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Based on a popular TV-movie from 1966 ("Fame is the Name of the Game"), this
90-minute series was touted as NBC's 'quality' series of 1968, with three
high-caliber stars (Gene Barry, Anthony Franciosa, and Robert Stack),
movie-quality scripts, and first-class production values. Set in the world
of magazine publishing, NBC trumpeted stories "ripped from today's
headlines", and "action and adventure on a world-wide scale".
While NO series could have delivered everything NBC promised, "Name of the Game" was, in general, an entertaining series, through much of it's run, and occasionally could be daring and imaginative.
Top-billed was Gene Barry ("Bat Masterson", "Burke's Law"), as Glenn Howard, multimillionaire head of Howard Publications, replacing crusty character actor George Macready from the TV-movie. Suave and debonair, Barry's character often seemed little removed from his previous role, millionaire cop Amos Burke. But Howard was a crusader, unafraid to take on Washington, and address 'sensitive' issues. His 'starring' episodes tended to be the widest-ranging, with the most memorable single show of the entire series, "L.A. 2017", a nightmarish yet often satirical view of a pollution-poisoned future, based on a Philip Wylie story, and directed by a very young Steven Spielberg.
Anthony Franciosa ("Valentine's Day") reprised his TV-movie role as Jeff Dillon, an investigative reporter for "People" magazine (long before Time/Warner created it!) Cocky and intuitive, Dillon would often stumble into major stories by chance, and would, 'Columbo'-like, hound villains until the full measure of their evil-doings would become known. The most 'lone shark' of the three leads, Dillon was Howard's 'bad boy', often in hot water, but always vindicated by episode's end.
Appearing least frequently, Robert Stack ("The Untouchables"), ex-cop and crusading head of "Crime" magazine, took on everyone from the Mob to serial killers, willing to tackle cases that law enforcement agencies had given up on. Aided by reporters Joe Sample and Ross Craig (Ben Murphy and Mark Miller), he could dissect 'perfect' crimes, and bring closure to grieving families. Despite his limited appearances, "Name of the Game" offered some of Stack's best work.
Making her TV-series debut was Susan Saint James, who, at 20, had been a hit in the TV-movie. Now 22, she would appear in most of the episodes, as Howard's personal assistant and Dillon's bane. Spunky, occasionally loopy, but always endearing, Saint James would become one of television's most popular actresses for over two decades, moving on to "McMillan and Wife" and "Kate and Allie".
While ratings would eventually do "The Name of the Game" in (as dwindling quality scripts, and changing formats, necessitated by budget restraints, lost the series it's core audience), and other publishing-themed series proved more hard-hitting and topical ("Lou Grant"), NBC's ambitious series certainly earned it's place in the sun. While many of it's elements seem dated, today, it was as 'cutting-edge' as TV got, in 1968!
I had just visited Universal Studies, Hollywood in 1968, when I was 15
and saw sets where they filmed The Name of The Game. Growing up with
Bat Masterson and The Untouchables, I was a big fan of two of the
stars, Gene Barry and Robert Stack. Susan St. James was just a young
lady as Peggy Maxwell at 22 years of age. Tony Franciosa was fine too
though I think he got into some type of dispute with the studio and
disappeared from the show.
The 90 minute show ran on Friday nights and I remember enjoying it quite a bit. I have not seen it in some time and really hope it will be available on DVD sometime soon. It was shot in color and I think ran for about three years. Though the show is now almost 40 years old, I know I would still have fun watching it. My kids would laugh at the rotary dial telephones and lack of computers but to me it would still be a blast. They would recognize Robert Stack from Airplane though! Tony Franciosa was good but my favorites were Barry and Stack. The action, cars, outfits and setting were all classy. Please bring it back on DVD!
Here's a great series that really should be released on DVD. Each 90 minute episode was a self-contained movie with one of three stars: Gene Barry played Glenn Howard, the self- made man who built his publishing empire from the ground up; Robert Stack played Dan Farrell, an ex-FBI agent who became the editor of "Crime" Magazine to better pursue and expose criminals; and Tony Franciosa as Jeff Dillon, who played the impetuous reporter for "People" Magazine (yes, and this was way before the actual "People" Magazine we now know). Many now well-known directors shot these episodes, including Steven Spielberg. And Billy Goldenberg's score for each show was always melodic and cutting edge. Hey Universal Home Video, PLEASE release a boxed DVD set of this series! As one of the first (if not THE first) rotating series of shows, it was both groundbreaking and entertaining. It should be enjoyed by a new generation of viewers... THANK YOU!
This series to me was in a class by itself. The stories were first-rate and the stars were very charming and sophisticated. I always did admire Gene Barry as an actor and his work in this series made me a lifelong fan. I loved the clothes that he wore on the show and hence have tried to emulate his sophisticated style ever since. I feel that there were very few actors at that time other than Craig Stevens and Robert Wagner that had the same aura and screen presence. I also greatly enjoyed the episodes that Tony Franciosa and Robert Stack headlined. This series had the feel of a theatrical motion picture and one could tell that big bucks were being spent to produce it. I have some episodes on tape and still think that they hold up very well as compared to dramatic television today. Like the old saying goes; "They don't make 'em like that anymore".
After more than 35 years, I still remember The Name of the Game as one of my all-time favorites. The format was original and the overall vibe cool and classy. The stories were well-written with interesting plot twists. Back then, I had no idea who the writers were but now, of course, Steven Bochco (Hill Street Blues) is a TV icon and I'm not surprised to learn his superb career had its genesis here. The actors were on a par above other shows of the day -- movie stars doing a TV turn. not the norm at that time. Susan Saint James made her career on this show. Her character was vivid and sexy and it was obvious she was destined for bigger parts.
I used to love this show. I have not seen it recently, and I do not know how it would play today. However, my younger self remembers this as one of the best tv dramas ever. I remember one episode when Tony Franciosa returns to New York City to visit his mother and astranged older brother played by Martin Balsem. Franciosa throughout is trip is reading Thomas Wolf's "You can Never Go Home Again." He reunites with is brother, but later find that his grocery store owner brother is also a local drug dealer. It ends with Franciosa turning his brother into the police. His mother forgiving him, but she leaves to live in her home country of Italy. Susan Saint James played one of the magazine's researchers, and stared in one episode opposite Joseph Cotton. This was a 90 minute show that had three rotating stars. Tony Franciosa played the star reporter for a fictional magazine called "People," his millionare publisher was Glenn Howard played by Gene Barry, and Robert Stack played Dan Farrell, a former FBI agent turned crime reporter.
"The Name Of The Game" was, as I recall, a very interesting and well-done "rotating" series that portrayed various and sundry well-known actors such as Gene Barry and Tony Franciosa as personnel connected with a well-known magazine. The peculiar thing was that this "fictional" magazine later became the real thing in life as we know it. It was a fascinating show to watch -- especially if you'd not seen it before and had caught it in passing later in syndication. It also had a very cool theme song, quite an accomplishment in itself.
This series was brilliant. Few shows have reached this level of quality. From musical scores to well thought story lines. Great chemistry between actors. What I enjoyed was it revealed American dynamics and world events through the magazine journalist. We saw what makes an interesting story and how it is brought to the pages. We also saw why a story is valuable. Not because it would sell magazines but because it was just interesting. This series was interesting. It had a particular feel about it that set it apart from any other show. Yes this is what television was ment to communicate.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A ground breaking Expensively made show with motion picture quality
Production, indeed this was The FIRST TV Series taken from a TV Movie
pilot: "Fame is The Name of The Game" (1966)... each Series episode
running at 90 minutes, a TV Movie, this show clearly paved the way for
Universal's later "Mystery Movie" success... with Susan Saint James
going on to "McMillan & Wife", and many "Name of The Game" guest stars
later featured, including Peter Falk - "Columbo" - Dennis Weaver -
"McCloud", plus Ben Murphy & Pete Duel, later of "Alias Smith &
"The Name of The Game" Featured THREE Famous Alternating Lead Actors who were each different enough to warrant a series of their own...yet they linked together really well to give the show a Distinctive "Three Faced" identity...
Gene Barry ("Burke's Law") and Robert Stack ("The Untouchables") were very famous Established TV Faces, having also made well known films. Tony Franciosa was then more of a Film Star ("The Long Hot Summer", etc).
TONY FRANCIOSA - Portrayed The "Charismatic" Star Reporter Jeff Dillon,
Slightly younger & Trendier than his two co-stars, Franciosa's Dillon was a likable,Sharp,tireless crusading reporter who became involved in current affairs tales; Exposing a fake Doctor ("Keep The Doctor Away"), industrial spying ("The Other Kind of Spy"), even Prisoner of war training camps that become too realistic ("The Prisoner Within")
....Dillon appeared slightly less frequently than his two co-Lead stars & was normally accompanied by his "Girl Friday" Research Assistant Peggy Maxwell (Susan Saint James) ...while Gene Barry made brief cameo appearances "as Glenn Howard" for continuity purposes in a few Dillon tales ("Fear of High Places" ,"Collector's Editon", "Connie Walker", "Jesse Gil").
A Memorable "Jeff Dillon" story: "The Enemy Before Us" featured Narration by Orson Welles.
Tony Franciosa was in the first and second seasons, but later left the show, amid some acrimony, during the Final Third season after filming three of his episodes ...whatever Dillon's Tales were always excellent.
GENE BARRY - Appeared as the "Impeccable" Publisher Glenn Howard.
Millionaire Playboy Head of Howard Publications producing the two Top Periodicals; "People"(Dillon)...several years BEFORE the real "People" Magazine was first Published... & Crime" (Farrell) magazines ...
Glenn Howard moved in wealthy, influential circles, and was Mostly involved in absorbing stories in powerful circles of High level Intrigue...be it business ("The Taker") or politics ("High Card", "The Emissary", "Incident in Berlin")...yet Howard also had the most surreal & offbeat tales such as: "Tarot", "Love-in at Ground Zero" & "L.A.2017" (Directed by an emerging young Steven Spielberg)
Susan Saint James character Peggy Maxwell was also featured in some Gene Barry episodes...while Cliff Potter (Potts) played Andrew Hill, ..Howard's Assistant (who once Guested as Lead Role in "Pineapple Rose", one of a few "Guest Lead" roles put under the "Gene Barry" segments umbrella ) ...while Tony Franciosa's Jeff Dillon made one brief cameo appearance in Howard's story "The Taker", seen early on at a Staff meeting Howard calls.
ROBERT STACK - Played Ex-F.B.I. man turned Crime Reporter the "Resolute" Dan Farrell.
Editor of Howard's "Crime" Magazine. Farrell was a determined character steadfastly pursuing injustice bringing his old F.B.I. (indeed "Untouchable" ) styled approach to reporting - be it against rogue Housing agents ("A Wrath of Angels"), Drug pushers ("High On A Rainbow"), or getting involved in breaking news re spree killers ("The Bobby Currier Story"). Ben Murphy played Farrell's assistant Joseph Sample in some episodes, while Susan Saint James' Peggy Maxwell again appeared in some "Farrell" tales...
Gene Barry also made a few brief cameo appearances "as Glenn Howard" in some Farrell stories ("Ordeal", "Nightmare", "High On A Rainbow", "The Bobby Currier Story")...speaking on the phone to Farrell, etc..
Dan Farrell stories were always exciting crime capers...while they looked in a few more unusual directions such as Illegal Immigration ("Chains of Command"), Crooked Charities ("Give Till It Hurts") & Corruption in sport ("Brass Ring").
Unlike Gene Barry, who occasionally guested in a cameo role in his two co-stars episodes, Tony Franciosa and Robert Stack never appeared together in the series.
Robert Wagner, Peter Falk, Robert Culp, Darren McGavin, & Vera Miles appeared as "Special Guest Stars" heading the cast in certain episodes...as either other staff reporters or Freelance journalists Glenn Howard occasionally used.
Susan Saint James was the ONLY Supporting Cast member to appear in all three Leading actors episodes "as Peggy Maxwell", She won an Award as Best Supporting Actress, for her work in this series.
Cliff Potts (in some Gene Barry tales) & Ben Murphy (in some Robert Stack stories) plus Mark Miller (as Ross Craig) were the other main Supporting Cast members...
Many TOP Guest Stars appeared on the show...including : William Shatner, Ricardo Montalban, Steve Forrest,Jack Klugman, Dennis Weaver,Shirley Jones, Pete Duel, Broderick Crawford, Edward Andrews,Boris Karloff, Roddy McDowall, Robert Young, Van Johnson, Frank Gorshin,Pamela Franklin,Honor Blackman,Donald Sutherland, Burl Ives, Barry Sullivan, Brandon de Wilde, Julie Harris, Kevin McCarthy, Anne Baxter,Clu Gulager, Tim O'Connor, Mark Richman, Hari Rhodes, and many more...
Steven Spielberg, Steven Bochco ("Hill Street Blues", "L.A.Law"), Dean Hargrove ("U.N.C.L.E."), Gene L.Coon ("Star Trek"), Richard Irving, David Victor, George Eckstein, Richard Levinson & William Link (Creators of "Columbo") were all involved in this Award winning Colour TV show....with Dave Grusin's memorable Great Theme Tune.
"The Name of The Game" (1968-1971) 76 episode TV Series...along with the 1966 Pilot TV Movie "Fame is..." (Starring Tony Franciosa) is a most Influential, Ground Breaking TV Series, with STRONG Scripts, Top acting and Production,
After over Three Decades of being left in the NBC Universal Television Archive, apparently forgotten by Television Executives, this Classic TV Show Deserves to be recognised at last...
....and now both finally issued on DVD...and rerun on Television !
I saw most of the episodes in the late '60s and in syndication the
decade. Ambitious and not bad on the whole, especially in view of the 90
minute mini-movie running time. One was supposed to get, and at least I did
at times, a "bigger than TV" fell from THE NAME OF THE GAME. I recall
especially a fine early episode inspired by the "Prague Spring." Some of
camera work was so good that I recall discussing it with a photography buff
friend at the time.
That said, I did get tired of Gene Barry playing himself. Far worse, the series seemed to come apart after the second season perhaps from writing, perhaps from budget cuts. Robert Culp added nothing, and I think his coming on board signified deeper problems.
Anyway, THE NAME OF THE GAME was American television at its most studiously spectacular thirty years ago.
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