Saturday, July 7, 2007

TV Memories: The Rockford Files

This is Jim Rockford. At the tone, leave your name and message and I'll get back to you. That was the opening to every episode of, IMHO, the greatest detective series of all time... The Rockford Files.

When I was a kid, I used to occasionally watch "The Rockford Files" when it was in primetime (Friday nights on NBC). However, I didn't fully appreciate it until A&E started rerunning it in the early 1990s. I used to have friendly debates with my best friend about which detective show was better (he said "Rockford", my vote was for "Magnum, P.I."). Once I caught the reruns on A&E, I had to rank the dude with the gold Pontiac Firebird in front of the guy who drove the red Ferrari.

"The Rockford Files" tops my list for a variety of reasons. First of all, Jim Rockford is one of my all-time favorite characters. He has a soft spot for the underdog (probably because of his wrongful prison conviction), is loyal to his friends (how else could you explain him putting up with ex-con Angel Martin), and is great at getting out of tight situations (either with his mouth, his Andretti-like driving skills, or his fists). Of course, what makes the character work is the man himself... the one and only James Garner.

Although it's technically a detective drama "The Rockford Files" is one of the funniest shows of all time. Episodes of "Rockford" would often have me laughing as hard as any sitcom would. Whether it was his dad Rocky getting on Jim to give up the P.I. biz and become a trucker, Angel trying to weasel out of jam and selling out Jim in the process, or just a facial expression by Jim in reaction to the madness in his world, the show never failed to deliver its share of laughs.

"The Rockford Files" also had some of the most colorful supporting characters in TV history. Along with the regulars (Angel, Rocky, and Jimbo's pal on the force, Dennis Becker), the show also featured such guest characters as slick P.I. Marcus Hayes (Louis Gossett Jr.), aging hippie Sky Aquarian (Valerie Curtin), 4th rate pro quarterback "King" Sturtevant (Rob Reiner), hooker Rita Capkovic (Rita Moreno), and fellow ex-con Gandy Fitch (Isaac Hayes).

On top of what I already said, I gotta say that Jim Rockford had a fairly cool lifestyle. He drove a badass car, worked when he felt like it ($200 a day, plus expenses), had his share of nice looking ladies, and lived on the California oceanside in a mobile home. Sure he got beat up and shot at sometimes. Who said life was perfect?


pjazzypar said...

Ahh what memories...A couple of weeks ago I caught an episode of Rockford in which he was introducing Gandy to Marcus, so that Marcus would employ Gandy in some capacity. Hilarious stuff. They don't make television like this anyone. Rockford was a three dimensional character with many layers. He had his faults for sure, but that is what I love about shows like these. You get a well-rounded, multi-faceted characterization, rather than a "good guy" you root for just because he is suppose to be good.

Malcolm said...

Hi pjazzypar,

The episode of Rockford that you are referring to (Just Another Polish Wedding) is one of my favorites in the entire series. I don't know if you were aware of this, but this episode was a pilot for a proposed series (called Gabby and Gandy) but NBC passed it over. I think it definitely would have been better than the show that did spinoff from Rockford (Ritchie Brockelman, Private Eye).

The scene in "Just Another Polish Wedding" where Gandy and Marcus enter a bar that is holding a Neo Nazi meeting is classic! The scene in 48 Hours when Eddie Murphy is in the redneck bar is very similar.

pjazzypar said...

Hey I remember that Brockelman spinoff...I agree that Gabby and Gandy would have been funny as hell. I am laughing just thinking about Hayes as the muscle and Gossett as the slickster. A few times I thought Gandy was going to break Gabby's neck. Entering the Neo Nazi Meeting was classic for sure.

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