Shell Game (1987– )

TV Series  |   |  Comedy, Drama
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On the run after a failed con, Dinah finds her ex-husband Riley gone straight with a new identity, producing a consumer affairs show. Against his will, Riley is drawn into conning the bad ... See full summary »

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Complete series cast summary:
 Dinah / ... (6 episodes, 1987)
 John Reid / ... (6 episodes, 1987)
 Natalie Thayer (6 episodes, 1987)
 Bill Bower (6 episodes, 1987)
 Bert Luna (6 episodes, 1987)
Fred McCarren ...
 Vince Vanneman (5 episodes, 1987)


On the run after a failed con, Dinah finds her ex-husband Riley gone straight with a new identity, producing a consumer affairs show. Against his will, Riley is drawn into conning the bad guys for the good of society, something Dinah hopes will reunite them. Written by Cleo <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Drama





Release Date:

8 January 1987 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Previously known as Riley and Dinah, the two main characters now use aliases derived from pop culture. "John Reid" was the true identity of the Lone Ranger, while "Jennie Jerome" was the maiden name of Winston Churchill's mother. See more »

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User Reviews

An inventive, charming twist on an old gimmick
18 July 2003 | by (Takoma Park, MD) – See all my reviews

There really oughtta be a cable channel for short-lived television series. I'm sure that everyone has at least one or two favorite shows that failed to garner the ratings. Let's unite!

We have seen many male-female detective duos over the years. Some were happily married (<i>The Thin Man, Hart To Hart, McMillan and Wife</i>), others were at odds with each other while sexual tension simmered in the air (<i>Moonlighting, Remington Steele, Dempsey and Makepeace</i>). We've also seen the "con man gone straight" plot device in "Tenspeed and Brown Shoe" (1980), "Switch" (1975), and "Remington Steele" (1982).

Although there are justifiable comparisons to "Remington Steele" (1982) such as the main character being a con man who adopts another identity, (not to mention that James Reed was a regular on the show for its first season) this show had several additional twists. The couple in question, Riley and Dinah, had already been married, and divorced after a con game went horribly wrong, going their separate ways.

After another failed con sets a drug kingpin on her heels, Dinah bumps into her ex by accident in Santa Ana, California, and discovers to her dismay that her old partner-in-crime has gone straight! Under the alias of John Reid, he now works as a television producer for a consumer advocate show called "Solutions."

Adopting the alias of reporter Jennie Jerome, she prevails upon her ex-husband to help her lay low from the drug lord. In return, Jennie Jerome works with John Reid to help people in trouble, using their skills in flim-flam and confidence games to expose the crooks and find justice for the common man. Of course, Jennie's ulterior motive is to tempt Reid away from his relationship with "Solutions" co-host Natalie Thayer (future CSI star Marg Helgenberger) and back into her arms. The irony is that Jennie finds herself enjoying the straight-and-narrow. For the most part, anyway.

Another twist to the show is that none of the supporting characters know of Jennie and John's history together, although Natalie occasionally suspects something going between the two of them. We can't even be sure of the main characters' real names! They adopt aliases using names from pop culture: "John Reid" was the true identity of the Lone Ranger and "Jennie Jerome" was the maiden name of Winston Churchill's mother. However, an appearance by Jennie's con-man father (played with roguish charm by Gene Barry) suggests that she had been named "Pocket"...for her talent in lifting wallets.

In the years since this show, no other production that I've seen has made use of the stars' comic timing. James Reed and Margot Kidder had wonderful chemistry, and their careers as con-artists turned consumer reporters made for inventive television as I watched them change identities as easily as I might change clothes. I wish that it had been given a longer run, because it was fun to watch. Even now, I look at my old tapes of the show with affection and fondness. If you ever get a chance to check out this show, get some popcorn and watch it in tandem with other shows of its genre like "Remington Steele" and "Tenspeed and Brown Shoe." It'll be a great way to spend a lazy afternoon.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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