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.