The Rockford Files – Season 1 DVD Review

  • Title: The Rockford Files
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 24
  • 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

“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 a 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.