What I’ve learned from The Rockford Files

We have been watching The Rockford Files on Netflicks with the kids lately, and it’s been an absolute joy. The cars, the clothes, the pay phones: all those wonderful relics of a time that seems almost horse-and-buggyish now, even to us adults.

Watching the show all these years later, I’m aware of a lot of things that slipped right by me when I first watched it as a kid with my family. Here are some of the things I’ve learned from Jim Rockford over the years:

  • A quick tongue and quicker wit are more useful than a gun.
  • Good guys don’t always finish first, but that doesn’t mean they finish last.
  • Not everyone who’s done time has committed a crime, though it’s hard to sort them out because everyone in jail claims to be innocent.
  • People are often deeply biased against those who have served time.
  • Most of the shows I watched in childhood were set in southern California. (This is in contrast to most of the shows I watched as a young adult, which were set in the Pacific Northwest or Toronto.)
  • I have survived some pretty bizarre fashion trends.

Here are the things my children comment on the most:

  • The awesome theme music.
  • The relative inconvenience of pay phones, compared to cell phones.
  • The car chase scenes.
  • The appalling fact that no one wears seat belts (especially given the car chase scenes).
  • The puzzling fact that nearly everyone is a casual smoker.
  • The laughable lack of airport security.

I’d forgotten how delightful James Garner is in this role – too compassionate and human to be hard-boiled, but tough and crafty enough to hold his own in the company of genuine criminals. He plays Rockford as an honest man living on the edge of respectability and financial solvency, which lends a faint air of desperation to his choices. We’re never entirely sure how much he enjoys acting the gambler and con artist and how much he just does to survive. I find myself once again enchanted by his warmth, his wry sense of humor, and his disarming frankness, and I’m pleased that my children have succumbed to his charms as well.

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10 responses to “What I’ve learned from The Rockford Files

  1. I’m going to have to just start watching those again…I adored that show. Tell your kids that there were payphones that you could drive up to and use without getting out of the car, though getting out isn’t so bad if you’re not wearing a harness. Everything you said…true!

    • Ah, yes, the drive-up pay phone. Usually found at gas stations, on the side, near the air hose that you could use for free. My daughter is especially grossed out at the idea of putting to your ear a receiver that has also been in contact with the ears of any number of unknown (and possibly unwashed) persons.

  2. I think that the show was made before shoulder harnesses were in cars. I cannot imagine that Jim or any other stunt person would not wear a seatbelt.

  3. The theme is stuck in my head, but that’s okay; it’s an awesome theme.

  4. true there were no shoulder harnesses back when the show was made. There were seat belts but it was not mandatory to wear them when first introduced.. Stunt people would more than likely wear a seat belt but would be hard to see them put it on with no shoulder harness.
    However since it ran from 74 to 80 towards the end of the 70s the shoulder harness were in cars so some episodes should have had them in the show unless only older cars were used. I remember this because I had a toyota I bought in 1976 had those short lived automatic seatbelts with harness that almost choke u to death as it locked U in the seat.

    • Ah, yes, the automatic seat belt. My poor mother was always getting beaned by the one in my car. Once it caught her glasses and pulled them right off her face — wait’ll the kids hear about that! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  5. I think James Garner play this role as a reluctant hero ..Didn’t want to get involved but always did for right reasons But need ed his 200 an hour with expenses

    • I agree that Jim Rockford was pretty much a reluctant hero — he definitely preferred to pay the bills by finding lost dogs, but his big heart and sense of fair play often drew him into more complicated cases. I believe it was $200 a day, not an hour, which was still pretty good pay. As a freelancer myself, however, I understand that you don’t usually have paid work every day, and sometimes a check has to stretch an awful long way until the next one comes along. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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