Jump to content
Forums forums
PRIMETIMER
Kromm

The Rockford Files

Recommended Posts

Editor's Note:

Discuss The Rockford Files Here!

 

Anything that doesn't fit anywhere else.

For example, here's a video where James Gardner talks about the sad story behind the end of the show (as well as how awful and litigious the studio was).

Edited by kariyaki

Share this post


Link to post

OK, so, for my occasional Rockford Files rewatch (well, not really a rewatch, since I'm seeing most of these episodes for the first time)-  I picked one of the alleged Top Ten Episodes : Season 3's "So Help Me God," aka "The One Where Jim Gets Stabbed in a Prison Riot."  (a plot development that actually surprised me because the tone of the show is so damn breezy all the time.)

 

Anyhow, this one has William Daniels playing the heavy (surprise, surprise) as Jim is subpoena'd by a Grand Jury to testify about something that didn't actually happen.  Jim has to go back to prison for contempt of court a couple of times.  I don't know if you'd call this episode preachy; certainly Socially Relevant, if not quite a Very Special Episode.  (The episode ends with a title card stating that these abuses of grand juries can actually happen today, right here in 1976!)

 

My favorite parts of The Rockford Files are when Jim manages to slither out of thuggish situations using diversions or just sidling away, and this happens a couple times in the episode.  And there's a very cool and decidedly un-70s-TV moment where Jim and Angel are in the morgue files looking for clues, and suddenly Jim is served with another subpoena by Subpoena Guy who has silently snuck up on them.  It's disorienting, almost artsy (definitely for '70s TV), but that seems to be something this show occasionally strove for.  Then again, Jim winds up in the whitest prison ever, which seems very 70's indeed. 

 

I give this one four beeps (out of a possible five) on the answering machine.

Edited by Jipijapa

Share this post


Link to post

Another episode that was recommended, "Profit and Loss," a two-parter from Season 1. 

 

Despite the article's writeup, there's an awful lot of filler in this two-parter (decide to stake out bad guy, arrange for car to stake out bad guy, show every step of staking out the bad guy, follow the bad guy, bad guy loses Jim, Jim goes back and decides to stake out ANOTHER bad guy, all steps repeat!)  And this sort of this is fairly common on the show anyway, so this is one aspect of 70's television that probably doesn't prompt many people to want to relive shows like this - the very slow pacing, made even slower on a two-part episode.

 

However, if I didn't watch this episode, I would have missed this hair:

 

Photo-Jul-27-8-29-06-AM.jpg

 

Well, it's very easy to make fun of that hair seen out of context, but, important distinction: this is Asshole Hair.  Today we like to make fun of Seventies hair and fashion, but on The Rockford Files, this wasn't just ordinary hair - it actually signified the character was an officious jerk, which was a level of self-awareness of current fashion that not too many shows have today.  Actually the Seventies hair and fashions on Rockford Files are very good for the good guys.  You have good actors playing good guys, looking very good in good Seventies stuff.  (Unless they're jerks like the above)

 

I honestly find most TV (of any era) to be insufferable if the guest actors are indifferent.  This just hasn't been the case with the episodes I've watched, even if the plots tend to be repetitive.  "Profit and Loss," in particular, is chock full of guest actors doing great work, from Ned Beatty to Michael Lerner (who I confused with David Paymer) and even some guys who I never heard of but should have been more famous.

 

Intentionally funny stuff:  Jim's little smirks whenever he pulls off a particularly nervy impersonation.

 

Unintentionally funny stuff:  Running gag about "Damn lousy suspension!" on whatever car Jim is in.  (LOL because every single car on the screen had a "damn lousy suspension" by modern standards...)

Share this post


Link to post

I'm sort of skipping around now between Season 2 and Season 3... trying to get a binge groove happening.  I think that Top 10 list is a load of hooey; plenty of stuff I'm seeing in Season 3 is better than a lot of the stuff on the list, which is mostly in Seasons 1 and 2. 

 

I continue to love seeing familiar faces right before they were considered stars (or given their own shows), such as Paul Michael Glaser, who played a very charismatic villain in an otherwise forgettable episode:

 

image-e1406683477178.jpg
 

Two years later, he would have hippie hair and be the Not-David-Soul half of Starsky and Hutch.  (That's a shame, since he was a way better actor than David Soul.)

 

The truth is, in Season 3 (as with many shows) the episodes started getting better and less formulaic.  The two-parter with Strother Martin (something about bees) was tedious, but "The Becker Connection" is rather enjoyable, including a standup comedy routine by Angel before Angel got really annoying. 

 

I also admit to feeling really nostalgic for 70s California, which is probably why I am rewatching this along with nostalgia for James Garner.  I spent a bit of time in Southern California as a kid during this time, and The Rockford Files' mundane, ordinary LA is the one I remember (not the beach-and-babes and Hollywood Walk of Fame stuff). 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

Week 1 of my Rockford Files thang is now in the books.  I think it's time to talk about the elephant in the room:  the unavoidable fact that Jim Rockford, as attractive as he was, wore his waistlines way... too... high.  (I think the problem was that James Garner was short-waisted, but you don't deal with that by wearing wide belts with big buckles - in the Seventies, or any other era.) 

 

I'm also getting into the episodes (somewhere in Season 3) where high-profile guest stars (the aforementioned Ned Beatty and Michael Lerner) show up in new episodes playing completely different characters.  Confusing, much???

 

Other random observations:

 

-I'm shipping Jim and Beth really hard.    Yes, I am shipping a fiftysomething guy with a twentysomething girl on a show that's fortysomething years old.  (Sadly, I know she leaves the show later on.)

 

-I just noticed that Jim's trailer has two doors, which makes me wonder how the hell he manages to get trapped in there and beaten up so often... can't he just escape from the other door? 

 

-I believe he also gets arrested (or threatened with arrest) literally every week.  This is probably the most ludicrous detail on a show that's held up pretty well for several decades, that the LAPD has nothing better to do than to assume that James Rockford, P.I. is singlehandedly responsible for all crime in the city.

 

-I now want to learn how to do a Rockford turn.  That would be a seriously cool skill to know. 

 

I'm not sure if I'll continue this binge for the entire show, as I hear the show declined after Season 4.  But I'll finish Season 3 then go backwards and finish the S1 and S2 episodes I haven't seen yet.  It's kind of refreshing to NOT to be watching a serialized show...

Edited by Jipijapa
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

@Jipijapa, I LOVE that you are doing this!  Rockford Files is in my top five favorite shows.  I used to watch it in primetime, during its first run.

 

Re Jim and Beth, there are a few episodes where a brief past relationship is hinted at, so you have those to look forward to.  And that just makes me love them even more--it didn't work out, but they still care about each other (and like each other) so much.  The co-stars of RF are each quite lovable, I think.  I don't even let Angel drive me crazy; he has a few episodes where he seems almost human.  And when he's not being human, he's so deliciously base!

 

In February of this year, I was saddened when Juanita Bartlett died.  I always found her episodes to be particularly well-crafted.  (Though she may have been responsible for the Grand Jury one you referenced above.  I agree that it was a little heavy-handed, and yet, putting the "issue of the day" aside, there was some lovely interaction among the cast of regulars--both humorous and touching.)  And to think that James Garner is gone now, too, is just so sad.  He seemed like a great guy and I hope he had a great life.

 

I kind of envy that you've got so many episodes that you get to see for the first time!  Carry on.

Share this post


Link to post

One of mine is The Competitive Edge (10 Feb. 1978). Not the best plot BUT:

 

It's notable for the guest star best known as Oddjob,  aka Harold Sakata.

 

But the REAL kicker is in the last 30 seconds....

Edited by Syme

Share this post


Link to post

Week 1 of my Rockford Files thang is now in the books.  I think it's time to talk about the elephant in the room:  the unavoidable fact that Jim Rockford, as attractive as he was, wore his waistlines way... too... high.  (I think the problem was that James Garner was short-waisted, but you don't deal with that by wearing wide belts with big buckles - in the Seventies, or any other era.)

Nooooooo... I'll admit, seventies casual wear for men was kind of uniformly dreadful, but I'm pretty sure it was just an unfortunate fashion choice, because the man had a seriously pretty torso. /shallow_end

Share this post


Link to post

And I'll join you in the shallow end!  That said, it looks like a short one.  (I, myself, am short-waisted and it's a real challenge sometimes to find pants that don't seem to go up to my boobs.)  In any case, the correct fashion choice for Rockford would have been to lose the belt, at least.

 

This morning's episode was "The Trouble With Warren" (Season 3).  Jim has an APB out on him in this episode which requires that he ditch the Firebird and travel in a variety of cars, making this a good episode for carspotting.  He drives a Pacer in one scene, a (pre-gas-tank scandal) Pinto in another, and finally winds up borrowing Beth's car:

 

Photo-Aug-01-6-36-00-AM-e1406929692980.p

 

I'm surprised Beth has a Porsche, even though she's a lawyer, because it seems kind of luxe.  He sort of looks like Thomas Magnum here. Anyhow, in any other PI show, this would have been Rockford's own car, and he would have lived in a much cooler trailer (or even a bungalow), and his gun would have been cooler and actually registered and not kept in a cookie jar.  But, while Jim was always slumming it, I like that this aspect isn't overemphasized or overexaggerated (another sin of certain TV shows).  Jim actually drives a cool-ish car (the Firebird), and he lives in a cool-ish place (Malibu), which he enjoys living in with all the available fishing and what not.  Jim just wants to go home at the end of the day, and enjoy his trailer and beach.  That's basically his driving motivation in every episode:  "When do I get to go home and relax?"  A man after my own soul.

 

 

Re Jim and Beth, there are a few episodes where a brief past relationship is hinted at, so you have those to look forward to.  And that just makes me love them even more--it didn't work out, but they still care about each other (and like each other) so much.

 

Oh, speak of the devil:

 

Photo-Aug-01-5-41-28-PM-e1406929624516.p

 

Other observations:

 

-I'm really annoyed that Netflix cuts off the opening theme when they skip to the next episode. 

 

-Jim gets into some really scrummy, awkward-looking tussles with bad guys.  I have to guess that the actors choreographed their own fight scenes often, at least the totally undignified, eyeball-gouging wrestling matches.  I also suspect that these rolling brawls were meant to be highlights, like the car chases, since they often get rather "creative."

Edited by Jipijapa

Share this post


Link to post

It's been a Rockford kind of weekend...Burning through some Season 3 episodes - I'm still out of order and have to double back to the start of the season -

 

There are a couple episodes in a row which deviate markedly from the RF formula, and while they're reasonably enjoyable, even though I complained a bit about the formula uptopic, I do enjoy the formula when it's done well ("The Becker Connection" comes to mind).  And, I actually did like "So Help Me God" though it was a little preachy out of the blue.

 

"There's One in Every Port" - (aka "The One That's Sort of Like The Sting") Joan van Ark again, playing a different character!  (Was this common casting practice in the 70s?)  I honestly had a bit of trouble following the plotline of this one.  And while everyone wonders why Jim keeps being so nice to Angel -- who is not a jerk in this episode by any stretch -- I wonder why Jim didn't seem terribly concerned that Angel was stuck in someone's trunk, waiting to be whacked! 

 

Didn't really like this one as much as others due to lack of formula, but...

 

dietrich.jpg

DIETRICH!!!

 

"Crack Back" - aka "The One Where Beth Gets Stalked" .  First of all I do not understand the episode title at all.  Second, speak of the devil again, this basically seems to be a Jim and Beth shippers episode!  Nice coincidence that I happened upon it huh?  That said, it isn't a particularly good episode and the mystery is kind of dumb.  But that pale yellow suit Beth is wearing in court is fab. 

 

And this is the charm of old time TV: it's completely ambiguous what happened at the end with Jim and Beth.  Did he just give her a ride home, or did he stay there, and for HOW LONG??  "Later, guys" - what does that mean???  Damn you, freeze frame!  On today's TV, not only would we get an answer to this question, but we'd be watching it in NC-17 detail.  (Of course since they were playing pattyfingers throughout the entire episode I'm inclined to read that it wasn't just a lift home.)

 

And another two-parter "To Protect and Serve," which came right before "Crack Back," which seems to have been one of the better two-parters, by David Chase.  Jim is trying to find and then protect and then romance Monica Quartermain while a truly annoying LAPD fangirl gets mixed up in the action.  Favorite scenes include Jim groaning "Oh no, please no" when two goons prepare to use brass knuckles on him, and also I "liked" the two mob hitmen, one of whom has a bum knee, which makes me wonder if this was an in-joke about James Garner's bad knee.  (At one point, the hitman is limping intentionally while chasing Jim, who is limping unintentionally.)  

 

The fangirl character, Leeann, was so incredibly odious that I actually cheered when the goons hit her.  But also I was very surprised at the ending of the episode, which really didn't redeem her in any way.  I kept expecting her to reach over and turn off her police scanner (signifying her seeing the error of her ways and getting back to real life or whatever), but instead it just ended with her doing nothing.  Kind of a dark ending for her, no?  (Does she come back later in the series?)

 

I also wound up watching a Season 2 episode, "Pastoria Prime Pick" - a good one.

Share this post


Link to post

Joan van Ark again, playing a different character!  (Was this common casting practice in the 70s?) 

I think it was common practice until homevideo (both commercial and home-taped) became widespread. TV episodes would be seen only once, maybe given a rerun during the summer, possibly seen in syndication years later (though hourlong dramas weren't big in syndication)... consistency of casting (or minute attention to continuity) simply didn't matter much. Series might try to avoid returns of really well-known people as different characters -- or not; Columbo never minded repeating its villains (Jack Cassidy was the killer three times, for instance). Nobody was ever going to binge-watch whole seasons, or multiple seasons.

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks for the info.  I didn't realize it was that widespread...

 

I re-watched two episodes I'd already seen: "The Girl in the Bay City Boys Club" and the season 2 opener, which has some long title about a guy named Aaron.  This season 2 opener is supposedly the one where Garner blew out his knee during filming, which is why he's limping noticeably so much that they apparently had to write it into the episode.  (Yes, I've been reading up on the history of this show)  BUT,  holy hell, I really hope the knee injury happened after they did the scene where Jim and his childhood friend are running down a steep hill and running through a creek with slippery giant boulders.  My knees hurt just watching that.

 

The other one was "The Episode with Blair Brown" aka NINA SHARP! for all you Fringies out there.  (Or, I suppose, MOLLY DODD!)

 

I also watched the first Isaac Hayes episode (the one without Louis Gossett Jr.).  I had heard this was kind of a sexist episode but I guess people didn't like the line at the end where Jim told Gandy "Hey, she kept coming back" (abused wife situation).  The tone at the end also slightly was that Gandy's dead wife was a vindictive bitch for hiding her kids and  killing herself?  Hm.   A bit iffy, there.

 

I did skip ahead to the 4th season premiere and it was one of the rare episodes I've seen which just had some lameness that couldn't be overlooked.  I think it's called "Beemer's Last Case" and it has a terrific premise (Rockford comes back from vacation to find he's being impersonated by a private eye wannabe) but in the end, the situation as written was just too dumb to be believed, in that Beemer was totally round the bend (worse than Leeann really) and yet Rockford was treating him so civilly.  I mean, no.  I know Jim is a big softie but c'mon.  It just strained credulity that this guy would have caused so much trouble for Jim and that he wasn't immediately charged with all his many impersonation-related crimes (never mind that he should have gotten a knuckle sandwich from Jim at least once).  However, I liked Rockford's kitty.  ("You been a good cat?")

 

I'm trying to pace myself here but I keep watching at least 2 or 3 a day!  Help?

Edited by Jipijapa

Share this post


Link to post

Just checking in and had to share this from "Coulter City Wildcat" -

 

caught.jpg

 

JIM: "Caught us right in the act!"

 

Now there is no way in hell that wasn't a joke!  Jim very deliberately goes under this fence and sticks his ass out while he struggles to get it through it.  Tweaking the censors, 1975-style...

 

The binge continues.  Jim's beltline is starting to look normal to me.  I'm beginning have dreams at night about doing Rockford turns (really!) Episodes watched since last time include:

 

"Sleight of Hand" (aka "The One Where Jim Really Actually Appeared Guilty of Murder")

"2 into 5.56 Won't Go" (aka "The One With Jim's Old Army Commander")

"The Reincarnation of Angie"

"The No-Cut Contract (aka "The One With Meathead")

"A Portrait of Elizabeth" (aka "The One With Beth's Murderous Boyfriend")

"In Hazard" ("The One Where Beth Gets Poisoned")

"The Italian Bird Fiasco"

"The Oracle Wore a Cashmere Suit"

"The Family Hour"

"Drought at Indianhead River"

"Coulter City Wildcat"

 

not necessarily in that order.  Most of them highly enjoyable, with a few clunkers, such as the weird and obviously contrived-to-fit "Sleight of Hand" which was adapted from some novel apparently? 

 

I seem to be hitting a rich lode of Season 2 Jim and Beth episodes now.  I'm not sure whether to think of them as Friends with Benefits, or simply that Jim is Beth's non-gay gay boyfriend (where the emotional and moral support is concerned).  The ending of "A Portrait of Elizabeth" is so sweet!

 

Standout episodes in this bunch, for me, were "The No-Cut Contract" (best, if most incomprehensible line was Jim challenging the federal agent: "What makes you think I won't go all tapioca on you and throw you out the window?") and, surprisingly, "The Italian Bird Fiasco" just because I love seeing James Garner play a fish out of water at the art auction.  The weakest episodes of the series, I find, are ones where the dialogue writing just isn't snappy enough, and all these great players are sort of standing around with nothing to do, slowly sinking into the customary ludicrousness of Jim's legal troubles.  Fortunately, not many of these seem to be in Season 1 through 3.

 

I keep forgetting to write this though:  Joe Santos was the most underrated actor on the show.  He could hold his own in any complex dialogue scene with James Garner (no mean feat) and I never for a minute don't believe that Dennis and Jim are really friends.  He is as smart and beleaguered as Jim is, in his own way, and Jim wouldn't be friends with a cop who was dumber than him.  Dennis Becker had to be one of the most intelligent straight-men on TV.

 

I also keep finding myself wanting to write Jim's tricks down in a notebook for future reference should I find myself in a dangerous situation; surely, enough time has passed so that everyone's forgotten them and they might actually be effective.  (I'm certainly going to steal his idea about writing passwords on masking tape and sticking them beneath desk drawers.)  I feel like watching these episodes is making me a smarter person, at least in my fantasies...

Edited by Jipijapa

Share this post


Link to post

He drives a Pacer in one scene, a (pre-gas-tank scandal) Pinto in another, and finally winds up borrowing Beth's car:

 

Photo-Aug-01-6-36-00-AM-e1406929692980.p

 

I'm surprised Beth has a Porsche, even though she's a lawyer, because it seems kind of luxe. 

 

 

The 914 was half Porsche, half VW. It was far less expensive/complex than a 911.

There was a 911 featured in the The Real Easy Red Dog with Stephanie Powers..

 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

Continuing to open up the Files... I've just about finished both Seasons 2 and 3, and haven't really dug into the other seasons yet, so I have a long way to go.

 

By luck of the draw I have been running into what strike me as some subpar/dull episodes - "Gearjammers," (the One Where Rocky is Targeted by Hit Men), which didn't even have enough story for one episode, let alone two -- and a few others that were thin on story and logic, often where Jim gets stuck in a one-horse town and Complications Ensue ("Pastoria Prime Pick" which I've already seen, was the best in this genre that I've seen). 

 

I also was puzzled by the Season 3 premiere ("The Fourth Man") where Jim rather comes off as a cad!  So, he's dating an airline worker lady, who gets stalked/attacked, and it seems fairly steady, yet he steals a kiss from Beth (while girlfriend has just left the room) and then seems eager to have his girlfriend pay him for his services when she offers.  Yeah, I know it's '70s TV and onscreen relationships were shallow, but, Jim I am disappointed in you.

 

However, I discovered the utterly delightful "Chicken Little is a Little Chicken" from Season 2, which had no case but just Jim and Angel on a con together.  I would happily show this episode to any newbie as an example of how awesome this show was when it hit the high notes.  What fun!

 

There was also Joan Van Ark appearance #3, "Resurrection in Black and White," where she played a journalist.  Not a real interesting plot but Van Ark had a lot of chemistry with James Garner and I can see why they kept bringing her back; I kind of wish they'd brought her journalist character back again, though.

 

The "Have your master call my master" answering machine message must have been hilarious back in 1975, though it's merely cute today.  An unintentionally hilarious moment was when one of the big baddies whipped out his mobile phone -- a traditional handset installed in the front seat of his limo, complete with stock Universal telephone ring.  LOL.

Edited by Jipijapa

Share this post


Link to post

Random observations from Rockford's Malibu, as I dive into Season 4...

 

-Tires.  They squeal.  Constantly and ALWAYS.  They squeal on pavement.  They squeal on gravel.  On the dirt.  On the beach.  They squeal in midair, and probably under water too.  They even squeal before anyone actually guns the gas pedal, sometimes. 

 

-Speaking of the beach, one thing I've learned, is that if you're being pursued by car, driving onto the beach is a surefire way to escape.  Doesn't matter if you're driving the Firebird, Rocky's truck, or a pizza delivery bug.  You will get away -- but the bad guys, who will always be driving town cars, will sink up to their axles within 5 seconds.

 

-Remember when crime dramas would dig into heavy social issues only after a few seasons had passed?  I've hit that spot.  There's anti-feminism ("Trouble in Chapter 17"), rightwing paramilitary flakes ("The Battle of Canoga Park"), mental illness AND CIA dirty tricks ("The Dog and Pony Show") and homosexuality ("Requiem for a Funny Box").  And that's just the first part of Season 4!  Lighten up, guys!  (although, it was a hoot, and should have been funnier, to see Jim and Angel forced into court-ordered group therapy.  I think Jim should be forced into therapy anyway over his friendship with Angel.)

 

-I did see a couple stray Season 5 episodes, including the one with the biker gang beating the tar out of Jim and raping his girlfriend.  That was pretty grim.  It's the only Coop episode I've seen so far, and while it seems to me that many people resented that character for taking Beth's place, the actor who plays him is actually pretty good.  In fact, if you overlook the frightfully cliched treatment of rape and 70s male-female relations blah blah (girlfriend spends the whole episode catatonic), I thought both he and James Garner were pretty good in the scene where they discuss what happened to her.   This show was never much on the cutting edge of anything, but I can't imagine there were too many shows in the 70s where two macho male characters could have a tearful conversation about a woman.

 

A few entertaining episodes (including the return of Gandy, who's grown on me) and a couple real clunkers, such as the inexplicable "Irving the Explainer."  However, the scene where Angel sings like a bird to the Feds about Jim's involvement in some scheme ("Dirty Money, Black Light") is one of the funniest in the series.

 

However, something I've noticed is that no matter how boring the plot or script on some of the lesser episodes, you never ever get the sense that James Garner is bored with what he's doing.  I really need to read his biography, here's an excerpt that perfectly explains my impression that he completely respected writers - he liked words and was so comfortable with complex dialogue, which is part of what makes The Rockford Files' best episodes great.

 

http://liveswelivedanhagen.blogspot.com/2014/08/james-garner-stardust-bowl.html

 

Frankly it's that quality that made him stand out completely from his contemporaries (Newman, Eastwood, McQueen et al) who were basically charismatic posers, more or less.  I mean, Clint Eastwood made an entire career out of squinting and grunting.  How many movies with him in his later years did you actually want to sit through.

Edited by Jipijapa

Share this post


Link to post

Paul Newman was charismatic, sure, but I honestly can't see him as a poser. (He was also near Garner's equal in deriving his charm from minimalistic reactive underplaying -- proving that those skills can be acquired at the Actors' Studio just as readily as anywhere else, for the right person.)

Share this post


Link to post

I usually watch two episodes a night, and I'm working through Season 4 at the moment.  Every once in a great while I hit an episode that wows me and makes the whole thing worthwhile, like "Quickie Nirvana," which I wound up watching all the way through at 2 a.m.  I looked it up on IMDB this morning and found out it was one of two episodes from Season 4 that were nominated for a WGA award (David Chase being the writer).  This is the one with Sky, the hippie dippie girl... and it wasn't what I expected.  At all.

 

I was expecting a lighthearted romp through California's hippie culture, but not expecting the really great and sympathetic (and understated) performance by Valerie Curtin (cousin of Jane, and also a screenwriter herself), who totally reminded me of my aunt who has had these hippie dippie seeker tendencies.  And while I get the impression a lot of people view this episode as a righteous smackdown of dopey liberals (or dopey "believers"), I found the final scene to be sad and real.  It's not liberalism or conservatism that's the problem; it's how -isms prey on vulnerable people, and how hard it is for even helpful, caring, smart people (like Jim) to save these people from themselves.   (I think people who saw this as a righteous smackdown, were not paying attention to the B plot about the murderous music star and his old friend who was growing horrified at the murder trail, which was sort of an indictment of the materialism that Sky was genuinely against; values do matter.)

 

Moreover, this is a story that grows perfectly out of Jim's character as a marginal laid back guy living on the beach.  Sky is just another marginal character in his life, whom he accepts, until he finally gets frustrated and lays out the whole problem with her lifestyle.  But, there's a price when you take someone's idols away from them if they aren't ready to face reality.  I have actually known people who have veered from New Age to fundamental Christianity (my aunt kept tossing her Bibles in the trash and then later buying even more of them), so the ending hit me as rather real, not absurd.  It's clear from the writing of the last scene that a healthy Christianity might have actually been a good thing for Sky (or any healthy dedication, like art school), but the problem is that she is now in a joyless Christian cult.  Jim makes one last effort to reach out to her, but no good.  It reminded me of the unexpectedly dark ending with Leeann the police groupie in a previous episode... except written and acted with more thoughtfulness.

 

(An example of the little details in the episode... when Sky eats a hamburger while Jim is lecturing her... she removes the meat from the bun and starts eating only the meat; another sign of her all-or-nothing thinking, just changing gears but the same tendency.  I suspect that wasn't even in the script, but something the actress decided to do in the scene.)

 

This is a great example of something we've lost in television - where these comfortable frameworks of setting and formula were in place from week to week, so that the writers could occasionally transcend them without having to negate the formula.  The framework exists so that stories can be told, and it's the job of the writer to find the story and seek truth in the situation.  The requisite car chases, fist fights and funny money were all here, but so was a lot of heart and observation about human nature.  (Compare to "Irving the Explainer" which was just an overheated overtalky story imposed on the characters, not coming from them.)  These days, formula TV is very much out of style.  We're left with a lot of mythology-based, saga-based crap where writers are only thinking about the next requisite beats to hit (usually in the form of violent twists), and truth is the casualty.  A true pity...

 

PS-  you kids get off my lawn.

Edited by Jipijapa
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

Season 4 continues...

 

"Hotel of Fear" - an amusing Jim/Angel episode, the one where Angel is in protective custody and winds up dragging Jim into it.

 

"Forced Retirement" - thank God that Rockford's Jimmy Joe Meeker act didn't have to last the entire episode.  Not that it was bad, but we've sort of seen this same Oklahoma-oilman persona a few times already.  I continue to be impressed by Beth's fabulous wardrobe.   In this episode, she leaves her law firm, and sadly that (unintentionally?) presages her soon leaving the show.  However, this was the first episode I've seen where I just really found Angel to be tiresome, and Jim's continued friendship with him to be mystifying.  (And involved in cockfighting?  That's not a cutesy lowlife activity, that's really kind of reprehensible.)

 

"The Queen of Peru" - a David Chase-penned episode that really should have been better.  (Also, why are the opening credits mysteriously missing on Netflix?  I had to go to IMDB to get the name of the guy playing the insurance agent, who is one of my all-time favorite "Hey, it's that guy" character actors - George Wyner.)  A puzzling amount of screentime is spent on the RV family bickering amongst themselves, as well as the National Guard exploits, and there's also an incredible logic/believability leap at the end where Jim spots one of the jewel thieves in the wrecked car.  (As for clothespotting, the pouty teenage girl was dressed *exactly* the way my sister used to dress, like whoa, right down to her Carmen Mirandas.)

Share this post


Link to post

Today's Rockford Report... ( I am just leaving these little reviews behind like diamonds/turds for the next unfortunate lonely Rockford newbie to discover, probably in a few years)

 

(Strangely, Netflix does not carry the Season 4 episode "The Gang at Don's Drive-In."  Anyone know why?)

 

I'm doing pretty good at keeping on track in Season 4 and not jumping around.  That said, I decided to skip "The Attractive Nuisance" for the time being and move on- I don't know why I'm doing this, maybe I'm trying to hold off the inevitable "running out of episodes moment," the dreaded bane of all bingewatchers.

 

"A Deadly Maze" - Not a real interesting episode, but not bad; nice to see Larry Linville actually not playing either the heavy or the fool.  Not sure if this was pre- or post-Frank Burns.

 

"Dwarf in a Helium Hat" - I actually watched this out of order, some weeks ago.  This is an odd one, with a party playboy, and while I usually can follow along with the cultural references of the decade, I don't get the concept of a "Paris at Dawn" party - was that some sort of "thing" back then, or just unique to this episode?  Notable mainly for Rick Springfield's brief appearance -- in a stretch -- as a rock star.  (That WAS Rick Springfield, right?) 

 

"The Competitive Edge" aka "Jim Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."  This just struck me as a big excuse to recreate the scenario of that movie, since the plot is fairly ridiculous.  However, James Garner definitely passes the "baby blue bathrobe" test.  This is a well known acid test of manliness, inspired by Sean Connery's appearance in Goldfinger where he wore a short baby blue bathrobe and still looked sexy.  (And speaking of Goldfinger -- ODDJOB!)

 

Speaking of James Bond, I haven't watched "South by Southeast" yet but from the preview it looks very much like the writers were getting a wee bit bored with the same-old same-old and wanted Jim to have a Bondlike experience somewhere.  (Indeed, if James Garner had been British, he could have played Bond, absolutely no question.)

 

"The Prisoner of Rosemont Hall" - Not a super memorable episode, but not bad either (and, working a dull job at a university, I can relate to the chick of the week's problems, although sleeping with students is not one of my duties).  Although, I cringed in the scene at the cemetery where the murder victim's mom is all, "Oh, he died so young!  If only he'd gotten laid first" (well, not her exact words but...)  "Don't worry, ma'am, actually I banged your son..."  OY!

 

When Season 4 is finished, I have a decision to make:  Push ahead to Season 5, or circle back to Season 1, which I have largely not watched?  Maybe I could just alternate.

Edited by Jipijapa

Share this post


Link to post

"The Competitive Edge" aka "Jim Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."  This just struck me as a big excuse to recreate the scenario of that movie, since the plot is fairly ridiculous.  However, James Garner definitely passes the "baby blue bathrobe" test.  This is a well known acid test of manliness, inspired by Sean Connery's appearance in Goldfinger where he wore a short baby blue bathrobe and still looked sexy.  (And speaking of Goldfinger -- ODDJOB!)

 

 

And the best "last word" for years...... I recall rolling on the floor when it first ran....

 

 

Share this post


Link to post

I've decided to bounce back and forth between Seasons 1 and 5.  It's interesting because the show's best years (Seasons 2-4) were both before it, and behind it...

 

Season 5, "White on White and Nearly Perfect," the celebrated Lance White episode.  Tom Selleck is wonderful and you can see why he soon got his own series.  And, you actually DO like Lance, even if he's a bit of a cartoon ( "it's just a flesh wound").  And he towers over James Garner, which is disconcerting, since Garner was what, 6'3"?  It would have been easy to write this so that Jim proved to be smarter and better than Lance in the end, but no, he's just the pooch here, while Lance sails in and takes over completely (even stealing the final freeze frame).  Poor Jim: he learns that the problem isn't that the LAPD is difficult, it's just that they hate him personally.  Nothing goes right for him.  Liked this episode OK but the ADR was terrible.  (Lance and Jim in a convertible while sounding like they're in a studio, which they were.) 

 

Something I enjoy about the show is watching James Garner's driving skills (hell, sometimes, even just his parallel parking skills).  This is on display in "White on White" when he jumps into Lance White's sludgeboat of a vehicle and somehow manages to maneuver it out of a driveway like a high performance sports car.

 

Season 1, "In Pursuit of Carol Thorne."  A great opening sequence with Jim tracking the babe of the week (love the music), but this episode seemed to suffer from Season 1-itis, where the writers and actors don't really know the tone and characterization yet.  Jim doesn't really seem to be like himself in this episode for some reason - and the case is not very interesting.

 

Season 1, "Aura Lee, Farewell" - Am I the only person who thought Rocky was the random guy hit by the car in the beginning?  Same clothes, same hat, same build.  I was so distracted from the first 15 minutes because I was not understanding why Jim was not hearing anything about his dad being hit by a car!  I had to go back and re-watch it.  Then I thought, hey, it's The Rockford Files, maybe Noah Beery was just playing a different character.  But no, it's not him.   Otherwise, I found this episode kind of meh.  Although I liked the trick Jim pulled where he didn't give the senator his name (after all, Jim is always giving someone a name, real or otherwise).  But he also impersonates a cop in this episode, something he rarely did, and a big real-life no-no.  (PS- Jim, Walter Bishop left a message on your machine, he wants his sweater back.)

 

Season 1, "Counter Gambit" - very clever story.  I won't spoil for anyone who hasn't seen this one. 

 

Season 4, "The Paper Palace" - first Rita Capkovic (Rita Moreno) episode, seemingly designed as a showcase for her acting.  There's also a lot of Dennis in it, which is never a bad thing.  An OK episode.  The ending with Rockford being gifted a vintage automobile is kind of strange, though.  (Do we see the car again?)

 

Season 1, "Claire" - my winner of the binge session, and ironically, a precursor of the situation that starts off "The Paper Palace."  (where police informant Rita complains about being used by Dennis).   What could have been a rather stock situation (Jim's old flame who left him, coming back for help) was actually a sort of interesting exploration of the sort of iffy tactics used by both Jim and the police.  The reason for Claire leaving Jim is actually pretty compelling and quite believable: she got into trouble and then was sucked into a kind of abusive relationship with the unseen, offscreen undercover detective, who played on her ignorance of the law.  This early episode sort of belongs with the other, later episodes (like "So Help Me God") where the marginal existence of Jim and his friends brings them into conflict with the bad parts of good systems (cops, courts).  Even though the scene where Jim sees Claire leaving on the bus is a tad contrived, the moment feels earned.   (Also, I love episodes where Jim spends a lot of time roaming around in old LA at night.)

 

Sadly... Netflix does not carry "The Gang at Don's Drive in" from Season 4, which I understand, was Beth's final appearance on the show. 

Edited by Jipijapa

Share this post


Link to post

Moving on...

 

Season 1, "The Kirkoff Case" - Young James Woods in a relatively small though key role.  I was surprised to see Jim do something so stupid as allow himself to be slipped a mickey by some random woman he meets, yet I cheered when he was smart enough to shove his wallet under the rug before passing out.  Also loved him getting pummeled when he tried the cigarette trick more than once.  One problem these early episodes seem to have are the .... ENDLESS... sequences of going up to doors, getting into cars, driving around, and the like.  (I kind of think you have to be smoking weed in order to properly appreciate the mellow.)

 

Season 1, "The Dark and Bloody Ground" - Does this episode have the longest car chase in TV history?  It just might, although I went back and timed it and it's "only" just over five minutes in length.  Beth's first regular-episode appearance, and she's not very smartly dressed, tsk tsk.

 

Season 5, "Guilt" - aka "Jim's Old Flame, No Not That One, The Other One Who Tried to Kill Herself"  The less said, the better.  It doesn't take long for me to figure out when episodes are not going to be very memorable... it's when the guest actors just are meh.  And how many serious ex-girlfriends did this man have anyway?  And this character was such a whiny bitch, and I couldn't believe the episode ends with the implication that she's still going to pop up in Jim's life.  Whatever.

 

So, because I'm jumping around anyway, I decided to watch "the Megan trilogy"  (Season 5's "Black Mirror" Parts 1 and 2, and the 6th season followup, "Love is the Word," all written by David Chase).  In which Jim finds his one true love, supposedly - though later in Season 5 he goes out with the mousy, soon-to-be-assaulted Gail Cooper.  (Okay, I know there is no sense in trying to make sense of Jim's week-to-week love life, particularly his Bethless love life.)  However, I liked Megan a lot.  Now supposedly this show was supposed to end with series 5 (but NBC wanted it back one more season).  If so, maybe that's why the last scene of "Black Mirror" has a sort of end-of-series vibe.  I mean, Jim is just so gosh darned happy with Megan.  He's even got his husband glasses on. It's so cute. 

 

Alas, it was not to be!  "Love is the Word" is basically a series of breakup conversations with a very slight crime mystery thrown in.    So Jim and Megan are sort of just bickering and agonizing the whole show; so what, it's pretty good dialogue - and their first scene in the car is downright painful, especially when Megan gets to the part about having kids.  (Although, I'm not sure why this moment is the deal breaker - either Jim doesn't want kids, or Megan doesn't want kids with HIM?  Poor Jim.)  While the kissing scene in the motel room was deeply unnecessary (and awkward), I liked the episode for what it was - and James Garner was a damn good dramatic actor when scripts called for it.  (He was never bad in anything, but I always felt he became a better actor the older he got.) 

 

pic.jpg

 

And, while this maybe wasn't in the script, the unavoidable subtext is that Megan left him for a younger man with better prospects.  And that's another thing I always liked about James Garner: he always played his age, especially after The Rockford Files was over.  No more pretending he was a leading-man type when he wasn't any more (which is more than I can say for some actors, like Harrison Ford). And I think it was because he was always playing his own persona, that watching him get older over the years went down very easily.  And it lent honesty to the characters he played (including Rockford), rather than being a distraction. 

 

That said... when I'm done watching the series, I don't think I'll watch the Rockford Files reunion movies right away -- I don't think I could bear to watch all these characters suddenly become much older in a flash.

Edited by Jipijapa

Share this post


Link to post

I'm 75% of the way through my watch!  In this installment...

 

Season 1

"This Case Is Closed" -  Great to see Joseph Cotten guest starring; he was a rather underrated actor IMHO, and I don't think he did much TV.  And Sharon Gless too, although she had very little screen time.  Netflix seems to be missing some scenes, which makes one of the car chases incomprehensible.  I have to say I totally mis-guessed the outcome of this one - I thought the Joseph Cotten character was going to turn out to be a big gangster, and that Sharon Gless' fiance was an undercover fed and that's why he wanted them broken up.  Oh well. 

 

"The Dexter Crisis" - (aka "The One with the Chick in Vegas") Not much of a case, although I would have liked to see more of Rockford as a gambler. 

 

The gist I got about The Rockford Files, coming in cold, was that everything after Season 3 was downhill.  Certain episodes seemed to have bad reputations.  Now that I've watched probably 75% of the episodes, I have to say: what are they talking about??

 

I've enjoyed a lot in Season 5 so far.  Don't get me wrong - the show obviously CHANGED from what it was during the earlier seasons.  There seemed to be an emphasis more on character moments than on well-written plotlines, the plots were more gimmicky, there was less action, and Beth went away, and so on.  But, in its own way, it's just as enjoyable much of the time.  The main weakness of the later seasons seems to be that the stories were lazily written and even a little boring (I think "A Good Clean Bust With Sequel Rights" aka the Hector Elizondo episode, just may get my vote for Worst Episode Ever).  The show did tend to err on the side of the odd instead of the boring though.  Jim's cases, such as they were, were taking him into strange and more contrived encounters with "characters" instead of characters.  Many of the episodes seemed to be disjointed collections of scenes and ideas ("hey, let's put in this bit with Rocky and a fish head stew").

 

But I did like some of the "characters" anyway.  Season 5, "Heartaches of a Fool" - Interesting choice of just having a Willie Nelson song playing over the whole opening sequence with Rocky being run off the road.  And interesting choice to have the country music star turn out to be a really likable dude; and interesting choice to have an Asian-American actor playing... an Asian American character (not some stereotypical Chinese heavy).   That's the thing I've enjoyed about this show: so many interesting choices were made for its time (the mid to late Seventies).  I wish the resolution of the storyline in this had been as interesting (a bit silly with the shotguns), but oh well.

 

Season 5, "Rosendahl and Gilda Stern Are Dead" - The funniest answering machine message ever in the entire series. ("Hello? Are you the guy who lost a wallet in the Park Theater? Well, I'm kinda into leather. So, I'll be returning the money, but I'm going to keep the wallet.")  Rita Moreno is back and she's... overstayed her welcome.  Also, was it in Rita Moreno's contract that Rocky had to comment on her slim figure and birdlike eating habits in every episode?  Speaking of weight, James Garner's weight loss is commented on in the script; he looks great, but I kind of also want him to have a cookie or something.  (And the plotline is about knee operations, which seems to be obviously inspired by Garner's knee surgeries!?)

Season 5, "The Jersey Bounce."  Another David Chase episode.  The scene where Jim faces down a yard full of punks (and gets out without throwing a single punch) is positively badass.  (A shame he couldn't have used the same trick on the Rattlers later in the season...)  I like Coop a lot.  A shame he couldn't have been made permanent.

 

Season 5, "A Three-Day Affair with a Thirty-Day Escrow" - Obviously ripped from the headlines, this was the one about a Saudi woman being chased down by her family for having an affair.  (In 1977, a real-life Saudi princess was executed along with her lover to uphold the royal family honor, so this was clearly inspired by that.)  It shows you how much has changed in American society and politics, that the Islamic beliefs of the family are in no way an issue, it's presented as merely a cultural choice (and the head of the family is even allowed a few lines to explain why Arab culture developed that way - "All we had were camels and our women!") 

 

 Season 5 - "A Good Clean Bust with Sequel Rights" - Oy, hated this one.  The Hector Elizondo character must have resonated with some real-life character of the era, but the situation was so contrived, and the action and case so meh. 

 

Season 5 - "The Deuce" - Jim serves on a jury and causes it to deadlock when he just doesn't believe that Deputy Perkins (excuse me, Mills Watson) is guilty of DWI hit and run.  There's also a lady lawyer who seems to be auditioning to be the new Beth, and she's wholly inadequate.  Ehh, it was OK.

 

Season 5 - "A Different Drummer" - Jim is hit by a drunk driver and winds up in hospital where he thinks he sees organs being harvested from live patients.  The way the cops behaved in the beginning, arriving at the accident scene, cracked me up because they were sooooo indifferent ("Ehh, this guy's out cold.  Call an ambulance" and then they both walk away from the car, leaving the victim inside).  Also, Rocky is being a bitch about his wrecked truck, I thought that was out of character.  

 

Season 6

"No Fault Affair" - Yes, I skipped ahead because it was another Rita episode and I wanted to see if she got any less annoying.  No, she did not, and in fact got more annoying.  Also, WHAT was the deal with that scene where Jim patches her up?  Did I miss an important episode?  Because no wonder Rita started pursuing him if he was treating her like they were something more than friends.  That was kind of a WTF scene if you ask me. 

 

Generally speaking, the big weakness of the later episodes is that Jim has somehow stopped being a private eye, and just gets mixed up with people.  Like I said, this has its charms, but also makes for episodes where I cannot remember much about the plots.

 

I have about 10 more Season 1's, 10 Season 5's, most of Season 6, and a random scattering of Season 4's left to watch. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

Busy now that summer is over and my viewing pace has slowed somewhat... finishing up Season 1, which seemed to improve markedly toward the end, as new shows often do.  All of these episodes below, just "felt" like the writers and actors were beginning to settle on the tone for the show that they really wanted.

 

"The Four Pound Brick" - Fantastic final bit with Jim throwing in the towel on getting his money from either Rocky or his client, and Dennis on hand to laugh in his face.

 

"Just By Accident" - Another enjoyable episode (aka the Demolition Derby Insurance Scam Episode) but who is this Tom character (Jim's friend in the police station) and what has he done with Dennis??

 

"Roundabout" - Another round of "Hey! It's That Guy/Girl" as this episode probably features 3 or 4 of the "Rockford Files Players," of course playing the usual mix of damsels, hoods and Friends of Jimmy.  I can't even keep them all straight any more.  I always wonder who this Jesse Welles chick was and why she kept getting roles because she honestly wasn't that great of an actress.  And we have Deputy Perkins again, playing a hardass this time.  But, this is a great episode with fantastic location shooting (Vegas!  Hoover Dam!), a very funny bit with Jim trying to work the code word "Geronimo" into a conversation multiple times, and maybe the longest foot chase in the series, culminating in utter exhaustion for pursued and pursued.

 

(PS:  For the unaware, "Deputy Perkins" = Mills Watson.  Who played Perkins on Sherriff Lobo, which was an NBC show I *did* watch, along with virtually all of the rest of NBC's late 1970s lineup, *except* for the only show that was actually any good, e.g., The Rockford Files.)

Edited by Jipijapa

Share this post


Link to post

I don't know any deep background on Jesse Welles, but she was all over TV for a few years. I wonder if she was a Universal contract player (as Sharon Gless was until the early 1980s -- she's famously said that she was the last of them), as she kept getting plugged into so many guest shots then, and even got to be a regular once or twice. Or else she went after the jobs on her own and was fairly good at it (and maybe pleasant to work with, which counts for a lot when some bigger names aren't). I suppose it's a typical career for someone who's OK but not really outstanding in any way: just under 2 decades of TV work (1971-88, finishing with a Newhart guest spot), then she left the biz and now paints. But even at the time I kinda wondered why I was seeing her everywhere.

Share this post


Link to post

Good point about the possibility of her being a contract player, which might have explained many of the other repeat faces over the years?

Share this post


Link to post

Another Universal contract player in that era was Howard McGillin, who likewise turned up in a Rockford episode: "Crack Back" from Season 3, in which he was a pro football player whom Beth was defending. As soon as his contract was up in the early 1980s, he moved to NYC to make use of his stage skills, and became a big star in musicals (e.g. the most Phantom performances of anyone). He also eventually came out publicly and has been frank about the way the studio "handlers" insisted he keep up a straight facade, have a wife & kids, etc., for appearance's sake. It was, sad but true, what anyone would have advised him to do then.

 

I have looked, but been unable to find any listing of Universal contract players in that decade (I think they were the last studio to maintain the practice, and it applied mostly just in TV). I think Kevin Dobson was another.

Edited by Rinaldo

Share this post


Link to post

I've heard those stories about some married stars (including ones who you'd never think of, though it's sometimes hard to judge if the stories are true), but at the end of the day, who you are is the life you actually live.  We aren't our passions... we are our choices.  It's sad that people felt pressure from studios, but there are also a lot of closeted gay men in and outside of Hollywood who married, had kids, and had loving family lives, for all that.  That's also who they were.   In any case - the point isn't what choice you make, but whether you make it with excellence. I think when people wriggle free of the system they feel more comfortable about that stuff.

 

Getting back to Rockford, I think the interesting thing about "Requiem for a Funny Box" and the gay mobster, was that the incident at the end of that episode was basically about homophobia, not gayness.  I also am not sure it was meant to make any social point, except, evil homophobic mobsters are ruthless.  I'd have to watch it again.

 

Oh, and I discovered there was another Hector Elizondo episode (of course!) in Season 1, which wasn't the greatest episode ("Say Goodbye to Jennifer") but featured some nice acting from Garner and some truly awful acting from the Chick of the Week.  And normally I can't say that about this show, because the guest casts ranged from terrific to meh, but she was just BAD.

Edited by Jipijapa

Share this post


Link to post

"Say Goodbye to Jennifer" ... some truly awful acting from the Chick of the Week.  And normally I can't say that about this show, because the guest casts ranged from terrific to meh, but she was just BAD.

After that description, I had to look. And OMG, that was Pamela Hensley! Who I'd always considered Not Good in general, and I have no doubt she was as bad here as you say... but she had a career, for a while; she was kinda sorta Somebody, though not in the higher echelons as a rule. "Chick of the week" seems about right. Around the same time, she was a regular on the last season of Marcus Welby (wife of the James Brolin character), second lead on a short-lived Raymond Burr series Kingston: Confidential, and a princess on Buck Rogers (I recently saw her on one of the old Battles of the Network Stars, on the basis of that last). Later she would be second lead on Matt Houston for its three seasons, after which she married its producer and immediately retired from acting. The real kicker in her IMDb bio is that she'd attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London for three years!  It's one of those careers I just can't explain (except that she was, yes, another Universal contract player; she signed on for 7 years).

Edited by Rinaldo
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

After that description, I had to look. And OMG, that was Pamela Hensley!

 

 

OMG!!  Princess Ardala?!?  No wonder I sort of recognized her.  Buck Rogers was my SHOW!!!  It was the highlight of my NBC-lovin' life!  (yes, I can finally "come out" and admit that)

 

Yes, she was quite bad in this episode with a scenery chewing rant scene at the end, after she'd shot Jim in the leg.

Edited by Jipijapa

Share this post


Link to post

LOL!  I just watched "Nice Guys Finish Dead" from Season 6, the one with Freddie Beamer and Lance White and the PI association dinner.  HILARIOUS!  I have rarely laughed so hard at a TV episode.  Particularly the scene in Lance's office with the three of them.  If they had had a show with just Garner, Selleck and Whitmore playing those characters every week, I would have watched the shit out of that.

 

But I think it was probably only funny because it was a one-off and an inspired pairing of the two previously seen characters.  And also because Jim acted like Jim, not just rolling his eyes the whole time.  Second funniest bit was when Lance and Freddie were driving along, Lance finds Freddie's glasses, then they pass Jim's car on the road... Jim is looking for the statuette he threw away that he allegedly didn't care about.  That was funny enough, but then Lance just finds his statuette too.

 

How did Tom Selleck keep a straight face saying all his lines?  Anyhow, I want to live in Lance White's world, where everything happens awesomely.

Edited by Jipijapa
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

Tom Selleck really is a delight in both Lance White episodes -- and I join you in getting special joy out of this return appearance. One can easily see why starring him in a series of his own (even if it wasn't as this character) seemed a no-brainer, and why he was Spielberg's first choice for Indiana Jones.

Share this post


Link to post

Well I found Freddie Beamer annoying in his previous episode, but he is a brilliant addition to the "team" here.  What I found so funny about the episode was the comic dynamic between the three guys.  I think the funniest thing about it, is that Jim Rockford is a really nice guy, but Lance White is an even NICER guy, and Jim has to be in his shadow.  And Jim always starts off trying to be cool with Lance, but gradually has to deal with his irritation, something James Garner is very amusing at.  (I loved the whole scene in Lance's office - with the Respighi playing dramatically in the background - but when Jim finally can't take it any more and passive-aggressively knocks over his statuette onto the table - and then Lance says "That's all right.  I understand" - and then idiotic Freddie gazes in awe at Lance... ROFL!!!)

 

Since I'm pretty sure no other Season 6 episodes will top that one, I skipped back to Season 1 and discovered that "Exit Prentiss Carr" was also a pretty good episode.  (When this marathon is all over, I will write up my top 20 episodes, since I've been skipping around like crazy for no good reason)

Edited by Jipijapa

Share this post


Link to post

"The House on Willis Avenue" aka "The Richie Brockelman Backdoor Pilot." ...

 

I understand the Richie Brockelman character had been in an unsold pilot previously to this episode and they gave it another go on the Rockford Files.  I actually really liked this character and loved seeing Jim have a partner who was actually competent, for a change.  And, again, this is an episode I have heard fans complaining about, and now that I've watched it, I wonder if this show was better than some of its fans deserved?  Because this was a pretty good two-parter.   Dennis Dugan was a very likable screen presence and, having Wikipedia'd him, I'm glad to see he went on to a nice career in directing.

 

This was another "socially relevant" episode that had a Point to Make about the legal system/these modern times... this time, surveillance.  But, in a twist for the 1970s, it wasn't about government surveillance - it was about data falling into the hands of private concerns.  RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES!  Er, today's headlines, that is.  How sad that 35 years later we still haven't gotten the message, and in fact, are contentedly living with these very same implications for our privacy and freedom.  Jim, where are you when we need you??  (Well, at least we have Person of Interest nowadays to address these questions... and precious little else on TV...)

 

One interesting thing about this episode was how very clear it was on just how many physical resources computer servers consume.  Jim and Richie investigate innocuous looking homes that are really storing huge generators and A/C equipment to run the servers.  This is an ongoing fact of life, yet nobody really cares about it today.  Everyone fixates on the miniaturization of personal computing, yet in reality, the Internet lives in giant, energy-hogging server complexes that destroy the environment (another point this episode made when they went down to the canyon complex).

 

Sigh, this show was really too good, and perhaps, unappreciated even by some of its own viewers...

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

The Richie Brockelman situation gets complicated for such a relatively small timeframe. There was indeed an unsold pilot (fall 1976), then the Rockford appearance (February 1978), which served to launch a actual Richie Brockelman series, 5 episodes in March-April 1978. It seems to have done fairly well but wasn't renewed for fall. Richie returned for one last two-hour Rockford appearance in spring 1979. Wikipedia says the Brockelman episodes were included in the Rockford syndication package, but I never encountered them as such. Of course they're 5 out of a zillion episodes.

 

My family liked the character too. Or as my father put it when I visited from grad school and we settled in front of the family TV on a Friday night, "We don't like Angel, we do like Junior." Of Dennis Dugan's other acting, I recall an arc on Season 2 Hill Street Blues as vigilante Captain Freedom. And on the big screen, he played Michael Warren's boyfriend in Norman, Is That You? Not one for anybody's time capsule, but I retain a sneaking guilty fondness for it.

Share this post


Link to post

Working through Season 5 (out of order, of course).  The number of episodes left to watch continues to dwindle (sniffle)...

 

"A Fast Count" - This one failed to grab me - Jim's dealings with the boxing world.  Boxing is a yawner for me in real life and in fiction.  The female car saleslady was a unique character, although no one would ever have commercials that run that long.  Not the best episode for me.

 

"Local Man Eaten by Newspaper" - Coop is back to assist Jim in investigating a scandal rag.  I thought this episode should have been better than it was.  Again, didn't make much of an impression.

 

"With the French Heel Back..."  Another ex-girlfriend is dead!  Jim investigates with Wilma Deering (aka late 70s it-girl Erin Gray, whatever happened to her?)  Notable happenings in this episode include Jim getting buckshot in the ass, and Erin going on and on about "high fashion models."  Not models, mind you, but high fashion models, and don't you forget it.  Somewhat less dull than the previous two, perhaps because Dennis figured into it.  I always like Dennis.

 

"The Battle-Ax and the Exploding Cigar"  At last, a winner for this binge session.  FBI vs. FBI vs. CIA!  Despite the weird and unnecessary Law and Order style supertitles for every scene (see below - could they have picked a worse font??)

 

Photo-Sep-01-5-22-19-PM-e1409615603534.p

 

it was great to see the Chick of the Week actually being an older woman.  And the end scene where Jim shows up to be there for her when she goes back to work?  OMG, what a prince.  I bet even Lance White doesn't do that.  So, this wasn't a super great episode, but it was decently done.

Share this post


Link to post

This weekend is gonna be the end.  I will run out of episodes.  :-(

 

I want to end on a high note so I'm doing Season 6 first and then the remaining Season 1 episodes. 

 

"Paradise Cove"  - Season 6 premiere.  The One with Mariette Hartley.  The Polaroid commercials were ongoing at the time, so this must have been an eagerly awaited episode.  The writers gave her a good character to play and the storyline is surprisingly grim for ol Jimbo - he's going to lose his trailer and everything he owns!   The renowned chemistry between Hartley and Garner is given a great little scene between them out on the beach.  (Also, was I hearing things, or did Jim call Rocky "Daddy" when Rocky almost fell over with his broken leg?)

 

This episode, though, got me noticing a trend that seems to continue all through Season 6: Jim's demeanor is just really cranky.  He rarely seems to be having any fun.  And knowing the backstory behind Season 6 and the sad way it ended, I'm tempted to think it's just Garner the actor being weary, but no.  He's playing the scenes as written - scenes where he snaps at Rocky, scenes where he snaps at Angel even more than usual, (and at his friends, etc etc.) So, for some reason, the writers were making him this way, and I don't really understand why.  This vibe culminates in the odd episode "The Big Cheese" which has a normal, convoluted Rockford-style story, yet there's a curious lack of energy and even a black cloud hanging over things.  

 

Or maybe it's just me, depressed that this series is coming to an end?

Share this post


Link to post

PS:  "Lions Tigers Monkeys and Dogs" - a good 2-parter, one that actually had a story worthy of a 2-parter.  But what was the deal with the repeated shots of Jim taking antacids (and the conversation about that)?  I kept thinking that was going to play into the story, but I guess it was just a bit of detail ("Jim's getting old")?

 

I always wonder if the master plan at the end of Season 6 was to (gasp) kill off Jim.  It's not as if there wasn't precedent for that (the way James Garner had his Nichols character killed off) and recently I read an old interview with Garner, of Season 6 vintage, where he was asked if he would ever consider doing that, and he did an evil grin and said "I might."

 

Or was it simply yet another autobiographical detail woven into the scripts?  After all, an ulcer is what ultimately got him off the show.

 

Anyhow... I thought this was going to be a lame star vehicle for Bacall, but it actually was one of the better late-season outings, and Kendall was actually a great match for Jim because of her marginal lifestyle.  And Jim might have been a success on the well-heeled impostor circuit (hell, he could play Jimmy Joe Meeker to his heart's content), except... Jim wouldn't do that, as a character.  Despite being marginal himself, he's also too rooted and unpretentious.  That's really a sign of good writing when you introduce a character who helps illuminate the main character's personality and motives more.  (BTW, I knew about the Princess' guilt going into this episode, but was pleasantly surprised when her motivations turned out to make sense.)   Also, Lauren Bacall in Jordache.  I was starting to wonder when the designer jeans were going to show up, this was the late Seventies after all.

Edited by Jipijapa

Share this post


Link to post

Tom Selleck did a number of pilots around then. One of them, Concrete Cowboys, actually became a short-lived series, but without Selleck (Geoffrey Scott took over the role).

Share this post


Link to post

Today's the 40th anniversary of The Rockford Files' series premiere, and, to formally wrap up my epic binge, I've written up a short list of 7 memorable episodes.  Hard to pick just 7 (and I sort of went back and forth about the Season 5 selection, but in the end decided it was worth including for the Coop introduction) and these are by no means all my "very best", but well, I needed a "listicle" for my new blog (which is gonna be mostly about today-TV, actually).

 

Shit, I feel like I want to watch the whole show all over again.  I'll save that for another time! 

Edited by Jipijapa
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

Yeah, it's me again...  I've decided I'm ready for the reunion movies.  So, stay tuned for my commentary.  (I'm not expecting much, but, I just want to see the folks, you know?)

 

But first, a few random observations on the series, as I did return to rewatch many of the episodes one more time (plus, it's all over MeTV now anyway)

 

-I think I've cracked the secret code of which Chicks of the Week Jim was sleeping with or WANTED to sleep with: just watch the hands.  If Jim touches the lady's hand (not necessarily hand holding, just touching), that's the secret signal.  This occurred to me when I rewatched the episode where Beth got stalked and, yup, there are some coy hand games going on right at the very end before they walk out the door together to go back to her place - but you have to be paying attention.  This holds true with various chicks across the seasons (and also in the negative, as it never occurs with Rita Capkovic).  In fact, in the first season the meaning of this is made clear when Jim does this with Susan Strasberg and she widens her eyes as if he's propositioned her, which in fact, he has.  Aw, this is why old time TV is still fun to watch...

 

-There's a 1974 episode where Jim's Firebird magically turns into a *1978 Firebird* during a chase scene.  How did this happen?  I later found out that the episode had new footage cut into it for syndication.

 

So I watched the first Rockford reunion movie, 1994's "I Still Love LA."  (A lot of these are on Youtube)  Thumbs down to the Muzakky re-do of the theme, thumbs up to the fact that time has obviously moved on in a believable manner here.  (I do find it hard to believe that Dennis is not retired from the force, though)  The time frame of the movie is lengthened so that both the LA Riots and the Northridge quake can be included.  Also, major cheers that they did not try to preserve or overly fetishize some of the beloved props on the show, such as the old trailer (Jim now not only has a beautiful double-wide, but it's explained how he managed to afford it), and even the Firebird which is never in drivable condition during the whole movie.  We get yet another explanation for Jim's perennial limp (shot in a carjacking) and, in another believable twist, he now has an ex-wife.  Believable because 1) With so many ex-girlfriends he was so serious about, it's logical he would wind up with an ex-wife eventually, and 2) she is a genetically engineered mix of Beth and Meghan.   Sadly, Rocky is just a silent presence on the other end of the phone (and Noah Beery would never return), but happily, Angel is still around and in fine form, and with the scam opportunities afforded by the riot turmoil, is happier than a hog in shit.

 

I can't say the plotline of this movie was terribly compelling, though, and I understand this is a pattern throughout the reunion movies, so I may not be able to finish them all.  Two spoiled rich kids are accused of killing their mother.  Jim is enlisted to investigate under very flimsy pretenses ("the cops are too busy with the riots").  If this is a long-delayed continuation of Season 6, well, unfortunately the plot fits in with that.  But these movies were made to cash in on the huge love people had for the characters, and once you get used to Jim being, well, OLD... at least you get that.  I loved the earthquake at the end, and Jim and his ex setting up lawn chairs on the beach at dawn.  

Edited by Jipijapa
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

I'm a long time Rockford fan. When James Garner died several months ago I decided to re-watch the whole 6 seasons. I finished about a week ago, and am undergoing withdrawal. The good news is that some of the plots are so convoluted I had little idea what the heck was going on, so I have some to re-watch.

 

The Rockford character is the main appeal, together with the interactions with the other regulars: Rocky, Becker, Angel. Yes, I like the Angel character, though I despise him as a person. Why is Rockford good friends with him? Probably the same reason Wally's best friend was Eddy Haskel and Ward's was Mr. Rutherford -- whatever that reason is. A good thing about the 5th and 6th seasons was they spent a lot more time on character development and dialog scenes. There are a lot more extended scenes between Jim and Rocky than in the previous seasons. Also in those seasons, there is a distinct difference in the writing, which I didn't like at first, but at some point I realized it was in fact better writing across the board.

 

Fortunately there's Google now and I found myself Googling one reference after another in the later episodes. The writers went to town with obscure references - largely to semi-obscure 30s and 40s actors, but some other folks as well. Among those I Googled: Rondo Hatton, Irene Rich, Perle Mesta ... so many others.

 

I recently read "Cannery Row" and I see a similarity slightly with Rockford: A character who really didn't give a flip about having lots of money ... he just wanted to enjoy life, with simple pleasures. A running gag early on, anyway, was how clients always weaseled out of paying him. He never seemed to care that much. A totally non-pretentious guy. Lived in the most run down trailer imaginable. But it had all the comforts, and was right on the beach so he could fish when he wanted.

 

Some of my least favorite episodes were the ones with Rita - she was an annoying character. Some of my favorites were those with Simon Oakland, who played PI Vern St. Cloud. (Also great in Kolchak). The Goodhue Awards episode was excellent. An amazingly funny guy. I would laugh almost just from looking at him. What a character.

Edited by Democritus

Share this post


Link to post
The Rockford character is the main appeal, together with the interactions with the other regulars: Rocky, Becker, Angel. Yes, I like the Angel character, though I despise him as a person. Why is Rockford good friends with him?

 

There was one episode where Angel answered that, Jim was PISSED at his latest stunt, and wonder why he should bail him out yet again. Angel replied "Because you're my friend..." and I think that does explain it. Friendship is so complicated we often do not understand it, but we need it.

Share this post


Link to post

On the note of friendship - recently read this great essay about the show-

 

http://blogs.indiewire.com/pressplay/turning-40-with-the-help-of-the-rockford-files

 

 

The Conversation, Night Moves, The Long Goodbye, The Parallax View, Chinatown: the great neo-noirs of the Seventies always end in the corruption, if not the outright destruction, of the hero, whose personal code proves to be no match for the systemic pervasiveness of the evil that he confronts. Jim is saved in part by not having a code: only warm responsiveness, and wisecracks, and a network of relationships that never really let him down: even Angel is reliable in his venal unreliability. But what really preserves him is the show’s illusory continuity, fundamental to the form of episodic television. There are recurring characters and very occasional references to past events, but it’s as if the show and its characters were created anew each time the credits roll. That’s the nature of nostalgia: we never play, we re-play. And I’ve seen enough episodes of The Rockford Files to feel like each new one I see is something I’ve seen before. The déjà vu is built in.

 

I got over my infection and got over turning forty, but I never did get over Jim Rockford. He’s still out there, somehow, waiting for the call of imaginary friendship. When you’re finished watching you may feel the chill of the twenty-first century, of real relationships rendered somehow intangible by social media or distraction or sheer carelessness. You might remember the news, or Mad Men, or the weirdness of the weather, and be impelled back toward—or father away—from what we’ve agreed to call reality. But if you’re like me you’ll also remember friendship: how fragile it is, how necessary. Nostalgia can be self-indulgent and escapist, yes. It’s also a form of friendship with the self. So the next time you’re feeling low, defenses down, the world too much with you, spend an hour with Jim Rockford. You’ll be glad you did.

Share this post


Link to post

"But what really preserves him is the show’s illusory continuity, fundamental to the form of episodic television. There are recurring characters and very occasional references to past events, but it’s as if the show and its characters were created anew each time the credits roll."

 

Interesting article. I definitely got the feeling of "creation anew" for each show, in the sense of some degree of lack of continuity. Seemed really true with respect to his past romances. He nearly got married in the past so many times I lost count, to an unrealistic degree it seemed to me, and then he had to really struggle for years to get over the woman. Seems like there must have been so much of that, his life must have been one big sob story.

 

And then there's all the unsavory things he'd done in the past. Some episodes emphasized that though he went to prison, in fact he was innocent and later pardoned. So he's always been a good guy, right? Then in other episodes we learn he'd been hugely active in con games. He'd apparently done every con game in the book and had numerous connections to other con artists.

 

Someone pointed out (I think it was on this thread) that these sorts of playing a little fast and loose with the story was common back in those days because there was no means for re-watching or binge watching and so lack of continuity was less noticeable. So the writers threw in whatever (within reason) advanced the plot without much concern for continuity.

Edited by riverclown

Share this post


Link to post

To some extent, wasn't this true of all shows of the era?  I mean, the advent of semi-serialized TV (ie Hill Street Blues) basically began the whole idea of "continuity" in TV, so much so, that we forget that TV shows used to consist merely of a premise and very basic backstory - which didn't necessarily have to be filled in.

 

Ditto on Rockford's unrealistic number of serious ex-girlfriends!  Like I said, there's just no way you can squeeze them into any timeline that includes 5 years in San Quentin...

 

For all that, though, the general outline of his character and his situation is extremely consistent... he apparently always had con-man tendencies, which must have got him landed in the slammer (from running with the wrong crowd).  You can certainly fill in some blanks in a way that makes sense: for instance, Rocky is so clucky over him, and hangs around him so much, quite possibly because he aims to keep Jim on the right side of the tracks from now on...?

 

We're not supposed to try to over-think the show this way, but we're TV viewers of the 21st century and I think we literally don't know how to watch TV without straining for some sense of narrative continuity, even if we have to make it up.  I mean, Jim's non-relationship with Beth is pretty fascinating: she's obviously younger and upwardly mobile and making a great salary, he's older and NOT upwardly mobile (and an ex-con to boot) and he's always financially challenged... gosh, the power differential there is just really not the usual.   (And, weirdly, there's a point in Season 2 where the writers almost seemed to be sketching a mini-arc with those two, where they seemed to be getting back together again - then dropped, of course.  But there's a great scene where they talk about their relationship and there's a lot of unspoken stuff in the scene that's worthy of any 21st century serialized show, except that it remains... unspoken.)

 

Rather than being self-contradictory, Jim is a character in a complex situation who has friends both below him and above him, which I suppose makes him seem like a "real" person - but, the series has no narrative arcs so it never "explores" that in a 21st century way.  However, it should be said that there have been many, many characters on modern shows who have been "explored to death" - taken through all the required paces (hardhearted guy becomes soft married family man, etc), and pretty much "used up."  I'm about to watch more of the Rockford Files movies, but it's interesting that they avoided the temptation of dramatizing these "required beats" in the movies.  I mean, in the first movie, we find out Jim got married!  That's huge, but it's not relevant to Rockford World.   (That said... can you imagine how crazy his wedding must have been?  You know, in a "Rockford Files episode" kind of way... I shudder to think what Angel's role was...)

Edited by Jipijapa
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

 

(That said... can you imagine how crazy his wedding must have been?  You know, in a "Rockford Files episode" kind of way... I shudder to think what Angel's role was...)

 

 

 

No, think about what cons & scams Angel was trying to pull that day...That's the scary part....

Share this post


Link to post

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×