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  • 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.
  • I am also one who enjoyed the series and was so disappointed to see it never given a chance. I had the entire series taped on VHS and lost it during Hurricane Katrina. I wish it was on DVD now. I also lost all my TV collections; some are on DVD now so I can replace them; but so many are not available, like Shellgame. Who decides which series go to DVD; would contacting the producers or studio help. It's ashamed to let Shellgame disappear without an audience; maybe DVD would introduce a whole audience to it's wit and charm. In fact, I watched it because I thought James Read was great in Remington Steele. His character was the perfect foil for Pierce Brosnan's. I also liked several other cancelled series: Stingray with Nick Mancuso, Legend with Richard Dean Anderson, and Lazerus Man with Robert Urich. I wish all my favorites were on DVD now. After the flooding of the levee break, my home was left with 8 feet of disgustingly filthy water for 2 and 1/2 weeks. Talk about GROSS! Anyway, I lost my VHS collection of a bunch of series that are no longer on such as Simon & Simon, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Spenser: For Hire, it's spin off Hawk, and Riptide. I loved all these shows and really was proud of my collection some of which was irreplaceable, like Shellgame. Please let there be DVDs someday.
  • "Shell Game" had a witty premise, charm, and fine chemistry between the lead actors. James Read showed a comedic skill here that he's had no real chance exhibit elsewhere. The network treated "Shell Game" as expendable, scheduled it opposite a top ten hit, and didn't give it a chance to build a following. A shame.