Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Rockford Files

Kerry Hammond steps into the way back machine back to watch the Rockford Files.

My quest for nostalgia, specifically the kind found in 1980s and 1970s TV shows, started with Remington Steele and then moved on to Moonlighting. Both shows featured detective agencies in the Los Angeles area, a concept that was very popular on television during that time. These shows predated CSI and Law and Order, and often contained comedy, and a little bit of romance, in addition to crime solving. My most recent trip down memory lane kept me in Los Angeles, but took me away from the formal detective agency and into the motor home of Jim Rockford of The Rockford Files

The show had a slightly different take on private investigation. For one, Rockford was an ex-con and served time in San Quentin before getting his investigator’s license. Although, whenever his criminal past was mentioned, he would point out that he was wrongfully convicted and released. He lived in a rundown motor home parked near the beach and his father, Rocky, a retired truck driver visited him quite often (in the beginning trying to convince him to change careers to something safer). Rockford was always broke, and often had to take on cases just because he needed the money. He didn’t like to use his gun, although he did carry an unlicensed one, and avoided trouble with the police whenever possible. He had a friend on the force, Sergeant Dennis Becker, played by Joe Santos, who occasionally helped Rockford on a case, usually requiring payback in the form of things like tickets to a basketball game. 

The show would always open with the audio of a ringing phone, Rockford’s voice saying to leave a message, and then the message being left on his answering machine. Many of these were messages left by people who either owed Rockford money, or people to whom Rockford owed money. After the message, the show’s memorable theme song would begin. This song won a Grammy Award in 1975 for Best Instrumental Arrangement. The show didn’t just have great actors and supporting actors, it also had great guest stars, some already famous and others going on to become famous. One of my favorites was Tom Selleck before he became Magnum, P.I.

James Garner began his six year career as Jim Rockford in 1974. At the time he was probably most known for his portrayal of Bret Maverick on the show Maverick, which aired in the late 50s and early 60s. The show was created by Roy Huggins and Stephen J. Cannell. Huggins was the creator of Maverick, and Cannell created many iconic television shows, such as the A-Team, Tenspeed and Brownshoe. Cannell also went on to write several mystery novels after his long career in television. 

Watching old shows on DVD is a wonderful thing. Not only do you skip the commercials, but you get extras that weren’t available at the time the original show was broadcast. One of the extras on my DVD was an interview with James Garner many years after the show’s end. He spoke highly of the show and its creators. He explained that shooting his gun was a bit violent for the time, so the show resorted to a lot of car chases for the action. He was more than happy that this was the case and enjoyed driving the Pontiac Firebird that was his character’s signature vehicle. He did a lot of the driving scenes for the show himself.

If you’re looking for a TV flashback, you can’t go wrong with The Rockford Files. The DVDs also make great gifts for mystery lovers. 

1 comment:

  1. small correction... The Rockford Files was a 1970s show