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The Rockford Files Redux
March 1, 2010 9:03 AM   Subscribe

NBC is rebooting the classic 70's detective show The Rockford Files. The Rockford Files was perhaps the best '70's detective show out there. Jim Rockford, played by James Garner, had more charm than bank balance, and more than often enough his "friends" were less than helpful. But the "closed criminal cases only" P.I. always got through the hour, and somehow looked cool despite being a less than snappy dresser. Perhaps it was the gold Pontiac Firebird Esprit he drove around Southern California. Rockford was able to live on the beach in Malibu, even if it was in a trailer home in the parking lot of a restaurant.

It was the show's excellent writing and producing that really got viewers hooked. Each week brought new and interesting characters who seemed more real than the cardboard cut-outs often seen on network TV. Industry heavyweights Steven J. Cannell, Juanita Bartlett and David Chase (known for a few other shows you might have seen) were behind the steady writing. You can still see the first three seasons on Hulu.

Now Dermot Mulroney is set to star as the new James Rockford. This time around, the show will be executive produced by David Shore (House, M.D.), and Steve Carell. Let's hope they keep the iconic telephone answering machine opening and the gold Firebird Esprit.
posted by Ironmouth (128 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
GODDAMNIT. I keep avoiding news of this because I don't want to believe it's true.

A lot of -- at the time great -- old shows have not aged well. Rockford is not one of them. Check it out.

The quicker this fails, the sooner I can pretend it never happened.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:08 AM on March 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Do you consider Kojak a detective show? Cuz I'll put that up against the Rockford Files. Also, Colombo.
posted by spicynuts at 9:08 AM on March 1, 2010


Firebird. WTF is an Esprit?
posted by fixedgear at 9:09 AM on March 1, 2010


The Rockford Files worked so well because James Garner was so fucking good and his style was perfect for the role. I like Dermot Mulroney, but he's no James Garner. Can't they just make a new show rather than rely on the crutch of brand recognition? Even if Dermot does a good job, which I'm sure he will, his performance will always be held up to the original.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 9:09 AM on March 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


A lot of -- at the time great -- old shows have not aged well. Rockford is not one of them. Check it out.

They aren't re-running the old episodes they are creating a new show.
posted by spicynuts at 9:09 AM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


They aren't re-running the old episodes they are creating a new show.

Rockford has been in continuous syndication since first airing, I believe. They most certainly are re-running the old episodes.
As for your other comment, flagged for breach of preferred reality.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:12 AM on March 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


A lot of -- at the time great -- old shows have not aged well. Rockford is not one of them. Check it out.

The quicker this fails, the sooner I can pretend it never happened.


I watch it all the time on RTN. I think it has aged very well.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:13 AM on March 1, 2010


Other part of comment, rather.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:13 AM on March 1, 2010


I've seen Rockford praised in more than one forum but never checked it out. Hopefully this will be the impetus I need.
posted by DU at 9:13 AM on March 1, 2010


Firebird. WTF is an Esprit?

A type of Firebird.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:14 AM on March 1, 2010


I watch it all the time on RTN. I think it has aged very well.

Perhaps my double negative has people confused. Many shows have not aged well. TRF is not one of those. It has aged well. In fact, "well" is putting it mildly. I'd watch it if it were new (though they'd have to have a hell of a budget for all the 70's cars, which are a joy to see).
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:14 AM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Of the all-time stupid and blasphemous ideas, this is one of them.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:16 AM on March 1, 2010


The 1998 film Twilight (before the Mormon vampire writer ruined the word for all of eternity) has Garner play a bit of a sly reference to his TV character. Not a classic movie, by any means, but I love noir-ish films and it has a few Hollywood greats in it, including Gene Hackman and Paul Newman.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:16 AM on March 1, 2010


Great, now I have the theme song in my head.


Neeer-neer nenenerrrrr,
neener-neener-nee-nee - neeer
[tympani] bum bu du dummm


posted by Ratio at 9:16 AM on March 1, 2010 [16 favorites]


The Rockford Files worked so well because James Garner was so fucking good and his style was perfect for the role. I like Dermot Mulroney, but he's no James Garner. Can't they just make a new show rather than rely on the crutch of brand recognition? Even if Dermot does a good job, which I'm sure he will, his performance will always be held up to the original.

My concerns exactly. A buddy of mine and I have been arguing for months over who should get this role. The character has to be physically big and charming, but capable of playing a loser.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:16 AM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I want Mr. Rockford taken of the case . . .permanently.
posted by nola at 9:17 AM on March 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was just pointing out the other day in the "pop-rules" thread on movies/tv, that I am somewhat anti-gun violence of late, coming out of some fairly gun-heavy media and into what I expected would be a pretty lightweight, run-of-the-mill Rockford episode, and find him getting shot in the head. Apparently the writers decided that you can't go sandbagging gunmen too many times before one of them, you know, pulls the trigger. Much respect. (but wow, so disturbing)

The only ways in which TRF doesn't fit in modern tv (and so in a sense it has "aged") are the things it does incredibly well.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:17 AM on March 1, 2010


Dermot Mulroney is NBC's new Jim Rockford.

There should be regular antagonist played by Dylan McDermott.
posted by brundlefly at 9:17 AM on March 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Perhaps my double negative has people confused. Many shows have not aged well. TRF is not one of those. It has aged well.

Aaaahh, agreed. We can only hope.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:18 AM on March 1, 2010


I like Dermot Mulroney, but he's no James Garner.

James Garner is the only James Garner. That is not meant to be sarcastic - TRF was only good because of James Garner, without him it is another me-too PI show.

Why do they keep doing this? MAKE UP A NEW F***ING SHOW!

(sorry, what's that? too much hassle? don't have the writers? too lazy? the focus groups didn't like the idea?)
posted by the_very_hungry_caterpillar at 9:18 AM on March 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Blazecock, I agree. Twilight ain't brilliant or anything, but it's a hell of a lot of fun.
posted by brundlefly at 9:19 AM on March 1, 2010


One of the best television series - ever - and I say that without hyperbole. The wit and humor of the show was unparalleled then, and I cynically doubt that Hollywood's crop of twenty something writers these days could produce anything close to that level of quality. /getoffmylawn

I still vividly remember one scene where Rockford was holed up in a cabin, being shot at by mob types. The only weapon in the house was a pellet gun. Rockford busted out a window and opened up on 'em. They saw the weapon and ducked, but when one of the gangsters got pasted in the forehead with a pellet....he was pissed, and Rockford was up a creek. I still chuckle at that.
posted by Xoebe at 9:22 AM on March 1, 2010


Rockford Files is a great show, and I am not opposed to a reboot - but there are so many things they'll have to do right in order to make it actually 'Rockford Files' instead of 'random private dick show called Rockford Files'.

Who's gonna play Rocky? Who's gonna play Dennis? Who's gonna play Angel, for goodness' sake?

Beth?

And they better goddamn well do the them song right.
posted by dirtdirt at 9:23 AM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've never been able to find it in a Web search. But I swear that I once read that James Garner said of the then-still-in-the-White-House Ronald Reagan - more or less in these words:

He was an idiot when he was president of the Screen Actors Guild and he's an idiot now that he's president of the United States.

That took big brass ones. He's been my hero ever since.

Never watched The Rockford Files. But I've seen it cited as a classic example of 70s television pacing that would be unendurable today - i.e. car pulls into parking lot, car finds parknig space, Rockford emerges from car, Rockford walks up to house, Rockford rings doorbell, door is answered...
posted by Joe Beese at 9:25 AM on March 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


James Garner was born in my town (Norman, OK) & a few years back we had this big hulabaloo of "James Garner Day." They renamed a short stretch of road (practically an alley) "James Garner Rd", & put up a big statue of him in the center of town. It got us into this "Weird Oklahoma" travel guide, but I think the horse statue w/ the glowing red eyes is much stranger.
posted by broken wheelchair at 9:25 AM on March 1, 2010


Let's hope they keep the iconic telephone answering machine opening [...]

Well, my opinion is irrelevant, since I am firmly in the "this is the greatest atrocity of all times" camp and will never watch this, but can we please *not* have a telephone answering machine?

Nothing takes me out of the mood more than seeing an actual answering machine in contemporary entertainment. Even my parents have call-waiting now. No one outside of the movies has an answering machine anymore (except for the deluge of mefi's that are going to reply to this, of course. Hi!).
posted by bonecrusher at 9:26 AM on March 1, 2010


I thought Twilight was so mediocre — which was really surprising considering its cast: James Garner, Paul Newman, Gene Hackman, Susan Sarandon, and Reese Witherspoon and Liev Schrieber.

I remember one good moment though. James Garner's character asks Paul Newman, "Had any problems with your prostate yet?" "Uh, no." "Something to look forward to."
posted by orange swan at 9:27 AM on March 1, 2010


I bought two Firebirds as a kid just because James Garner looked so damn cool in them. Did all his own driving stunts, too, having been a stunt man before his handsome, competent-in-an-incompetent-way of doing things charmed Hollywood.

I don't think the show will be the show without Garner. You can have 'The Wild, Wild West' without Robert Conrad, cause for that, any handsome jackass will do; and you can have anyone play 'Mannix' as long as you keep the theme song; but Rockford ain't Rockford if Garner ain't in his pants.

And who will be Angel? Stuart Margolin, where are ye?
posted by umberto at 9:28 AM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


At least they cast a 46 year old actor to play the role. I would have expected them to hire a pretty 20 something to play Rockford. Half of the fun of the show was that he was a little to old to be running around after bad guys. It's hard to imagine that they could replicate the laid-back 70s charm of the old show though.
posted by octothorpe at 9:29 AM on March 1, 2010


But who is going to play Angel?
posted by Ber at 9:29 AM on March 1, 2010


I'm not going to say it can't be done. I'm not going to say it shouldn't be done. I'm not even going to say it is impossible for a new show to capture the lighting-in-a-bottle genius of The Rockford Files, while was the nee plus ultra of gritty, realistic 70s crime shows, relying on a very believable hero who handled some very unpleasant cases in a fairly realistic manner, and was pretty much broke all the time as a result. I won't say it's impossible to find an actor who could embody that role with the shaggy charm of James Garner.

I won't say it can't be done.

Because I shouldn't have to say it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:30 AM on March 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Wouldn't cellphone voicemail do the job?
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 9:30 AM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Reading that excahnge on screen I see it doesn't read as all that funny. The delivery made it: Newman slightly startled and awkward over having been asked such a question, Garner so glum.
posted by orange swan at 9:30 AM on March 1, 2010


Nothing takes me out of the mood more than seeing an actual answering machine in contemporary entertainment.

Ooh! The pre-credits gag will be a screenshot of his Twitter! AAAAAH!!
posted by dirtdirt at 9:31 AM on March 1, 2010


Why are people (Alan Sepinwall, I'm looking at you and your twitter) dogging on Dermot Mulroney? I happen to find him positively perfect in every way--acting ability, charm, looks (that little scar, yum), his scratchy voice. I think he's going to be fantastic in this role, especially for those of us who weren't around for the original series and therefore think of James Garner as That Lovely Grandpa from The Notebook.

There should be regular antagonist played by Dylan McDermott.

Ahaha, yes.
posted by sallybrown at 9:33 AM on March 1, 2010


A buddy of mine and I have been arguing for months over who should get this role. The character has to be physically big and charming, but capable of playing a loser.

Did one of you pick Bruce Campbell? Because if not, I think you both owe me about 100 internets.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:37 AM on March 1, 2010 [12 favorites]


But who is going to play Angel?

another big question we had. Stuart Margolin was one of the best things about that show. So annoying. So manipulative, yet so pathetic that Rockford had to help.

A buddy of mine and I have been arguing for months over who should get this role. The character has to be physically big and charming, but capable of playing a loser.

Did one of you pick Bruce Campbell? Because if not, I think you both owe me about 100 internets.


Naaah, He's too camp, really. Good actor, but just not right.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:44 AM on March 1, 2010


Networks! - heed the lessons of Brett Farve! Stop bringing old properties that were once good, even legendary, out of retirement. You'll only tarnish their reputation.

Instead, why not call some players up from the bush leagues?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:45 AM on March 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Boooooo on principle. Also, Yaaaaay!
posted by Mister_A at 9:45 AM on March 1, 2010


James Garner looked so damn cool in them. Did all his own driving stunts, too, having been a stunt man before his handsome, competent-in-an-incompetent-way of doing things charmed Hollywood.

My friends and I would alway joke about "Rockford File Turns". I see that they've actually been enshrined in WP, albeit under a different (clumsier, IMO) moniker:

One oft-recurring element of the show was the famous "Jim Rockford turn-around" (also known as a J-turn, and commonly employed as an evasive driving technique being taught to Secret Service agents driving for the President of the United States). When trying to evade someone tailing him or when otherwise cornered, Rockford would shift into reverse, speed up backwards in a straight line and sharply turn his wheels. This maneuver would spin his car around 180 degrees and he would then quickly shift back into forward gear, speeding off to escape while maintaining a straight course the whole time.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:49 AM on March 1, 2010


The Rockford Files worked so well because James Garner was so fucking good and his style was perfect for the role.

That's not a coincidence. Rockford was an attempt at revisiting the success Garner had with Maverick but in a modern setting. Apparently they even recycled Maverick plots (which would be fun!) but I'm still too new to Maverick to spot those parallels.

I think he was a big part of setting the tone of that show. Mind you, you can imitate the tone and aspects of the character without him being there, but Rockford minus Garner would still not be "just another P.I. show". I grew up on reruns of Mannix, Columbo, Vegas, and a little McMillan & Wife (ostensibly a cop show but really P.I.-structured). I was the perfect age for Magnum and Simon & Simon and adored those, too. The writing on Rockford, though, set it apart. And that writing plus Garner was, of course, magic.

Really, I try not to rag on remakes, though I lament the dearth of new ideas or commitment to following them through as much as anyone else. Rockford, though? Why mess with that?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:51 AM on March 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think James Garner would rule in Shit My Dad Says over Capt. Kirk.
posted by stormpooper at 9:52 AM on March 1, 2010


If Dermot Mulroney in "The Rockford Files" goes as well for NBC as "The Marriage Ref" went last night (or as well as anything else has gone for NBC of late), it should be a flaming corpse within weeks if not sooner.
posted by blucevalo at 9:54 AM on March 1, 2010


I clicked [more inside] to say this in-my-opinion ill-conceived show will rise or fall based on the lead (See Bionic Woman, The, 2007 remake of1) but then I read the last paragraph.

I like Dermot Mulroney just fine, but I just don't think so.

Prove me wrong TV and Mr. Mulroney, prove me wrong. I won't hate it until I give it a chance. I'd be happy to have an enjoyable scripted program that I can enjoy in a one-off, non-serial format.

1 I was a big fan of Michelle Ryan from Jekyll and especially EastEnders too.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:54 AM on March 1, 2010


Just further evidence that Hollywood is out of ideas. Move along, nothing to see here.
posted by lordrunningclam at 9:55 AM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was in middle school when Rockford Files first aired, loved that show and wanted to grow up to marry James Garner.

I wonder how will they frame the opening on the new series given how much tone was set by the original? The original show opened to a pan across Rockford's unattended desk while someone leaves a message on his answering machine. The messages reinforce Rockford's status as, well, somewhat of a loser and the whole point is *Rockford is never home to hear them.* The viewer vividly gets the impression that Rockford rarely plays back his answering machine (also a long-running joke on the show where Rockford finally shows up in the nick of time to save Rocky because he finally thought to play his messages).

Nowadays, those kind of messages would be left in a cellfone's voicemail box, which is only heard when the owner of the cell phone retrieves them and thus, we know Rockford hears them because he's standing right there with a cell pressed up to his ear, which changes the tenor of the interaction and aggghhh, I don't want to watch the new show. ::pout::

Firebird. WTF is an Esprit?
Esprit was a trim line designation. For the 1975 model (the one Rockford usually but not always drove—the show used several '76 and '77s, all painted in Coppermine Gold) this meant a fancier interior but the same engine as the base model.

(the firebird's license plate was CA 853-OKG)
(on the show, his phone number was 213-555-2368)
I so loved Rockford Files.
posted by jamaro at 9:56 AM on March 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Aha. I thought Vegas had disappeared off the internet for some reason but of course I wasn't looking for Vega$.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:57 AM on March 1, 2010


Oh, Rockfish!
posted by Danf at 9:58 AM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hmm.. I don't recall Rockford particularly being a "less than snappy dresser" but then, that was the 70's and everyone's fashion sense kind of sucked.

What I love best about the show is the sense of time. It captures the Los Angeles of the era better than any other show I know of. I moved to LA just after the show ended in 1980, and Rockford's LA rapidly disappeared, it became more crowded and more contentious. Watching the show is like a visit back to my little old town, just before it all went to hell. I mean, watch closely sometime, see how little traffic is on the freeways, and how he always finds a convenient parking spot.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:00 AM on March 1, 2010


Hmm... Bruce Campbell. It's a shame he's done so much (so, so much) camp, because that might actually work if he didn't drag that tone and expectation with him.

Dermot is ok for this, but again, you have to stop yourself from trying to replace Garner, which can't be done.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:01 AM on March 1, 2010


...those of us who weren't around for the original series and therefore think of James Garner as That Lovely Grandpa from The Notebook.

Your Assignment Tonight.
posted by marxchivist at 10:06 AM on March 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hmm.. I don't recall Rockford particularly being a "less than snappy dresser" but then, that was the 70's and everyone's fashion sense kind of sucked.

In one of the episodes he's helping a fashion model and she makes a few comments on his wardrobe that are less than generous. It was a running gag.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:09 AM on March 1, 2010


Can't really tell if they're going to keep it retro or update it. If they go retro I don't really understand because it's not like they're going to create something more pleasingly retro than the old show itself. And if they update it I'm not sure if it works so well unless they pretend that cell phones for everyone and the internet don't exist.

I can understand Mulroney because he does have that necessary dopey look sometimes. I don't know if he can do the "plain folks" way of talking though. And frankly everything I've seen him in, he's been sort of lifeless and seemed like a bad choice for a lead.

Can't they just make a new show rather than rely on the crutch of brand recognition?

Apparently they can't. I mean, Rockford Files wasn't even THAT new, it was that man who everybody liked in Maverick playing pretty much the same character. I think it was a bit too formulaic too, but the execution was superb.
posted by fleacircus at 10:12 AM on March 1, 2010


Bruce Campbell is an interesting idea. I mean, he's practically playing a variant Rockford on Burn Notice already, and every time I see that sad little show I wish the whole thing was built around Sam instead, though for some reason I get the impression Campbell might not want to work that hard.
posted by fleacircus at 10:15 AM on March 1, 2010


Did one of you pick Bruce Campbell?

Burn Notice has him & we're not letting him go. Shoo!
posted by scalefree at 10:19 AM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


That theme song.
posted by philip-random at 10:19 AM on March 1, 2010


A buddy of mine and I have been arguing for months over who should get this role.

I was hoping for Josh Brolin.

Twilight is not a good movie, no. I rewatched it about a month ago and wish I hadn't.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 10:27 AM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


My favorite TV theme by a long shot. If they keep the original tune for the remake, I cringe thinking what they'll replace the Moog with to play the melody line.
posted by makabampow at 10:28 AM on March 1, 2010


Burn Notice has him & we're not letting him go.

You don't seriously watch that show, do you? Holy crap, it's terrible. (Tell me, did they reveal yet that his dad burned him? That was my prediction after 8 minutes of watching.) That main guy is the least charismatic actor I've ever seen in my life no exaggeration.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 10:29 AM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think Conan should be Jim Rockford.
posted by chocolatetiara at 10:31 AM on March 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Rockford was fantastic, but in a pinch, I'd take Columbo.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:35 AM on March 1, 2010


I'm wondering who they will pick for my favorite supporting actor - Jim Santos as the ever suffering Lt. Dennis Becker.
posted by charlesminus at 10:37 AM on March 1, 2010


One oft-recurring element of the show was the famous "Jim Rockford turn-around"

In high school, I friends and I practiced this endlessly, only to discover that the reason we weren't really getting it right was that we were driving front wheel drive cars. Switching to rear suddenly made it much, much easier.

Though, it did lead to winter, snow-covered-parking-lot attempts at perfecting the Reverse Rockford in the front wheel drive cars.

And, god damn, that was some fun.
posted by quin at 10:38 AM on March 1, 2010


In high school, I friends and I practiced this endlessly, only to discover that the reason we weren't really getting it right was that we were driving front wheel drive cars. Switching to rear suddenly made it much, much easier.

I had a friend who had it mastered with his dad's station wagon, and he didn't need snow or ice or even a little rain. The secret was lots of speed and sudden application of the emergency brake accompanied with just the right flick of the wrist. I don't think he ever crashed the thing but they eventually took his license away anyway.
posted by philip-random at 10:44 AM on March 1, 2010


One oft-recurring element of the show was the famous "Jim Rockford turn-around"

Also, unlike everyone else, he never willingly let himself be led to slaughter. Every time someone tried to march him off at gunpoint, he'd pretend to go along and within the first 3 seconds make some move to get away.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:49 AM on March 1, 2010


There are some fun details in TRF that really date it -- the fact that he kept a tiny portable business card printing press in his car to bluff his way past suspicious administrative assistants and doormen, for example. These days it doesn't prove much: my cat has business cards. I'm trying to figure out what the modern equivalent is. Having a single-word domain name? Hmmm.
posted by verb at 11:02 AM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I remember being surprised as a kid by the fact that if Rockford had to punch someone, he often hurt his own fist as well. A nice touch of realism.
posted by The Mouthchew at 11:06 AM on March 1, 2010


Tell me, did they reveal yet that his dad burned him?

No, they haven't revealed that. It seems unlikely given that his dad, who was a small-time criminal but never a spy, died several years before Michael was burned.

There are two things that draw me to keep watching Burn Notice. First, the espionage tradecraft is always depicted with exacting precision, especially when it comes to technology, which is exceedingly rare in Hollywood (when you compare it to its closest competition, Leverage, the realism/fantasy differential is striking). From the Pringles can-enhanced bluetooth hacking to freezing the RAM on a hard drive to bypass its encryption, they always do it right. And I realize this is a personal thing that may not translate to others but second, Michael's character quite reminds me of an ex-CIA field engineer I used to work with. He had the most amazing stories about all the times he was almost blown up or shot. Whenever someone in the show talks about "Michael Weston stories", I can't help but think of my friend Jon.
posted by scalefree at 11:08 AM on March 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've often thought that Hugh Laurie's American-accented voice, if pitched down just ever so slightly, is basically a swaggering impression of James Rockford. So, I think it's interesting that it's being produced by the same guy who produces House.
posted by hanoixan at 11:10 AM on March 1, 2010


Do you consider Kojak a detective show? Cuz I'll put that up against the Rockford Files.

You know, Kojak's ridiculous macho posturing just wrecked that one for me. Plus his amazing ability to shut down all of New York: "Crocker! I want you to shut down LaGuardia, Kennedy and Grand Central! Now!"

Believable not.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:10 AM on March 1, 2010


No, they haven't revealed that. It seems unlikely given that his dad, who was a small-time criminal but never a spy, died several years before Michael was burned.

But is he really dead?
posted by Ironmouth at 11:11 AM on March 1, 2010


Michael's character quite reminds me of an ex-CIA field engineer I used to work with. He had the most amazing stories about all the times he was almost blown up or shot.

In otherwords, are you sure? Because you know, they aren't supposed to talk about it.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:15 AM on March 1, 2010


Burn Notice is the black sheep of the USA Show family. At family reunions, while Monk cooks the steaks it bought on its new top-of-the-line grill, Psych tells this long, shaggy dog story around the beer cooler, and youngest sibling White Collar desperately-but-adorably tries to get someone to look at the sweet drawing it did of a boat that the network put up on the fridge, Burn Notice sits alone on a chair by the pool, glowering.

Every so often Law and Order: Criminal Intent swings by and tries to start a conversation, but nobody likes that step-sibling anyways.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:21 AM on March 1, 2010


Joe Beese:

Perhaps this is what your thinking of:

Oh, Ronnie, Ronnie, isn’t he wonderful? Listen, I was vice-president of the Screen Actors Guild when he was its president, and we used to tell him what to say. He can talk around a subject better than anyone in the world. He’s never had an original thought that I know of, and we go back a hell of a lot of years. Do you realize I could have been your president?


(was in Garner's biography)
posted by edgeways at 11:28 AM on March 1, 2010


A few months ago, at Starbucks, a guy in his mid-30's was talking to a barista, and I overheard one bit: "There's was this old show my mother loves, The Rockford Files, and [...]". This was in West Hollywood. I felt really old at that moment.

Also, while Garner was key, don't underestimate the powerful chemistry between the cast - Rocky, Dennis, Angel, Beth - each a real character and seemed to truly interact with the others. That's rare in TV. This chemistry was at least part of the success of the show, however good the individual actors were.

I wish them luck in the remake, but I don't hold out much hope. They'd have to get lucky on so many levels, even if all the individual actors they pick are great. There's magic there, that doesn't happen too often, and which you can't really control for.
posted by VikingSword at 11:30 AM on March 1, 2010


I remember watching The Rockford Files with my crazy father as some of the moments of my childhood that didn't suck. I have no dog in the re-make fight, but hey, it might make my dad happy to watch it and anything that makes the man happy that doesn't also make him talk to me about Jesus is a Good Thing in my book.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:32 AM on March 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Dermot Mulroney is NBC's new Jim Rockford.

The fuck he is. (And I generally like Dermot Mulroney.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:34 AM on March 1, 2010


A little Garner tidbit ...He helped organize Martin Luther King's march on Washington for Civil Rights in 1963
posted by edgeways at 11:42 AM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


...the famous "Jim Rockford turn-around"

AKA the "Bootlegger Turn". I tried this in my mother's station wagon, sometime around 1977, and dropped the tranny all over my high school parking lot. Ah, the salad years...

Oh, Rockfish!

Yeah, right -- who's gonna play Issac Hayes?
posted by steambadger at 11:47 AM on March 1, 2010


Really? Because I've known only one guy who was an operative in the CIA.

He wasn't a NOC, just field support tech. Did a lot of work with burst radio transmitters, that sort of thing.
posted by scalefree at 11:51 AM on March 1, 2010


No, they haven't revealed that. It seems unlikely given that his dad, who was a small-time criminal but never a spy, died several years before Michael was burned.

They dropped a lot of hints throughout the first season that there might be more to the story than this, but they haven't picked that thread back up yet.

You don't seriously watch that show, do you? Holy crap, it's terrible.

I'm going to have to just go ahead and completely disagree with you on this one. I think it's a fantastic show with a few minor rough edges (the "titling" of an introduced character has gotten really excessive). In one of the commentaries Bruce said something really insightful, which, upon reflection, really resonates for me as a big reason I enjoy the show: It's not a kid's show; it's full of middle aged actors. And as someone who is stepping into that age bracket with both feet, it's kind of refreshing to watch something where all the competent, bad ass people are as old as, or even older than I am.

That, in and of itself, is enough of an oddity to make it cool to me, add in the voice-over narration, the proper use of tradecraft that scalefree mentioned, and you have something interesting and entertaining enough to get me back every week.
posted by quin at 11:56 AM on March 1, 2010


Whenever I'm given a pentest engagement that includes a social engineering component, I draw on Rockford Files & Burn Notice as inspiration for both planning my roles to play & the attitude I try to project. I'll admit I don't have the natural social ease that they do but still, it's served me well over the years.
posted by scalefree at 11:58 AM on March 1, 2010


Some day soon I will read that Angel is played by Wayne Knight in a false beard and James Cromwell was cast as Rocky. And then I will fold my newspaper, lay it down on the table, and smile grimly at the thought that I forsook this heresy.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:02 PM on March 1, 2010


Garner is, as has been pointed out, from my hometown (and hence my handle here, incidentally) of Norman. LEGEND HAS IT that he once rode his motorcycle through the (hallowed, fabled, etc) halls of Norman High as a total badass hellraiser. Dermot Mulroney is history's greatest monster.
posted by norm at 12:04 PM on March 1, 2010


Where is Jonmc, we need Jonmc, someone leave a message on his answering machine.
posted by Divine_Wino at 12:11 PM on March 1, 2010


James Garner is the only James Garner. That is not meant to be sarcastic - TRF was only good because of James Garner, without him it is another me-too PI show.

James Garner appears to be an amazingly sweet guy too, the_very_hungry_caterpillar.

About five or six years ago, I was idly reading - of all things - the letters page of TV Guide magazine.

There was a follow up piece by an ordinary viewer -who had had a two-line letter published months before when she had commented - after some poll or other - that James Garner had always been her fave actor & how, in his prime, no one could touch him for sexiness. (Something like that.)

The follow up explained that James Garner had read her original letter (or someone had mentioned it to him) and had gotten someone to track her down, then Garner had phoned her at home (of course, she hadn't believed it was him at first) just to say to her privately "your comment made my day - thank you so much!". Then they had a nice chat.

(The magazine had confirmed her story with the actor's "spokesman" or something.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:12 PM on March 1, 2010


Glad to see NBC has its priorities in order.
posted by littlerobothead at 12:15 PM on March 1, 2010


I don't remember much about the Rockford Files other than the answering machine openings... maybe that's why I'm OK with this idea.

Just as long as they don't do the stupid campy crap that was done to the movies of Starsky & Hutch and Dukes of Hazzard.
posted by dnash at 12:32 PM on March 1, 2010


About 10 years I was in a hotel and caught The Rockford Files on the cable channel. I hadn't seen the show in years and I was really enjoying it, wondering who done it. Then, as the episode ended, I discovered it was a two parter. The show wasn't on television where I lived. TV shows on DVD hadn't taken off. There was no way I was going to be around for part two. I've never forgiven James Garner for doing that to me.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:35 PM on March 1, 2010


This is a bad idea. Approximately 95% of the original show's success was due to James Garner's charisma. Do yourself a favor: any time you think of this crappy reboot, watch Barbarians at the Gate instead.

Apparently Rockford's trailer was parked at Paradise Cove in Malibu [map].
William Conrad's house on Jake and the Fatman was there, too.

the firebird's license plate was CA 853-OKG

"stands for August, 1953, when Garner got his first acting job, and OKG which stands for Oklahoma Garner, his home state."
posted by kirkaracha at 12:41 PM on March 1, 2010


Only because of Carell's involvement will I even consider watching this.
posted by clvrmnky at 12:51 PM on March 1, 2010


I'm going to have to just go ahead and completely disagree with you on this one. ... It's not a kid's show; it's full of middle aged actors.

Yeah, we'll have to agree to disagree. It may not feature kids but it certainly treats its audience as children. Barely a moment passes in any episode where the audience isn't being spoonfed. The voice over reveals all inner conflict and themes that the show offers. "When you're a spy, you use people as assets... you don't have a personal relationship with an an asset, you don't care about an asset, you don't miss the scent of an asset when she leaves the room." Gee, thanks. Why don't you show us this instead of telling us? Oh, right, because that actor couldn't reveal internal conflict if his life depended on it. :)
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 1:07 PM on March 1, 2010


by all means do another P-I show, but don't call it The Rockford Files. It's a show that can only exist within the context it did in the 1970s.

WTF is it with not generating original ideas? Are we that culturally lame and weak that we can't come up with fresh, new ideas?!? Oh right ... who am I trying to kid. We are that culturally lame and weak.

and thanks for sharing stories about women finding Garner attractive. my mom thought he was totally swoon-worthy, and i never understood it, nor had ever heard any other woman express such sentiment...
posted by kuppajava at 1:14 PM on March 1, 2010


WTF is it with not generating original ideas?

Everything is a rip-off of Shakespeare, who ripped it all off from other people.

Hamlet was a PI.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:19 PM on March 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, James Garner / Jim Rockford was my first and most prolonged (still) actor crush. Yes.

I really like Dermot Mulroney, but oh it's so not the same thing.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 1:24 PM on March 1, 2010


The Real Rockford Files: A Projective Outline

Twelve potential "James Rockfords" are randomly selected via a nation-wide, text-message-lottery.

The 12 Rockfords participate in a series of televised P.I. competitions: Self-deprecating charm. Soft-hearted cynicism. Stunt driving. Impromptu identity theft. Surveillance. Investigative skills. And reluctant violence.

The season's winning Jim Rockford is housed in a beach trailer, given a somewhat battered late model high performance car, a 10-year-old pickup truck, a designated regular coffee shop and bar, and a small allowance.

All aforementioned structures and vehicles are outfitted with cameras 24/7. A crew and producer will accompany "James" in all situations for the season's duration.

The season winner's biological father, selected high school friends and current love interests are housed nearby and contracted for episode appearances at the producer's discretion.

Opening credits establish the season's Rockford identity as a montage of the P.I. competition trials with all the accompanying near-defeat, suspense and ultimate, modest and rather vague victories.

Episodic conflicts are established by non-actors seeking investigative services: infidelity investigations, background checks, surveillance services, birth parent location, missing persons, asset location, ..., at competitive rates.

Producers are to bear in mind: Absence of plot and ambiguity of resolution are positive attributes.

Theme song and soundtracks by Billy Joel with Radiohead.
posted by xod at 3:19 PM on March 1, 2010


I vote for Steve Buscemi as Angel. I have many fond memories of watching this show with my father when I was a kid and just as many in the later years in reruns. It was by far his favorite show and one of mine too. He would call me up and invite me over to watch Rockford because as he got older his memory was lapsing and every episode seemed new to him, even though we had probably seen it like ten or twenty times. I haven't been able to watch Rockford since he died. I miss them both.
posted by HappyHippo at 3:46 PM on March 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Hamlet was a PI.

This should be a thing.
posted by quin at 3:46 PM on March 1, 2010


This might be dangerous commingling of two of my favorite police shows, but the perfect Jim Rockford 2.0 would be Dominic West.

Ah, McNulty, you scamp!
posted by william_boot at 4:04 PM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is indeed a mystifying move by NBC. Not that I understand the first thing about television programming. This sounds a bit like career suicide for anybody associated with the remake. I hope that I am wrong and that all parties prosper and that I learn to love the new show. But I doubt any of that will happen.

On the subject of Burn Notice: I love everything about it except for the way they schedule it. This thing about running a handful of new episodes then going into hiatus for what seems like six months is very annoying. But like I said, I know nothing about tv programming.
posted by Uncle Chaos at 4:05 PM on March 1, 2010


This is absolutely, positively not going to work without James Garner.

That being said, as far as Angel goes? I nominate Beni Gabor. He has the right weaselly quality for the character.
posted by misha at 4:09 PM on March 1, 2010


And you think Rockford Files is cool
But there are some things
that you would change
if it were up to you
so think about your masterpiece
watch the Rockford Files and
call to see if Paul can score some weed
posted by bwg at 4:12 PM on March 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


... but the perfect Jim Rockford 2.0 would be Dominic West.

I'd get behind that; West does rumpled very well. However, it might take a bit for me to stop expecting him to say, "What the fuck did I do?"
posted by bwg at 4:15 PM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Gah. You can't have Dominic West as Rockford. Way too long a shadow.

So what's the consensus -- is Burn Notice worth catching? I'm going to check out (*grimace*) Supernatural on the strength of umpteen words of MeFite praise, but I'd never heard of it until this thread.

Hold on... what if... what if they made Rockford a woman? Yeah! And she, she has to use old equipment like the answering machine because the, uh, criminal element can crack computer technology. Edward James Olmos can play Rocky...
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:25 PM on March 1, 2010


Was it in a parking lot? I seem to remember he was building a beach house (which had got as far as a couple of bricks worth of wall), something most restaurants frown on people doing in their parking lot.

I came here to say I'd watch it if Bruce Campbell played Jim Rockford and Quentin Tarantino took the Angel role, but Steve Buscemi might be better.
posted by GeckoDundee at 4:36 PM on March 1, 2010


Remake? Nobody has any new ideas left, right? Right? Sad.
posted by jonmc at 4:51 PM on March 1, 2010


The character has to be physically big and charming, but capable of playing a loser.

Who gets beat up in almost every episode.

Hmm, maybe they should the lead role open for a new guest star each week, someone who deserves to get beat up. Really beat up and no stunt doubles. In that case, I have a list at hand--for example, I would nominate the Toms Green and Arnold.
posted by y2karl at 4:57 PM on March 1, 2010


old shows have not aged well. Rockford is not one of them.

Huh? Rockford in not a show that has not aged well? So you think it has? Or hasn't? I'm confused.
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:02 PM on March 1, 2010


Who is the tall, dark stranger there?
Maverick is the name.
Ridin' the trail to who knows where,
Luck is his companion,
Gamblin' is his game.
Smooth as the handle on a gun.
Maverick is the name.
Wild as the wind in Oregon,
Blowin' up a canyon,
Easier to tame.

Riverboat, ring your bell,
Fare thee well, Annabel.
Luck is the lady that he loves the best.
Natchez to New Orleans
Livin on jacks and queens
Maverick is a legend of the west.

Riverboat, ring your bell,
Fare thee well, Annabel.
Luck is the lady that he loves the best.
Natchez to New Orleans
Livin on jacks and queens
Maverick is a legend of the west.
Maverick is a legend of the west.
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:07 PM on March 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


The 12 Rockfords sounds like a good name for a band. That or a mystery movie.
posted by scalefree at 5:37 PM on March 1, 2010


makabampow: Henry Mancini has an excellent concert version that doesn't use the moog.

RE: Burn Notice: Enjoyed the first season, but it's been downhill from there aside from Bruce Campbell and Sharon Gless, who've improved over time. I still DVR it. I just don't get excited about it anymore.

For me, a Rockford reboot has an 80% probability of being terrible, 18% probability of being blah, and 2% probability of actually being good.

I'll still watch the premiere. Because, you know, it's Rockford.
posted by linux at 5:39 PM on March 1, 2010


... but the perfect Jim Rockford 2.0 would be Dominic West.

Oh good lord, yes. But I'd watch Dominic West in just about anything. I watched some stupid "action" movie where he had no face because he was in it. Ok, I didn't watch the whole thing because it was awful, but I TRIED.

If it were Johnny Depp... I would have made it through. My secret relationship with Dominic West just doesn't have the same level of commitment, which isn't his fault. Not everyone can be Johnny Depp.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:53 PM on March 1, 2010


I like Nathan Fillion, but he's on Castle now. He'd be a good Rockford.
posted by misha at 6:27 PM on March 1, 2010


I think there are plenty of new ideas, or fresh takes on the limited number of permutations of human affairs that can be imagined. But it's an industry geared not to minting ideas, but to minting dollars. A larger number of people will always stick with something they know: it's dollar conscience, risk aversive. We are in a deep trough of short-term mentality and this is but another instance of it.

It's why in Hollywood you can't really even pitch something unless you are able to quickly say something like, "It's Star Wars, flavored with Taxi Driver, except with mute lesbians instead of ewoks and pimps" or "It's Dances with Wolves, only instead of wolves, we'll have blue aliens..."

But Rockford...I can only hope they get half the charm of the original in the new version.
posted by umberto at 6:49 PM on March 1, 2010


Huh? Rockford in not a show that has not aged well? So you think it has? Or hasn't? I'm confused.

Oh COME ON. It's two negatives. Two. In different sentences.

I'm goin' to sleep. You kids turn off the lights when you're done.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:58 PM on March 1, 2010


So wait, do you want the lights on or off?
posted by ODiV at 7:11 PM on March 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


First off, I don't want this remade. But people remake old movies and plays... I just wish it was not for a few more years.

I don't like Mulrooney. I love Bruce Campbell but he can't play the serious side well enough - Sam Axe is far more his speed.

If they have to do this... then I want Ken Jenkins as Rocky. And Steven Weber in a recurring role as Lt. Chapman.
posted by Invalid User at 8:19 PM on March 1, 2010


You guys made me look up the theme song on Youtube. Now I understand why I was primed to fall in love with Han Solo when I hit puberty. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed TRF as a kid, but hearing the theme song reminded me all over again.

Looks like I'll be adding some of that to my Netflix instant queue.
posted by immlass at 8:54 PM on March 1, 2010


Apparently Rockford's trailer was parked at Paradise Cove in Malibu..

Yeah, that was my favorite beach, back when I lived in LA. And Rockford was why I went there to check it out in the first place, and discovered how much I loved it.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:31 PM on March 1, 2010


Nthing Burn Notice here, but I recommend you start with season one. The show loses a bit of impact after while, but I'm not sure if that's because the show itself is petering out or if it's just because I'm learning its tricks and so failing to be surprised. Either way though, it's probably worth it to see the seasons in order.

But I still watch it whenever there's a new episode on the DVR.
posted by suetanvil at 10:02 PM on March 1, 2010


At my High School in the early 80's we called TRF driving manuever a "Rockfish". No one had front wheel drive at that time. I perfected it in a 1972 Ford LTD station wagon on country roads.


I like Burn Notice....
posted by Hoosier Prospector at 10:14 PM on March 1, 2010


Bruce Campbell did a couple of sweet parodies of David Caruso in a recent Burn Notice.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:26 AM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I vote for Steve Buscemi as Angel.

No, he should be Rockford. Christopher Walken should be Angel.
posted by y2karl at 11:50 AM on March 2, 2010


"Instead, why not call some players up from the bush leagues?"

Please no, the larger networks would just screw up Burn Notice.

"You don't seriously watch that show [Burn Notice], do you? Holy crap, it's terrible. (Tell me, did they reveal yet that his dad burned him? That was my prediction after 8 minutes of watching.) That main guy is the least charismatic actor I've ever seen in my life no exaggeration."

It's pretty firmly established that not only is Micheal's dad dead he was kind of a loser rarely holding a job for any length of time and basically incompetent at most things he tried. Plus Micheal's mother doesn't ever say anything about Micheal's dad being in government which is something she would do. I mean I guess Micheal's father could be the world greatest sleeper agent who was "killed" to enable him to move to a new assignment but it seems really, really unlikely and the show hasn't done anything like that so far. Main characters while conniving aren't super double crossing agents and there has been no projection of Micheal's father being alive.

For those considering Burn Notice for the first time definitely start with season one as it's the best so far with later episodes getting fourmulitic and a little sad jung jvgu Zvpurny'f haprnfvat nggrzcgf gb erirefr uvf ohea abgvpr.
posted by Mitheral at 12:23 PM on March 2, 2010


New Rockford Files. Pitch #2: Mashup with Burn Notice
posted by xod at 6:23 AM on March 3, 2010


Oh, silly Americans. Canada (well, NL) has been doing this Rockford re-make thing for, like, weeks:

Republic of Doyle.

(tags: handsome single broke PI w/dad & classic muscle car, etc)
posted by ovvl at 6:26 PM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fillion actually WOULD be a good Rockford. I hadn't thought of that.

I also think Donal Logue could pull it off...maybe.
posted by Thistledown at 11:29 AM on March 5, 2010


Interesting. This thread seems to be mirroring this one, or vice versa.

There's Campbell and Fillion. But also Damian Lewis (Winters in Band of Brothers), Wendell Pierce (Bunk), as well as a few others. (I have to admit, both of these are pretty excellent in their own way)

Me, I can't see Fillion in anything and not think "Hey, there's Fillion playing ____". I never get full immersion.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:44 PM on March 5, 2010


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