Friday, February 15, 2008
The Rockford Files, easily the best television private eye series ever, seemed to get better with each season, with James Garner’s languorous Jim Rockford and an overall sense of California grayness seeping deeper into the core of the show. The newly released fifth (out of six) season (The Rockford Files:Season 5, Universal, $39.98) features a number of episodes written by three of the shows sharpest enablers, Stephen J. Cannel (40 episodes), Juanita Bartlett (34 episodes), and pre-Sopranos David Chase (20 episodes). The shows supporting characters were strong, as was the pervasive ambiance of California weirdness, but Garner’s decidedly blue collar, ex-con, low maintenance, flim-flam man remains one of the more layered characterizations in the history of the cool medium, and the show also ably updates (and satirizes) the detective genre, making Rockford a logical successor to Phillip Marlowe in many ways, yet a much less romanticized version. I have a particular fondness for the show, and I believe it is arguably one of the finest long-running television shows of all time, a show marked by artistic consistency coupled with a truly intelligent entertainment quotient.