THE ROCKFORD FILES:
Universal presents The Rockford Files: Season Two, collected on six, single-sided DVDs. Created by prolific television producers Stephen J. Cannell and Roy Huggins, James Garner plays private investigator Jim Rockford, an ex-con wrongfully convicted of armed-robbery, who served five years before new evidence resulted in a pardon. The show was well known for opening with his answering machine ("This is Jim Rockford. At the tone, leave your name and number and I'll get back to you."), followed by the caller’s funny message, and for its theme song by Mike Post, which reached #10 on the pop charts.
Rockford usually worked the streets of Los Angeles. His rate is $200 a day plus expenses. Business isn’t booming, but it is enough to keep him in a shabby trailer down at the Malibu beach parking lot. The people who frequent his life are his father Rocky, his former cellmate Angel, Police Detective Becker, and attorney and former paramour Beth Davenport, get him out of as much trouble as they get him into. A number of cases this season originate with people who know him.
Rockford’s personality and humor are the strength of the show and Garner was perfect for the role. The viewer enjoys spending time with him, allowing some of the corniness of the storylines to be overlooked. Some situations within episodes appear to be more an author’s imagination rather than a believable recreation of events in the real world. For example, in “Chicken Little is a Little Chicken” we meet some underworld gangsters who are completely inauthentic to anyone who has seen Goodfellas or The Sopranos. Another common plot device that wears thin are all the women who fall under Rockford’s spell. It’s a nice fantasy, but becomes a little silly after a few episodes.
The second season ran from Fall 1975 to Spring 1976, and Garner was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, which he lost to Peter Falk as Columbo. Guest stars this season include Rob Reiner, Louis Gossett Jr., Linda Evans, Isaac Hayes, Dick Butkus, Stefanie Powers, Blair Brown, John Saxon, Joseph Campanella, Susan Strasberg, and Veronica Hamel. One flaw from this era is that the sound effects haven’t aged well. Every gun sounds the exact same way when fired, as does every ringing phone.
Fans of the show were disappointed by the Season One release because it failed to contain the series pilot. Well, they can rejoice because their outcry was heard and acted upon by the powers that be. Rockford’s first recorded assignment is a bonus feature on the sixth disc; however, the DVD authors annoyingly list bonus features on each disc only to state that they are on disc six. The episode was 90 minutes and featured Det. Santos, who recommends Rockford for the case, and Angel, who provides him some information through his brother's newspaper. There was a different actor playing Rocky, and he doesn’t hold a candle to his replacement, Noah Beery. It also included guest stars pre-Bionic Woman Lindsay Wagner and a grown-up Billy Mumy.
Another bonus is a short interview with Cannell. He talks about what he wanted to do with Rockford’s character, how his own relationship with his father was the basis for Jim and Rocky, and how NBC bought the show.