Cold Fury

Harshing your mellow since 9/01

Jim Rockford: a great American

What the hell, I’ll buy it.

The Rockford Files (1974-1980) is not only the greatest television show ever made; its lead character is the greatest American ever brought to the small screen. The Sopranos, The Shield, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Lost… All are fantastic television shows, and I could name many others, but none tops a 1970s private eye series that ran for six seasons on NBC.

You see, there was only one James Garner…

Garner was as ruggedly handsome as Clark Gable, as roguish as Errol Flynn, as masculine as Burt Reynolds, as stoic as Gary Cooper, as tough as Robert Mitchum, as cool as Steve McQueen, as funny as William Powell, as cynical as William Holden, as likable as Jimmy Stewart, and as charming as Cary Grant.

There was no one else like him, and for more than 40 years, audiences went where Garner went, from TV to movies to TV movies — many of them classics: The Great Escape, The Americanization of Emily, Murphy’s Romance, The Notebook, Support Your Local Sheriff, The Skin Game, Victor Victoria, Sayonara, Grand Prix, My Name Is Bill W., Streets of Laredo… Just to name a few.

And no one else could have played Jim Rockford. It was tailor-made for Garner, lightning in a bottle, and, yes, the most American television show ever made.

Here are all the ways in which Jim Rockford is TV’s great American…

Rockford is a Veteran who was wounded and won the Silver Star in the Korean War. (Garner, who was also a great American, earned his own Purple Heart in Korea. He also marched for civil rights before it was cool, took no crap from any man or employer, and was married to the same woman for 56 years.)

Rockford’s an entrepreneur who ekes out a hand-to-mouth living as an independent, self-employed private investigator. He could never survive in the government bureaucracy or corporate culture he frequently sneers at.

He regularly challenges, insults, and dismisses authority. Rockford spent years in San Quentin for a crime he didn’t commit and has no love for the corrupt System that put him there, but plenty of love for the Bill of Rights that won his pardon.

He eats junk food and meat.

He owns a gun. Better yet he doesn’t have a permit to carry it and still does on occasion.

He smokes cigarettes.

He exceeds the speed limit.

He burns fossil fuels.

Above all, Jim Rockford is first, last, and always his own man. His independence, his unwillingness to conform to anyone’s idea of how he should live his life, work his profession, or bow to authority is as American as it gets. He doesn’t tell anyone else how to live their life, and as long as you don’t cross that busybody line with him, there won’t be a problem.

What could be more patriotic than shoving the Bill of Rights up the ass of an officious authority figure abusing his government power or turning down a case because you’d prefer to go fishing and drink beer with your dad?

Mind your own business. Don’t take anyone’s shit. Distrust authority. Keep a gun in the cookie jar. Never conform. Drive a fast car. Pay your own way through life…

Jim Rockford isn’t just an American…

He is The American.

Heh. Pretty much. Still can’t figure out how we lost the country to fucking Pajama Boy and a Mardi Gras parade-float’s worth of angry chicks with dicks when we had guys like Rockford in our corner. Oh well. I’ll add one thing more to Nolte’s list: Rockford also had theme music that was released as a single, and became probably the biggest TV theme song hit ever.

That song was ALL OVER the radio back then; I can’t recall hearing a single person say they didn’t like it. Nice guitar work, too.


6 thoughts on “Jim Rockford: a great American

  1. And all that is why The Rockford Files could not be shown on the tube today! Or the Interwebs, for that matter…

  2. Every time at work when I hear an old fashioned telephone ring, I say “Jim Rockford.” None of the kids at work get it.

  3. Too bad that IRL, Garner was a vocal opponent of the 2nd amendment. Claimed Reagan wasn’t qualified to be gov or President. Gotta disagree with the headline. Please don’t confuse the on screen persona with the real person. I can believe that at one point he was a patriot, but living and working in Hollyweird turned him into something else entirely.

    1. Completely agree. He was a dude that made his living wearing a lot of makeup and pretending to be someone else. He was a hard core Democrat who wouldn’t even play a Republican on screen. He was also a pot head which might explain why he also seemed a little off, a little buzzed.

  4. Voted one of the Top 50 TV Shows Of All Time, correctly and deservedly so.

    The show format and the cast were pure magic, and the writing was perfection.

    Also appreciated was the fact that Rockford wasn’t always going to win a fight, nor get everything, including the girl. But he was always going to triumph in the end, and fresh catch of the day on the BBQ, or a steak dinner over at the pier restaurant, with an ocean view 24/7/365, was a good enough life for anyone to lead.

    (And FTR, until the point in life, decades ago, I hit making “$200 a day, plus expenses” I didn’t feel I’d arrived at adulthood.)

    As further proof of the show’s genius, note the BBC series of similar longevity, Lovejoy, starring Ian McShane. whose producers and star said repeatedly they explicitly aped the Rockford Filesshow formula:
    semi-friendly cop (check) both named Dennis(!)
    wiser mostly harmless older guy (check) Rocky/Tinker
    screwball associate (check) Angel/Eric
    female Guardian Angel (check) Beth/Lady Jane
    and always just barely two steps ahead of TPTB.

    Regardless of his political views, Garner was a bona fide decorated veteran and all-around class act, in a town of phony @$$holes, and gracious about his continued fan appeal and success.
    One of him was worth any fifty of the other kind, and his passing was a true loss.
    I am happy to say I managed to cross paths with him exactly once, got to shake his hand, and thank him personally for literal decades of entertainment, particularly six years of Friday nights at 9PM, mostly before I had a driver’s license. You didn’t miss Rockford Files unless you were a communist, or a pussy.

    Thank heavens for a complete DVD collection anytime I want to see it again.

    “We’re glad to hear you’re using our answering machine. Now how about paying us for it?”

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