Sunday, October 04, 2015

Nostalgia Theater: Rediscovering The Rockford Files

Sometimes a show can have a deceptively simple premise without ever seeming simplistic. Such was the case with The Rockford Files, a mystery series that ran on NBC from 1974 to 1980. Created by Roy Huggins (who'd made his mark during the previous decade with the runaway success of The Fugitive) and produced by Stephen J. Cannell, Rockford turned the prevailing genre aesthetic on its ear by presenting us with Jim Rockford, a forever put-upon P.I. who relies more on his wits than his fists.

With his rumpled clothes, beat-up car and tiny mobile home, Jim Rockford was the quintessential everyman. And when it came time for casting, there was no better actor to embody the role than James Garner, who'd previously endeared himself to audiences on the western series Maverick. Garner's "aw-shucks" portrayable of Rockford is probably the biggest component in why the show not only found success, but remains such a beloved artifact. Here's the intro (with music by Mike Post, natch):


(Every episode, there would be a different humorous answering machine message before that music kicked in, by the way.)

Largely on the back of its fun premise and easygoing, likable lead, The Rockford Files made it to 122 episodes in six seasons. Rockford is also very much the spirit guide for later TV P.I.s like Thomas Magnum (in fact, there were plans for Garner to reprise Rockford on Magnum, but sadly they fell through). However, Garner would return to the role in 1994, fourteen years after the show ended, with a series of eight TV movies that aired periodically on CBS until 1999.

From then to now, there have been occasional attempts to revive The Rockford Files, with NBC filming a pilot in 2010 with Dermot Mulroney in the title role. That didn't go anywhere, but in April '14 (a few months before Garner passed away), word hit that Vince Vaughn was attached to a feature adaptation. Don't know if that will go anywhere either, but I also don't doubt that eventually the property will be revived. That said, there's also no doubt that whoever takes over the iconic role from its iconic star has an uphill climb ahead of them.

One Year Ago in Nostalgia Theater: The Flash's First TV Series

Two Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: ABC's The Phoenix -- Bennu There, Done That

Three Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures

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