James Garner back on TV with “The Rockford Files”
The team that brought you “Maverick” is back together after 15 years.
James Garner and producer-creator Roy Huggins are in harness again for another try at a wry, tongue-in-cheek series, “The Rockford Files.” Garner’s Bret Maverick was a Western gambler — money-hungry, work-shy, and a man who got heroic only if he was forced into it. Jim Rockford is a modern-day private eye, money-hungry, and a man who gets heroic only if he’s forced into it.
“Jim and I have been wanting to get back together for 15 years, and we’ve finally made it,” Huggins said.
It worked once, and it could work again. “Maverick” was a top-rated ABC series in the late 1950s, until Garner quit to make movies.
MORE: James Garner: I call on Bret Maverick (1958)
The 90-minute pilot for “The Rockford Files” airs on NBC Wednesday night in a double feature with a new version of “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.” Stephen J. Cannell wrote the script from a story by Huggins.
“Rockford doesn’t have a license to carry a gun,” Garner said. “He doesn’t carry one because he might be forced to use it. He’d rather find the clues and give them over to the police. He ‘s being paid to solve the case. not be heroic.”
He does play the hero, but he’s deceptive about it. In one scene, he knocks out a karate expert by trickery, then tells him, “The trouble with you karate experts is you always assume the other guy’s going to play fair.”
Rockford spent five years in prison. “He says he was bad-rapped, and since I play Rockford, I have to agree with him,” Garner says. Unlike Mannix or Barnaby Jones, Rockford wants to know what’s in it for him. He wants to be sure he’s going to be paid.
Garner, 45, made a string of successful movies, then tried another series in 1971. The show, “Nichols,” was canceled by NBC after one season.
He said he. didn’t care if he was working in movies or television.
“I look at it this way,” he said. “I’m an actor. People pay me to act. I really don’t care that it is. movies. television. or even commercials. What I want to do is something when I get up in the morning. I want to go to work. The worst thing is having to get up and go to work and do something you don’t enjoy.
“Some people think ‘Nichols’ was a failure, but I don’t know when I enjoyed anything more. I was anxious to go to work. I enjoyed it. That’s the whole thing with me.”
The Rockford Files – intro/opening theme
Each episode opened with the same visuals, but before the theme song started playing, there was a different incoming message being left on the answering machine.
MORE: Own the whole series on DVD!
TV Guide cover: Noah Beery and James Garner from The Rockford Files (1976)