Mar 20, 2017

The Name of the Game

I don't remember seeing The Name of the Game (1968-71).  It was on Friday nights, opposite some of my favorite shows: Hogan's HeroesHere Come the Brides, The Partridge Family, The Odd Couple. 

In a world of 60-minute dramas and 30-minute sitcoms, it was a rare 90-minute series, the length of a tv movie.  The three stars, all recognizable names in the 1960s, worked for the conglomerate Howard Publications:

1.  Jeff Dillon (Anthony Franciosa), an investigative reporter for People magazine (not the real-life People, which hadn't been launched yet).  His blundering style would be copied by Peter Falk for Columbo.

2. Glenn Howard (Gene Barry), the publisher, a "millionaire playboy" whose stories mostly involve big business and the rich and famous.

3. Dan Farrell (Robert Stack), an editor for Crime magazine.  He specialized in darker, more serious stories.

Episodes alternated focus characters, with the other two rarely appearing, so this week 90 minutes of Gene Barry, next week 90 minutes of Robert Stack.  They shared a single editorial assistant, Peggy Maxwell (Susan Saint James).

Occasional episodes centered on other characters, such as freelance reporters Sam Hardy (Darin McGavin), David Corey (Robert Wagner),  and Paul Tyler (Robert Culp).

It sounds very confusing today, but maybe 40+ years ago, when the actors were familiar faces, it worked out.

The lack of character interaction stymies the possibility of buddy-bonding, male-male rescues, and other gay subtexts.  I've gone through the entire series, and found only a couple of potential gay-subtext episodes:

1. "Collector's Edition" (October 11, 1968):  Dillon's life was saved in Vietnam by photographer Peter Max (John Saxon), who is now in trouble and needs Dillon's help.

2. "The Brass Ring" (January 3, 1970): Farrell befriends a young boxer

But all three stars were well-known Hollywood hunks of the era, and apparently a lot of beefcake, shirtless scnes on on Greek islands and in health colonies.

It's not on DVD, but you can see some episodes streaming on youtube.

See also: Robert Stack

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