The Rockford Files

The Rockford Files Information

The Rockford Files is an American television drama series which aired on the NBC network between September 13, 1974 and January 10, 1980. It has remained in regular syndication to the present day. The show stars James Garner as Los Angeles-based private investigator Jim Rockford and features Noah Beery, Jr. as his father, a retired truck driver.

The show was created by Roy Huggins and Stephen J. Cannell. Huggins had created the television show Maverick (1957"1962), which had also starred Garner, and he wanted to try to recapture that magic in a "modern day" detective setting. He teamed with Cannell, who had written for Jack Webb productions such as Adam-12 and Chase (1973"1974, NBC), to create Rockford.

The show was credited as "A Public Arts/Roy Huggins Production" along with Universal Studios and in association with Cherokee Productions. Cherokee was the name of Garner's company, which he ran with partners Meta Rosenberg and Juanita Bartlett, who doubled as story editor during most of Rockford's run.

The series theme by composers Mike Post and Pete Carpenter was released as a single and went to #10 on the Billboard Hot 100, remaining on the chart for 16 weeks. and won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement for 1975.

In 2002, The Rockford Files was ranked #39 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.

A pilot for a remake of the series was written and produced for NBC by David Shore in 2010, with Dermot Mulroney playing the title character, but was not picked up by the network due to complaints that it was not written well and the lead was miscast. NBC then gave it to Peter Berg to rewrite and produce. As of January 2011, the project is still in development at NBC.


Producers Roy Huggins and Stephen J. Cannell devised the main character to be a rather significant departure from typical television detectives of the time, essentially Maverick as a modern detective. Rockford had served time in California's San Quentin Prison in the 1960s due to a wrongful conviction. After five years, he received a pardon. His infrequent jobs as a private investigator barely allow him to maintain his dilapidated mobile home (which doubles as his office) in a parking lot on the beaches of Malibu, California.

In early episodes of the show's first season, Rockford's trailer is located in a parking lot alongside the highway (address 2354 Pacific Coast Highway) and near the ocean; for the rest of the series, the trailer is at Paradise Cove (address 29 Cove Road), adjacent to a pier and a restaurant ("The Sand Castle", now known as the "Paradise Cove Beach Cafe").

In the series of television movies from 1994 to 1999, Rockford is still living in a trailer, but it has been extensively enlarged and remodeled.

In an interesting piece of homage, the trailer serving as a home for Mel Gibson's "Martin Riggs" character and his girlfriend, shown near the beginning of Lethal Weapon IV, appears to be located at nearly exactly the same spot.

In contrast to most television private eyes of the time, Rockford wears low-budget "off the rack" clothing and does his best to avoid fights. He rarely carries his Colt Detective Special revolver, for which he does not have a permit, preferring to talk his way out of trouble. He works on cold cases, missing persons investigations, and low-budget insurance scams, and he repeatedly states in the series that he does not handle "open cases" to avoid trouble with the police.


Also starring:

  • Noah Beery, Jr. as Joseph "Rocky" Rockford, Jim's father, a retired truck driver. (The role was played by actor Robert Donley in the 1974 pilot episode.)
Recurring stars:

  • Joe Santos as Sergeant Dennis Becker, Jim's friend on the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) (promoted to lieutenant in season 5)
  • Stuart Margolin as Evelyn "Angel" Martin, Jim's former prison friend. Angel is an untrustworthy con artist who constantly gets Jim in trouble, yet Jim remains his friend.
  • Gretchen Corbett as Elizabeth "Beth" Davenport, Jim's lawyer and sometime girlfriend (seasons 1"4)
  • James Luisi as Lieutenant Douglas J. "Doug" Chapman (seasons 3"6), Becker's boss (until Becker's promotion). He and Jim despise each other.
  • Tom Atkins as Lieutenant Alex / Thomas Diehl (seasons 1"2 and 4)
  • Luis Delgado as Officer Todd / Jack Billings
  • Bo Hopkins as John "Coop" Cooper, Jim's disbarred attorney friend (Season 5)
  • Pat Finley as Peggy Becker, Dennis' wife
  • Isaac Hayes as Gandolph "Gandy" Fitch, an acquaintance of Jim's from his prison days. Gandy was a much feared inmate, and it is implied that even Rockford (whom he calls "Rockfish") was a victim of his brutality. Rockford helps prove that Fitch was sent to prison for a crime he did not commit.
  • Tom Selleck as Lance White, a suave and dapper (and more successful) private investigator, who sometimes works with Jim on cases.
  • James Whitmore, Jr. as Fred Beamer, an auto mechanic who aspires to be a private investigator, and involves himself in Jim's affairs, at one time assuming his identity, and plunging Jim into trouble. Whitmore later directed the television movie The Rockford Files: I Still Love L.A..
  • Dennis Dugan as Richie Brockelman, a young, idealistic and somewhat naive private investigator who seeks Jim's help from time to time. Bereft of Jim's cynicism and physical toughness, this character was spun off for the short-lived Richie Brockelman, Private Eye.
  • Kathryn Harrold as Dr. Megan Dougherty, a blind psychiatrist who originally hires Jim. Their relationship eventually blossoms into a romance. Jim is upset in a later episode to find she has become engaged to another man.
  • Simon Oakland as Vern St. Cloud, a fellow private investigator, blustery, arrogant and used to getting his own way, St. Cloud and Rockford grudgingly accept each other's assistance from time to time, trading insults along the way.
  • Louis Gossett, Jr. as Marcus Aurelius "Gabby" Hayes, an impeccably dressed Private Investigator, chauffeur driven, boastful and nearly always on a hustle, usually to Rockford's misfortune. Gossett appeared first in Foul On The First Play wearing a full wig with sideburns, appearing the following season in Just Another Polish Wedding without it.
Valentino, a cat that either Jim has adopted, or is a stray who frequents Jim's trailer, is seen in at least one episode, and is referred to in another by the same name.


Rockford's pursuit of these cases often leads to difficulties with his friend in the LAPD, Sgt. Dennis Becker (Joe Santos), a homicide detective struggling to advance in the department under a series of overbearing lieutenants. The two most notable are Alex/Thomas Diehl (Tom Atkins) during the first, second and fourth seasons and Doug Chapman (James Luisi) in the third to sixth seasons. Those higher-ups invariably hate Rockford (and private investigators generally) because of their perception that either he is meddling in open cases or is trying to make the LAPD look incompetent in its handling of closed ones. Further, Rockford often calls Becker asking for favors, such as running license plates through the state computer system, sometimes annoying the already overworked cop. By the fifth season, Becker is promoted to lieutenant; it was stated in the storyline that Becker's association with Rockford, considered by LAPD brass to be a shifty ex-con, had probably hampered Becker's chances for promotion. Chapman also intensely dislikes it when Becker becomes his "equal". In season 6 episode The Big Cheese, the third-to-last of the series, Rockford gets a degree of revenge when Chapman inadvertently makes incriminating statements about his tax evasion in front of an undercover IRS agent that is with Rockford. Becker appears in 89 of the 123 episodes.

Rockford's father, Joseph "Rocky" Rockford, is an ex-Seabee, semi-retired semi-truck driver who often nags his son to get more stable (and less dangerous) employment, often urging him to follow in his footsteps as a truck driver (especially in early seasons). The relationship of father and son was an integral part of the show. Rocky appears in 101 episodes, and usually gets involved (whether he likes it or not) in his son's cases. Occasionally, he even hires Jim himself. Adding to the credibility of the casting was the physical resemblance between Garner and Beery. Jim Rockford's mother is never shown or named, and is only referred to indirectly. Although never directly stated, the way Jim and Rocky talk about her would seem to indicate she had died (before the series' start). The role of Rocky was portrayed by Noah Beery, Jr., nephew of actor Wallace Beery.

Rockford's scheming former San Quentin cellmate, Evelyn "Angel" Martin (something of a comic relief character played by Stuart Margolin), almost always gets Rockford in trouble, usually by involving him in hare-brained scams, which as often as not result in either his arrest or being placed on somebody's hit list. In spite of this, however, Jim considers Angel as one of his best, if most exasperating, pals.

Rockford has a close relationship with his attorney, the idealistic, tenacious Elizabeth "Beth" Davenport (Gretchen Corbett). It is implied the two become romantically involved for a time. After Corbett was dropped from the show after the fourth season (allegedly due to contract disputes between Universal, which owned her contract, and Cherokee Productions, Garner's company), a new legal adviser (John "Coop" Cooper, a disbarred attorney who befriends Jim), and a new romantic interest (Kathryn Harrold as Dr. Megan Dougherty) for Rockford were added. Megan Dougherty was a blind yet very independent psychiatrist, who makes three appearances in the fifth and sixth seasons. Rockford also has romantic flings with numerous other women, but none that last.

Garner's brother, Jack Garner, made 23 guest appearances playing (at various times) a policeman, a gas station attendant, and a stranger in a bathroom. The most regular character Jack played was that of police "Captain McEnroe" a number of times in the final season.


The show was written by co-creator Cannell (36 episodes); one of the show's producers and Garner's partner at Cherokee Productions, Juanita Bartlett (34 episodes; also Scarecrow and Mrs. King and In the Heat of the Night); David Chase (16 episodes; Northern Exposure and The Sopranos); and Roy Huggins (as John Thomas James), among others. Directors included William Wiard (23 episodes), Lawrence Doheny (10 episodes), and Ivan Dixon (previously a star on Hogan's Heroes) (9 episodes). Veteran actor James Coburn also directed an episode. Coburn had co-starred with Garner in the classic movies The Great Escape (1963) and The Americanization of Emily (1964). Garner himself directed one episode, "The Girl in The Bay City Boys' Club," in the show's second season (as of 2008, Garner's only directing credit).

Firebird Esprit

Familiar to viewers of the show was Jim Rockford's gold Pontiac Firebird Esprit automobile, which Rockford always took through its paces. One oft-recurring element of the show was the famous "Jim Rockford turn-around" (also known as a J-turn or "Rockford", and commonly employed as an evasive driving technique 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. James Garner claimed in a Season One DVD interview that he performed this stunt himself for the duration of the series. The car's license number, 853 OKG, is currently assigned to a look-alike Firebird driven in and around the city of Riverside, California.

Starting with the 1974 model year, Rockford would get a new model-year Firebird Esprit each year throughout the series, although they would all be an identical brown/gold mix color with a corresponding tan interior (and, occasionally, sharp-eyed car connoisseurs would be able to spot the different model year cars used in various chase scenes that would differ from those in the actual episode, especially in later seasons). Although the series ran until early 1980, no Firebird was used past the 1978 model year as Garner reportedly was displeased with the restyled front end of the 1979 and later Firebird models and as such did not wish to have them featured on the show.

Answering machine introduction

See List of Jim Rockford's answering machine gags for more information

The show's title sequence began with someone leaving a message on Rockford's answering machine, which were still novel in 1974. A different message was heard in each episode. These frequently had to do with creditors to whom Rockford owed money, or deadbeat clients who owed money to him. They were usually unrelated to the rest of the plot. As the series went on, this gimmick became a burden for the show's writers, who had to come up with a different joke every week. Suggestions from staffers and crew were often used.


The show went into hiatus late in 1979 when Garner was told by his doctors to take time off because of his bad knees and back, as well as an ulcer. He sustained the former conditions largely because of his insistence on performing most of his own stunts, especially those involving fist fights or car chases. Because of his excruciating physical pain, Garner eventually opted not to continue with the show a number of months later, and NBC cancelled the program in mid-season. It was also alleged that Rockford became extremely expensive to produce, mainly due to the extensive location filming and frequent use of high-end actors as guest stars. According to some sources, NBC and Universal claimed the show was generating a deficit of several million dollars, a staggering amount for a nighttime show in those days, although Garner and his production team Cherokee Productions claimed the show always turned a profit.


Later in the 1980s, after he attempted to fulfill his Rockford contract with a 1981 Maverick revival titled Bret Maverick, Garner became engaged in a legal dispute with Universal regarding the profits from Rockford that lasted over a decade, causing (and reflecting) significant ill will on both sides. The dispute was settled out of court (for an undisclosed amount) in Garner's favor, but because of this conflict, the Rockford character would not re-emerge until 1994.

Universal began syndicating the show (initially under the name Jim Rockford, Private Investigator due to standard practices at that time for a show still running on a network) in 1979 and aggressively marketed it to local stations well into the early and middle 1980s. This almost certainly accounts for its near-ubiquity on afternoon and late-night schedules in those days. From those showings, Rockford developed a cult following among younger generations of fans, with the momentum continuing throughout the 1990s and 2000s (decade) on cable. The show was broadcast for a few months in 2006 on Superstation WGN, before the station cancelled it in favor of Matlock. In 2007, the Retro Television Network began broadcasting the program nationwide, as did the digital cable channel Sleuth and Chicago TV station WWME-CA. ION Television also has rights to the show and has it slated for future broadcast. In the fall of 2009, the show reappeared in Canada on Deja View. The series was also broadcast in the UK on BBC1 and has since been repeated on BBC2 and ITV (later named ITV1) and also on Granada +Plus, which later became ITV3, although none of these channels repeated the later seasons. In Australia, the series runs Monday - Friday on cable and satellite channel Fox Classics and on 7Mate. In September 2011, the MeTV Network in the U.S. began showing Rockford episodes Monday through Friday afternoons. In 2012 6 Seasons, 124 Episodes became available for viewing on Netflix Instant Video.

Rockford's style was said to have influenced the creation of many other detective shows, including Magnum, P.I. and Tenspeed and Brown Shoe (the latter also created by Cannell). Tom Selleck made two guest appearances on Rockford in the comic role of private investigator Lance White, a character who was everything Rockford was not "? wealthy, highly educated, debonair, irresistible to women, and ethical to a fault. Rockford's producers would tap Selleck in the TV season after the Rockford cancellation for Universal's Magnum, P.I., where he played a character similar in many ways to Rockford, although with wholesome, patriotic undertones in the context and plots. Several episodes of Magnum make reference to the character of Lance White.

In turn, Rockford was pencilled in to appear in the seventh season Magnum, P.I. episode "A.A.P.I." (1986; in which Cannell also guest starred), concerning a murder at a Private Investigator awards ceremony, but a dispute between Garner and Universal (Garner reportedly refused to even set foot on a single Universal film set until it was resolved) meant that the planned cameo had to be dropped.


Main article: List of Rockford Files episodes (including TV movies)
The series pilot aired on NBC March 27, 1974 as a 90-minute made-for-television movie. In the pilot, Robert Donley played Rockford's father; Lindsay Wagner also starred and later made a return appearance. The pilot was titled Backlash of the Hunter for syndication.

Four written, but unproduced, season 6 episodes have been referred to in "Thirty Years of the Rockford Files" by Ed Robertson (2005). There is no mention of these episodes having been filmed. This would appear to be the source of the unsubstantiated rumour that four filmed but unaired Rockford episodes were destroyed in a fire in 1980.


Eight Rockford Files reunion TV movies were made from 1994 to 1999, airing on the CBS network (whereas the original series had aired on NBC) and reuniting most of the cast from the original show. Beery died on November 1, 1994, so the first of these movies, which aired later that month, stated, "This picture is dedicated to the memory of Noah Beery, Jr. We love you and miss you, Pidge." ("Pidge" was Beery's nickname.)


  • The limited-run series, Richie Brockelman, Private Eye was not technically a spin-off of The Rockford Files, as the character of Richie Brockelman, played by Dennis Dugan, first appeared in a 1976 TV movie produced by Cannell. However, Brockleman did appear in the 1978 Rockford episode "The House on Willis Avenue", which was broadcast the week before Richie Brockelman, Private Eye began its five-week run in The Rockford Files timeslot. The character of Richie Brockelman returned to Rockford in the 1979 episode, "Never Send a Boy King To Do a Man's Job."
  • Universal made a back door pilot featuring the characters of Gandolph "Gandy" Fitch and Marcus "Gabby" Hayes (played by Isaac Hayes and Lou Gossett, Jr., respectively) titled Gabby & Gandy. The series never came to fruition, but the pilot was broadcast as an episode of Rockford called "Just Another Polish Wedding".
  • A second back door pilot was made for a series that would have featured Greg Antonacci and Gene Davis as Eugene Conigliaro and Mickey Long, two humorously incompetent characters who were introduced in the Rockford episode "The Jersey Bounce" (the same character names are used in both episodes but they are clearly different characters as both of them and Rockford do not even know each other in the second episode, "Just A Coupla Guys"). The series pilot involved them trying to ingratiate their way into the New Jersey mob, and was aired under the title "Just A Coupla Guys" as the next-to-last episode of the The Rockford Files. David Chase, who wrote both these episodes, would later create The Sopranos, which also centered on the New Jersey mob.


Season Ranking Timeslot
1974-75 #12 Fridays at 9:00 p.m.
1975-76 #32
1976-77 #41
1977-78 #46
1978-79 #59 Fridays at 9:00 p.m./Saturdays at 10:00 p.m.
1979-80 #?? Fridays at 9:00 p.m./Thursdays at 10:00 p.m.

DVD releases

Universal Studios Home Entertainment has released all six seasons of The Rockford Files on DVD in Region 1. The Rockford Files- Movie Collection, Volume 1, was released on November 3, 2009. Universal Playback has released the first 5 seasons on DVD in Region 2.

DVD Name Ep# Release dates
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
Season One 23 December 6, 2005 August 29, 2005 February 6, 2008
Season Two 22 June 13, 2006 August 21, 2006 February 6, 2008
Season Three 22 February 27, 2007 May 7, 2007 September 2, 2009
Season Four 22 May 15, 2007 July 30, 2007 TBA
Season Five 22 January 15, 2008 May 12, 2008 TBA
Season Six 11 January 20, 2009 November 19, 2009 TBA
Movies Collection, Volume 1 4 November 3, 2009 TBA TBA
Movies Collection, Volume 2 4 TBA TBA TBA
Season 1 " 4 Collection 89 TBA October 22, 2007 TBA
The Complete Series 130 TBA TBA TBA


On July 30, 2009, it was revealed that NBC, Universal Media Studios and Steve Carell's Carousel Television, were teaming up to produce a revival of the show. David Shore, creator of House, has been tapped to head the series. In February 2010, it was announced that Dermot Mulroney would be playing Jim Rockford in the series. In January, a casting call had been issued, listing series regular roles for Rocky, Angel, Dennis Becker, Beth Davenport and Lt. Doug Chapman. As of March 12, 2010, Alan Tudyk had been cast as Det. Dennis Becker. On March 16, 2010, Melissa Sagemiller was cast as Beth Davenport, and on March 19, Beau Bridges was cast as Rocky.

On May 13, 2010, the Rockford Files remake was canceled by NBC, although it is possible that there may still be a redevelopment of the concept.

In April 2012, it was announced that Vince Vaughn will be producing & starring in a theatrical version of Rockford Files.

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "The_Rockford_Files" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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