A little while back, I recommending binging Columbo on the weekend. I do believe I mentioned I used to watch it on Netflix before it got removed from that platform. I also probably mentioned how, while I enjoy Columbo, it’s no Rockford Files. Well, much to my delight, it turns out The Rockford Files is also available, admittedly with commercial, on IMDb TV, which you can watch through Amazon Prime, and probably some other ways.
I wasn’t quite as enthused about finding Rockford available to stream as Columbo, but not because I think Peter Falk’s cop mystery show is the better of the two. No, it’s because I hadn’t gotten through all the Columbo episodes before Netflix got rid of it, but I had watched like 95 percent of the Rockford Files episodes. Of all those old ‘60s and ‘70s, and hell also ‘80s, procedurals, it’s my favorite. It’s also perfect binge-watching material, like any proper procedural.
James Garner stars as Jim Rockford. He’s an ex-con and a private investigator. The cases he ends up getting involved with usually see him in over his head. Like all TV and movie private eyes, seemingly innocuous cases end up involving a lot of intrigue and violence. Rockford often runs afoul of the police department, save for his friend Dennis, plays by Joe Santos. This is very much a show all about Garner and Rockford, but if there is a second really strong character on this show, it’s Dennis. There’s also his con man friend Angel, his father Rocky, and his lawyer/girlfriend Beth, who is only around for the first four season.
If I’m being total honest, Angel and Rocky annoy me a bit. If those characters were written better, or with slightly different performance, this could be a better show. However, there’s still Garner, and he’s perfect in this role. The idea of rebooting Rockford Files seems foolish, because you can’t capture that magic Garner has.
What makes Rockford so enjoyable to watch in action is that he’s not Sherlock Holmes. He’s not even Phillip Marlowe. Rockford has to do a lot of investigating to figure things out. He drives all over Los Angeles in his Pontiac Firebird. He’s not a genius. Rockford just works hard, and also he’s not a bad con man himself. He just does it for good, unlike his friend Angel. Rockford will work an angle. He’ll call in favors. While he’s deft at a car chase, and the show is full of car chases, he’s not a great fighter. Rockford often takes a beating, but he just keeps getting up. Also, he’s not rich. Hell, he’s not even middle class. He lives in a trailer by the beach. Rockford is an everyman who happens to be a private eye. That’s what makes him such a captivating character. He’s just a charismatic dude.
The case of the week is usually pretty well-crafted too. Not all of them work, but they mostly do. Plus, it’s a procedural. You can just pick and choose the episodes you want to watch. I will say that by the last season Garner was starting to show his age a bit. Maybe stick to the first four seasons for your weekend binge watch. Also, Rockford Files does that annoying thing old shows would do where they have a quick montage at the beginning of the episode that basically spoils it. I don’t know why they do that. It annoys me. I always just am ready to fast forward, or to mute it for a bit while I wait.