When I was growing up one of the weekly staples in our house was The Rockford Files with James Garner. This was one of the coolest shows ever. I remember trying to talk my Dad into getting me a 1976 Pontiac Firebird Espirit when I was sixteen. No dice, although I did look sweet behind the wheel.
From September 1974 until January 1980, The Rockford Files ran on NBC. It was one of their hit shows. James Garner of The Great Escape and Maverick fame starred as Jim Rockford, an ex-con turned private eye.
One of the other great things about the series was his trailer right on Malibu Beach. What a view. The show was created by Roy Huggins and Stephen J. Cannell. Cannell would later go on to be the showrunner for Wise Guy and numerous other hits. Huggins met Garner during his Bret Maverick days. Garner was also a producer on the show through his Cherokee Productions banner.
What made this series work so well was not only Garner’s affability but the supporting cast. Character actor Noah Beery Jr. played his easy-going dad, Rocky. Joe Santos as Sergeant Dennis Becker was his good friend and associate at the Los Angeles Police Department. Then there were the recurring characters like Angel Martin (Stuart Margolin), Jim’s old prison buddy and Beth Davenport (Gretchen Corbett), Rockford’s lawyer and girlfriend.
Jim Rockford was an everyman character. He was easily identifiable. He didn’t wear Hugo Boss suits and drive a Lamborghini. Half the time he was trying to figure out how to pay for his trailer on the beach. Rockford wasn’t a tough guy, whenever he could he would use his considerable charm to talk him out of fights. Most of his clientele were not high class. He took on cold cases, insurance scams and missing persons investigations.
Fun fact: Dennis Dugan, director of such Adam Sandler classics like Happy Gilmore and Don’t Mess with the Zohan had a recurring role as Richie Brockelman, an annoying private investigator who ends up calling on Rockford when he is in a jam. Eventually, Dugan had his own spin off show, Richie Brockelman, Private Eye that ended up getting cancelled.
After the show ended its successful run, from 1994-1999 Garner starred in several Rockford made for television movies. The program was so popular, its theme song from Mike Post and Pete Carpenter made it to #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1975. I was in California that year and every time you turned on the radio, that song would be on the air.
James Garner won an Emmy in 1976 for his portrayal of Jim Rockford. If you would like to add this terrific show to your DVD collection, Mill Creek Entertainment released the complete series on Blu-ray this year.