Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Dave Grusin’s Jazzy Theme Music to The Name of the Game

By Nicholas Stix

I used to love watching this show (1968-1971), which starred Robert Stack, Gene Barry, and Tony Franciosa, respectively, on a revolving basis. Franciosa was by far my favorite. His reporter character was named “Jeff Dillon,” which made no sense, considering Franciosa was obviously a paisan.

The characters all put out a slick, hugely popular magazine published by Howard Enterprises. Gene Barry played Glenn Howard.

Unfortunately, the intensity that drew me to Franciosa’s character also repelled his colleagues and bosses, and he got fired after the show’s second season. This was apparently a running theme in his life, and destroyed his acting career. Later on, he is supposed to have rued that he was too successful too young, but he was neither that young, nor that successful. He was just a jackass. It’s a shame, because he was quite a talent.

I probably got much of the foregoing from, so consider the source.

The episodes ran 90 minutes, had excellent scripts, lavish production values, and big-name guest stars. The pilot was called Fame is the Name of the Game.

Over 40 years after the fact, I vaguely recall episodes guest starring Van Johnson, Sammy Davis Jr., and William Shatner, respectively. The guest protagonist would be a hugely popular figure, whose heretofore artfully hidden (from the public, that is) dark side would come out, in the course of being profiled by the magazine. In the Shatner episode, all I can recall is that he played an inspirational football coach. The Van Johnson character was a corrupt, glad-handing, Irish trucker union boss (inspired by Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa), who would do anything to keep his old friend Robert Stack from publishing the truth about him, including murdering him, and incinerating his corpse, in a huge, gasoline-borne fire. Sammy Davis Jr. played a performer who always showed the world a smile, but was secretly a drug addict. Johnson was great, but the Davis role sounds the most intriguing, because he really did battle drug addiction for years.

Web commenters have claimed that the magazine in Game was based on People, but that’s impossible, because People was only founded in 1974, three years after the show was cancelled. If anything, the TV show inspired the magazine.

The show was reportedly cancelled because it was too expensive. It was produced by Universal, which was the king of TV production, because the old horror junk studio jumped into TV production first, and was the forerunner to the revolving format Universal-NBC Sunday Mystery Movie of Columbo, McCloud, McMillian & Wife and Hec Ramsey.

The show’s secret weapon was Susan St. James, the only performer who was in every episode, as ditsy secretary Peggy.

First Season Opening Theme

Published on Feb 24, 2013 by The Rap Sheet.

This is the jazzy intro to "The Name of the Game," a 1968-1971 NBC-TV "wheel series" starring Gene Barry, Tony Franciosa, Robert Stack, and Susan Saint James. The theme music is by Dave Grusin. You can find out more about this show here.

First Season Closing Theme

Uploaded on Dec 17, 2009 by chuckcollins.


David In TN said...

Speaking of Gene Barry, have you ever seen Sam Fuller's 1957 film "China Gate?" It features Barry and Nat King Cole as former American soldiers in the French Foreign Legion circa 1954 in France's Indochina War.

Angie Dickinson plays Barry's Eurasian former wife.

This film is never shown on TV but is now on DVD.

Nicholas said...

Never so much as heard of it, but it sounds intriguing.

David In TN said...

Yes, it's offbeat, but you and your son would like it IMO. I've got an old VHS copy but am going to order the Blue Ray version.