Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Rockford Files

The Rockford Files is an American detective (private investigator) television drama originally aired on the NBC television network between September 13, 1974 and January 10, 1980; it has remained in constant syndication to the present day. The show is notable for the quality of its writing, largely from Stephen J. Cannell, Juanita Bartlett, and David Chase, the easy charm and charisma of James Garner, who starred as Jim Rockford, and an agile Pontiac Firebird.

Producers Roy Huggins and Stephen J. Cannell devised the main character to be a rather significant departure from typical television detectives of the time. James Scott Rockford, usually called Jim (sometimes "Jimmy" or "Jimbo"), played by veteran movie/television actor James Garner, served time in California's San Quentin prison in the 1960s due to a wrongful conviction for armed robbery; after five years, he received a pardon. His infrequent jobs as a private investigator barely allowed him to maintain his dilapidated mobile home (which doubled as his office) in a parking lot on the beaches of Malibu, California. His often-uncollected rate was "$200 a day, plus expenses", which many of his mid-1970s era clients considered steep.

In early episodes in the show's first season, the trailer was located in a crowded parking lot alongside the highway and near the ocean; for the rest of the series, the trailer was located at Paradise Cove, adjacent to the pier, and a restaurant, "the Sandcastle".

Unlike the almost uniformly macho and trigger-happy gumshoes on other shows of that day (and before), Rockford would just as soon duck a fight as swing his fists, and he rarely carried a gun (a Colt Detective Special for which he did not have a permit; he kept it in his cookie jar in the kitchen). In contrast to most nattily dressed TV private eyes of the time, Rockford wore off-the-rack, low-budget, slightly tacky clothing (favoring tan, brown and beige jackets, much to the amusement of a high-fashion model in one episode).

As Rockford preferred talking his way out of trouble over violence, he typically worked on cold cases, missing persons and low-budget insurance scams. He repeatedly states in the series that he does not handle "open cases". In the pilot (and in Rockford's Yellow Pages ad), it was stressed he "specialized in closed criminal cases," so as to avoid conflict (and trouble) with the police.This point was mostly ignored in the later seasons, to allow Rockford to become involved in more dramatic cases like murder, kidnapping, and extortion.

The series' memorable theme by composers Mike Post and Pete Carpenter received Top 40 radio airplay, went to #10 on the Billboard Hot 100, stayed 44 weeks on the charts, and won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement.

The series continues to air in reruns today; as of 2008, Sleuth, RTN and a handful of syndicated affiliates carry the program. All six seasons can be viewed in "streaming-only" format on Netflix as well as the first three seasons on

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