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This show destroyed the Private Detective show formula.
At the time, most TV PI's had cutie pie secretaries (Mannix' secretary Gail and Barnaby Jones' ex Miss America Lee Meriweather in particular), Jim Rockford had an answering machine...
All TV PI's had nice offices with dark wood paneling, Rockford's office was the living room of his decaying mobile home parked in the lot outside a diner...
It took at least 3 guys fighting dirty to subdue the average TV PI, even short, fat, aging Cannon. Jimmy was always the one getting his head handed to him unless he figured a way to sucker punch his opponent...
At the climax, other TV PI's would pull their guns, shoot it out with the baddies and save the day. Rockford's gun, often as not was still at home in his cookie jar...
TV PI's always had a friend on the police force who would gladly do favors, looking up DMV records, etc. Rockford's friend on the force was always getting in trouble for even knowing Rockford. The Captains & Lieutenants on the force universally viewed Jim as low life scum & not worth the time of day...
The average detective would go about his business, assembling clues to solve this weeks mystery. That is the way it was with Rockford except that he was always dealing with hustlers, con men, ex-convicts and the occasional ex-girlfriends, every one of whose purpose in life seemed to be the bedevilment and aggravation of Jim Rockford. Not to mention the recurring role of Jim's dad Rocky (deftly played by that Trojan actor, Noah Beery) who was always after Jim to give up PIing and do something "respectable" like truck driving.
When this show appeared on TV, every other PI looked dull and one by one they disappeared as they lost ground in the ratings.
This is also the show that put Steven J Cannell on the map. Nothing that he ever did subsequently equaled this. In fact most of it was crappy formula detective shows.
The Rockford Files is the REAL DEAL!
Simon Sez, CHECK IT OUT!
What the hell kind of a detective is this? The guy's not strong jawed,
self-righteous and brave, and he seldom even carries a gun, much less
anyone. Since he consistently gets stiffed by his clients, he has to live
hand to mouth in a cheesy trailer in a parking lot. (The trailer,
incidently, is only crummy on the outside. Inside, it's comfortable, well
furnished and clean, much like Rockford's character.)
Even the cops in this excellent series are presented as human, not as cardboard heroes. They've got the same pecking order problems at work that most of us have. In fact, ALL of the characters in this series seem to have some depth.
One of the most amazing things about the show's plots is that they hardly ever had to be resolved by gunfire because the writers were too lazy to come up with anything else.
Jim Garner's charm was a big part of the show's success, but it was the superb writing that made "The Rockford Files" so consistently entertaining. Many of the stories would have made first rate movies, particularly some of the two parters.
I'll never forget Angel begging Rockford for help after getting himself thoroughly enmeshed with the mob through his own stupidity and greed. Rockford chews him out, explains exactly why he ought to let him go right down the drain, and challenges him to come up with one good reason he should help him.
"Because you're my friend," Angel says, leaving Rockford without a comeback.
A friend like that, I could use.
As essayed by James Garner, Jim Rockford is one of the best characters
in TV history - in, I might add, one of the best series. The Rockford
Files never ceased to be entertaining during its '70s run and remains
so in syndication. There's something comfortable about the show,
probably because of the well-drawn characters that we feel we know.
If we didn't love Rockford so much, I guess we'd call him a loser. But we love him too much and are pulling for him too much to ever call him a loser. He never has any money. He lives in a dilapidated trailer on the beach. He's not married. He was in prison, though he didn't commit the crime and was pardoned. Helluva way to treat one of our ex-servicemen (Korea). His father, Rocky, was a truck driver and wants his boy Jimmy to take it up. It's steady, and he might get beat up less.
Jimmy, however, would rather be a private investigator. In order to do this, he occasionally runs afoul of police lieutenant Chapman and gets his buddy Dennis in trouble for using the power of the police to do him a favor. He also sometimes winds up embroiled with his con friend and former cellmate, Angel Martin, always in trouble and always looking for the main chance. And if attractive attorney Beth Davenport isn't hitting him up for pro bono help, he needs her to bail him out of jail.
It all sounds a little sad but it's endlessly fun, with some really classic episodes and great dialogue. This is also the series that launched Tom Selleck. In two episodes, he played perfect detective Lance White, a man who, unlike Rockford, couldn't take a wrong step and is beloved by every human being with whom he came in contact. The juxtaposition between Rockford and White is hilarious.
As Rockford, Garner is perfect, and the cast uniformly excellent, particularly Noah Berry, Jr. as his dad. If the clothes and the cars are dated, the acting, the relationships, and the story lines are not. The Rockford Files is one of the classics.
Although this series may look like just another private eye series from the 1970's, it is so much more. The show has great one liners, interesting cases, maybe one or two too many car chases, but above all, the show has some great characters. Every episode has interesting, unusual, complex characters running through it. Jim Rockford himself is a private detective but also a former con man and he is not above pretending to be another person or pulling a con in order to help solve his cases. The writing and acting were always top notch and it is no wonder that alumni from this show went on to do such projects as "Magnum, P.I.", "Wiseguy," and "The Sopranos." Enjoy, you will laugh, you will be surprised and you will be impressed.
I only qualify this show's classic status in reference to the 70s because
the fashion & overall style of the show is sooooooo 70s. I was a young kid
in the mid-to-late 70s (when this show was on the air) and watching it is
always good for a flashback or two. It's a reminder that although 70s
fashion has made a big comeback, they still managed to filter out some of
the really tacky stuff (as cool as Rockford was, I doubt his plaid jackets
will ever come back in style).
The Rockford Files is about Jim Rockford, a single, 40-something Private Investigator who lives in a rundown trailer house in sunny Southern California (Malibu, to be precise), drives a gold Pontiac Firebird, and has a dad he simply calls "Rocky". Rockford served in Korea (same as the real-life Garner) and did time in prison for a crime he didn't commit, although he was later pardened. Despite being sharp as a tack and tough on his feet, Rockford is forever getting himself entangled with con men, mobsters, and non-paying clients that keep him from the getting any respect.
Other recurring characters on the show include police Sgt. Dennis Becker (Rockford's close friend and seemingly the only member of the LAPD who doesn't hate his guts), Angel Martin (Rockford's former cellmate in prison & constant source of aggravation), and Beth Davenport (his attorney who frequently has to show up and bail Rockford out of jail).
The typical episode finds Rockford taking on a seemingly simple case that turns into something much bigger, or stumbling onto an unrelated mess while in the course of his regular investigations. Sometimes trouble seeks Rockford in the form of ex-cons he associated with in prison or as a PI, and as you can guess, it's never boring. Rockford routinely gets in over his head and some of his escapes tended to be a bit too Houdini-like, but James Garner's laid-back, easy charm always made sure you kept rooting for him.
This was probably the greatest part James Garner ever played. He was
essentially playing himself, an easy going guy caught in oddball situations
mainly brought on by loony clients or by his former ex-con friends. The
character of Jim Rockford was not unlike his other defining role of Bret
Maverick. Also, the supporting cast was great as well. Noah Beery Jr. was
perfect as Rocky, Jim's father, who was always trying to get his "Sonny" to
give up the detective business and join him in the trucking business. Joe
Santos was great as Dennis, Jim's main contact on the LAPD who reluctantly
helped Jim by giving him information on various cases. Gretchen Corbett was
great in her role as his girlfriend/lawyer Beth Davenport who would always
be there to get him out of a jam. But, perhaps the most memorable character
was Angel, played by Stuart Margolin. Angel was, and still is, the biggest
weasel in television history. He would often be responsible for getting Jim
into the odd predicaments he would get into.
Also of note, this was the first hit from the mind of Stephen J. Cannell after years of writing for Adam-12. Cannell is probably one of the greatest writers in television history and this is where it all began.
I remember my father watching "The Rockford Files" when it first came on the air, I was too young to remember it then, but was able to catch it on re-runs on A&E a few years back, and it is currently shown on two channels here in Canada. James Garner is the easy-going, laid back Jim Rockford. He has a big heart, yet always seems to come out on the short end of the stick. Garner does an excellent job as Rockford, and while I haven't seen much of his other work, he seems to play the same character. Some great supporting actors as well. Noah Beery as the worried father Rocky, Joe Santos as his put-upon cop buddy Dennis. One of my all-time favorite characters has to be Angel Martin, played perfectly by Stewart Margolin, the con "buddy" of Jim's. Very clever opening to each show, with the answering machine message. Obviously dated by the styles and settings, but still an excellent series that stands up well today. I'd give the series as a whole a solid 5 out of 5 stars.
I thought this was one of the better private dick programs. Rockford was a realistic guy, making statements like: "I'm not going in there, I could get KILLED!" Wise guys like Bogart would have bravely gone in and cleaned house, and looked corny doing it. Issac Hayes wasn't listed as a player, but was on enough to have been - if memory serves he did become a regular for awhile. Hayes added a nice touch to the show with his tough image and his reference to Rockford as "Rockfish", which drove Rockford nuts. Don't miss Stuart Margolin as the sleazy "Angel", one of his better parts.
I recall seeing one of the first episodes when it aired in October '74, and not being that impressed. In the end, I was hooked on this gentle but deceptively captivating series. It sums up what is best about episodic television when a good cast, writers and production crew gets together. Garner is perfect for the role doing his "everyman" schtick. His comedic ability is also put to very good use (the later episodes with "Lance White" - Tom Selleck - are just soo funny, as Garner is always left eating dust!). The supporting roles are also extremely well filled. Simply extremely good television that everyone involved can feel proud of.
I grew up watching this show, and it's still on cable. I can watch it over and over and still be entertained. Rockford has bad luck, gets hurt, and Chapman at the police office hates him. Somehow, through cons, dirty tricks, smarts, and very slick moves James finds a way to survive. The humor in this show is great. Like the time he soaps the bathroom floor. 10/10
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