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This groundbreaking series had three rotating stars, who were featured in independent episodes tied together by a loose common theme. The commonality was Howard Publications, the self-made publishing empire of Glenn Howard. Episodes featuring Howard focused on his business and political confrontations and his flamboyant lifestyles. Other episodes featured Jeff Dillon, a crusading investigative reporter, or Dan Farrell. Farrell was a retired FBI agent who used his position as the editor of "Crime Magazine" to wage a literary war against organized crime. The series had several semi-regulars who were featured in one or more of the plot threads, including editorial assistant Peggy Maxwell, and junior reporters Joe Sample, Andy Hill and Ross Craig.Written by
Marg Baskin <email@example.com>
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!
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