Craig, who also appeared in a few Robert Stack segment episodes as well. 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, Martin Balsam, Anne Baxter, Honor Blackman, Charles Boyer, Rossano Brazzi, Hoagy Carmichael, David Carradine, Ray Charles, Chuck Connors, Joseph Cotten, Joan Crawford, 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, Sean Garrison, Will Geer, Frank Gorshin, Robert Goulet, Lee Grant, Peter Graves, Julie Harris, Noel Harrison, Burl Ives, Van Johnson, Shirley Jones, Louis Jourdan, Boris Karloff, Jack Kelly, 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, Simon Scott, 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, James Whitmore, Jill Townsend, Brenda Vaccaro, and Robert Young.
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||26||September 20, 1968||March 20, 1969|
|2||26||September 19, 1969||April 10, 1970|
|3||24||September 18, 1970||March 19, 1971|
Following its first run on NBC, The Name of the Game was made available for syndication to local broadcast stations.
On October 28, 2014, Shout! Factory was slated to release season 1 on DVD in Region 1 for the first time.however the release failed to appear and the show's status is apparently currently still 'in limbo' regarding any DVD release as of April 2016. Shout Factory has sent e-mails to interested parties that the DVD release has been cancelled per e-mail from Shout Factory.