The Rockford Files – Season 2 Review

  • Title:  The Rockford Files
  • Season: 2
  • Episodes: 22
  • Discs: 4
  • Original Network:  NBC
  • Distribution Network:  Universal
  • Cast:  James Garner, Noah Beery Jr, Joe Santos, Gretchen Corbett, Stuart Margolin
  • Format: Standard, Color, DVD, NTSC

The Rockford Files isn’t nearly as formula as Batman (1966) was, but it’s still a very episodic show. Every episode, other than the occasional two-parter stands completely on it’s own and you could watch this show in any order, though I watched it in the order presented on the DVDs. There isn’t a set formula to the episodes, but they do have a sameness to them. Rockford is actually a very unlucky PI – his clients lie to him, or misrepresent information, or straight-out use him for often nefarious means. It’s a 70s show so there’s usually at least one car chase and fist fight per episode, and the occasional gun fight as well. James Rockford comes off as a guy who’s just trying to get by, and Garner plays him in a very likable manner. Truly, anyone else playing this part and it would never have worked.

Season 2 promotes Beth Davenport (Gretchen Corbett), Rockford’s lawyer and lady friend to a regular – present in most episodes, and Rockford’s client in two – one where a friend of hers is murdered and she asks Rockford to look into it for her, and a second one where she’s set-up by one of her law clients and nearly dies. Angel (Stuart Margolin), Rockford’s ex-con friend who’s still involved in a number of cons on the side to his newspaper job, also makes a number of appearances. Det. Dennis Becker is pretty much a regular. Rockford’s father, Rocky, is also a regular though not in every episode. The two-parter for the second season focuses on Rocky.

There are a number of prominent guest-stars in this season, sometimes in small roles where the actor is obviously just starting out. It’s often a pleasant surprise to see recognizable people, often “before they were stars”.

Overall, The Rockford Files is fun. There is a lot of action, but there are also some nice complicated plots. In fact, for the most part, many of the episodes have plots full of twists and turns as Rockford tries to figure out just what is going on and keep himself and his friends alive and out of jail. It’s an enjoyable show.

Please also see my Review of Season 1 of The Rockford Files.






The Rockford Files – Season 1 DVD Review

  • Title:  The Rockford Files
  • Original Network:  NBC
  • Distribution Network:  Universal
  • Cast:  James Garner, with semi-regular appearances by Noah Beery Jr, and Joe Santos
  • DVD Format:  Three Double-Sided Discs, 4 episodes per disc
  • Number of Episodes in Set:  24

“Two hundred dollars a day, plus expenses.” – Jim Rockford, explaining his rate.

I picked up this set, pretty cheaply on sale, less than $15.00 for the set.  One of the annoying things about the set is that the discs themselves are double-sided, so there’s no disc art, and they are more likely to get damaged, no matter how careful you are to only handle the sides of the discs and not touch the playing surface.  Accidents happen, which is why I really don’t like double-sided discs. However, the case/set design actually isn’t bad at all.  There’s an outer cardboard case, then the discs are in slim-line inner cases, one per case.  This is a design I like for TV-on-DVD sets, as it takes a minimum of shelf space and the discs are still protected from dust, dirt, light, and other possible issues.

The Rockford Files is often cited as an “iconic” 70s TV show – and it certainly fits the bill, a single hero, in this case, a private investigator, who has great personality – but is something of an anti-hero.  Plus car chases – lots of car chases, that is, at least one per episode.  There were dozens of shows like The Rockford Files, but this is the show that lasted in syndication, and many people have fond memories of it.  Part of that was because of James Garner – he had an easy-going, relaxed style that made his character of ex-con, and rather sleazy PI likable.  Garner is perfect as James Rockford, and he makes a show with somewhat repetitive plots watchable – very watchable.  The other element of this show that really works is Rockford’s father, Joseph “Rocky” Rockford (Noah Beery Jr).  I loved the relationship between Jim and Rocky – from Rocky’s over-protective attitude to his son’s career choice, to Jim’s very real concern for his father’s well-being, especially when Rocky gets accidentally involved in Jim’s cases.

First Season Rockford Files is pretty uneven – the first few episodes are filled with car chases, helpless women asking for Rockford’s help, thin plots, and from everybody but the semi-regulars some really bad dialogue.  Oh, and Jim Rockford is no fan of the police either, having spent five years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit (he was pardoned by the governor, however all everyone seems to remember is that he’s an ex-con, especially the police, as well as Rockford’s shadier contacts.) Towards the end of the first season, the quality picks up considerably, though this is still an American show that has no continuity between episodes whatsoever.  I thought, “Sleight of Hand”, was the best episode of the season.  It didn’t have the typical structure – Rockford didn’t even have a client, essentially he was his own client.  The episode also had a much more melancholy and introspective feel to it.

Overall, I don’t regret buying this, but I’m glad I got it on sale.  Garner is excellent, and a joy to watch. I also liked Noah Beery Jr and Joe Santos – episodes without either one often felt very flat.  And in the episodes without Beery, really do feel like they’re missing something.  Overall, probably about three out of five stars.  I will probably get additional seasons of The Rockford Files at some point, but I doubt I’ll give it a high priority.