The character of James Rockford (Jim, Jimbo, Jimmy, or Rockfish to his friends) was one of the few television characters that appealed to me when I was a kid. Jim Rockford, the anti-hero, was someone a lot of people could probably identify with; for the most part Rockford was a regular guy with money problems, relationship problems, job problems, and father problems. But he was a clever P.I. (private investigator) that liked his work despite getting pounded on nearly every episode. In “The Big Ripoff” a woman asks Rockford, after seeing him get beat-up, “what won’t you do for money?” His answer: he won’t kill for money, and he won’t marry for it. Everything else is negotiable.
Watching the first season of The Rockford Files is a real treat. Is it just me, or do these shows stand the test of time? The writing, for the most part, is top notch; it has a wit and grit not often found in action/drama programs today. Actually, I think you can see a lot of that sensibility in The Sopranos, created by former Rockford Files writer, David Chase.
I think my favorite second fiddle character in The Rockford Files was Evelyn “Angel” Martin played by Stuart Margolin (actually, probably one of my favorite second fiddle characters in all of television). Angel was a con artist (not very good or lucky), shifty, would lie to his friends, sell them out for ten bucks, but still there was something lovable about Angel. He was a human that the audience pityed because you could see how his plans would always fail.
Here’s an interesting clip of James Garner talking about Rockford Files and the what it meant to the television detective genre, and how making this series took its toll on his body. I know it’s acting, but watch a few episodes and you can tell it was a rough job making this show.