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Dan (and The Dog) watch THE ROCKFORD FILES.

While playing around on the social networking site Twitter, we came across a thread discussing dearly departed P.I. shows. And one of those shows was “The Rockford Files.”
“Ah!” I thought to myself! I had vague, but fond memories of this show. Hold on, I’m not QUITE the grey-hair you may think I am; I watched the show after school, in syndication. Originally shown on NBC from 1974 (See? Older than me… barely) to 1980, “Rockford” is one of those special pieces of pop-culture flotsam, the kind that when they come up in conversation, that elicit a wry smile and an, “Ah!” from most folks.

To be honest, my childhood memories were rather vague. I knew I loved the show, but now that someone had planted the seed in my brain, I had to see it again. Pay attention- this is the COOL PART. To review:

  1. Someone mentions a mid 70’s TV show on Twitter.
  2. I, along with other pop-culture junkies, get worked into a lather talking about this old show.
  3. Needing to know more, I enter Rockford Files into Netflix.
  4. And there it is. See? Isn’t that cool?

This is the wonder of living in the future. We are now at the point where the internet allows pop-culture junkies like me to relive memories of days-gone-by, at the touch of an iPhone button. Amazing.

So what about the show itself? Did it live up to the foggy memories? YES. This is truly quality TV. From the staples of the show, like the humorous answering machine messages at the beginning of each episode, to the jazzy, upbeat theme, to Jim Garner’s charming, effortless performance. YES. The show delivers on all accounts.

This is the 70’s. Jim Rockford is not a tarnished knight out of Chandler or Hammett. Nor is he the rumpled, trench coat wearing Columbo. Rockford is an ex-con who lives in a trailer on the beach. He specializes in “Cold Cases Only,” since those cases are least likely to get him mixed up with the police. To be honest, most of the time he’s trying to talk people OUT of hiring him.

After all, if they can’t pay his $200.00 plus expenses, then his time is better spent fishing with his dad, Rocky. As mentioned earlier, Garner’s performance is effortless. It’s a tricky thing when the star of the show is in almost every scene. This has to be an actor that the audience wants to watch. Garner has a mellow cool that proves magnetic to this day. You want to watch this guy. Sure, he’s a good-looking guy, but it’s the fact that you know, once he’s taken the case, he’s going to do his best to help. He’s not smarter than anyone else in the room; he’s just like everyone else in the room. And that enables the audience to want to watch him.

The one downfall with vintage television or movies, are the trappings of the day: Fashion, technology, etc. That doesn’t happen here. Sure, Rockford Files is filled with plaid sport-coats and orange pants, and a phone booth on every street corner. Because the writing and direction are so strong, this stuff is pretty easy to get past.

The uncredited co-star of the show has got to be Rockford’s gold Pontiac Espirit. Every episode included a healthy amount of stunt driving, credited to Garner behind the wheel.

So please, faithful reader(s) do yourself a favor: find a buddy who has Netflix, pop some corn, and take a step back to a different kind of TV. A P.I. show that’s not weighed down with mellow-drama, but is lifted up by clever writing, smart direction, and perfect casting.

And a pretty sweet car.

Dan (and Franklin) Malmon.