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.