Q: I think before he starred in "Columbo," Peter Falk played an investigative reporter in a TV drama that alternated with two other stars, Robert Culp and Robert Wagner. Do you know the name of it? When was it originally on TV?

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Adam Thomlison / TV Media

You've hit on a bit of a weird one here, as the series in question technically had six stars, and these three only came later.

"The Name of the Game" was an NBC drama that premiered in 1968 and followed the goings on at the fictitious Howard Publications company. The first two seasons had three different stars -- Gene Barry, Robert Stack and Anthony Franciosa. Each episode would feature one of them; only occasionally would two appear together, and all three never shared the screen.

It was a clever device that allowed the show to cover a lot of ground. Barry played the company's publisher, Glenn Howard, and his episodes focused on his glitzy, high-class life. Stack played the editor of the company's Crime magazine who was waging a war in print against organized crime, while Franciosa was a crusading investigative reporter for another magazine, People (this was before the launch of the real-world People magazine).

But as strange as that setup was, it would get stranger in the third season, when Franciosa left (most reports say fired). His spot in the rotation was filled by three more actors -- Peter Falk, Robert Culp and Robert Wagner -- who would also appear in a rotation.

This setup apparently didn't work out so well as the show was cancelled the following spring.

This must have left Franciosa feeling vindicated, and more than a little smug. After all, the whole series was based on the 1966 telefilm "Fame is the Name of the Game," which starred only Franciosa as his investigative journalist character.

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