The Rockford Files

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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This is Jim Rockford. At the tone, leave your name and message. I'll get back to you. [Beep]

Popular crime/action series that aired on NBC from 1974 to 1980. James Garner played Jim Rockford, a pardoned ex-con working as a private detective in the Los Angeles area. Rockford lived in a trailer parked on the Malibu beach, and drove a gold Pontiac Firebird.

In the earlier episodes, Rockford would only take cases that the police were not actively investigating: cases that they had closed in some way that was unsatisfactory to the client, cold cases, or something that the police were not giving any priority to.

Rockford preferred to outwit his opponents, rather than resorting to violence (though he was very good at it when violence was required.) While Rockford had been cleared and pardoned for the armed robbery that he had been wrongfully accused of, he had also been a Con Man who had never been caught, and on multiple occasions he used his con artist skills to entrap the guilty party.

In many ways, the Rockford character was a 20th century updating of Garner's Bret Maverick character from the 60s.

Tropes used in The Rockford Files include:
  • Aloha Hawaii: "Dirty Money Black Light", "The Hawaiian Headache".
  • Audit Threat: People in official positions often threaten to have Jim Rockford's private investigator's license reviewed to get him to cooperate.
  • Badass Driver
  • Base on Wheels: Rockford's dilapidated mobile home -- which served as both his office and residence -- usually remained parked on a Malibu beach, but on a few occasions, when he needed to skip town in a hurry, he hitched his trailer up (with the help of his retired trucker dad) and took home with him.
  • Being Watched
  • Born Lucky: Lance White, played in two episodes by Tom Selleck.
  • Bounty Hunter
  • Casting Gag: "The Competitive Edge" features John Fiedler as a mental patient who thinks he is James Bond. The gag? Harold Sakata as fellow patient "John Doe".
  • Clear My Name: Featured in many episodes such as "Pastoria Prime Pick".
  • Clear Their Name: A frequent occurrence, often at the request of Beth Davenport.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Rockford prefers to avoid fighting, but when he fights, he fights dirty.
  • Con Man: Rockford himself, occasionally; Angel Martin, always.
  • Cool Car: Rockford's Firebird.
  • Couch Gag: The message on Rockford's answering machine in the title sequence.
  • Courtroom Episode: In the episode "So Help Me God", Rockford is held in contempt of court after tangling with D.A. William Daniels.
  • Crossover: The title character from the short-lived Richie Brockelman, Private Eye appeared in several Rockford episodes.
  • Defective Detective: Rockford was an ex-con, with all the associated bad karma it brought.
  • Detective Drama
  • Dramedy
  • Drop-In Character: Seemingly everybody broke into Rockford's trailer.
  • Friend on the Force: Dennis Becker.
  • Guile Hero: Rockford is one of the purest examples.
  • Hello, Attorney!: Beth Davenport.
  • Inspirationally Disadvantaged
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: One of the best ever, composed by Mike Post. It was released as a single and hit #10 on the Billboard chart in 1975.
  • It Was Here, I Swear: A Stalker Shrine to Beth makes a mysterious disappearance.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Rockford himself is one in the early episodes. He seems to only be in it for the money, and will require much persuading to work on a dangerous but just case, but once he's on to something, he will make sure that justice is served. In later seasons there is significantly less jerk and more heart of gold.
  • MacGuffin: Played with in "A Material Difference". The elusive "Formula D" American and Soviet agents have been fighting over throughout the episode? The D stands for "denim". It's an extra sturdy new type of fabric. Angel is not amused that he risked his life for pants.
  • Pilot Movie: "Backlash of the Hunter".
  • Poorly-Disguised Pilot: The episode "Just Another Polish Wedding" was intended to launch a spinoff show starring Louis Gossett, Jr. as private eye Marcus "Gabby" Hayes and Isaac Hayes as ex-con Gandolph "Gandy" Fitch. Gabby & Gandy was never picked up, however.
  • Recurring Character: Angel Martin, Beth Davenport, Lt. Chapman, Officer Billings.
  • Reunion Show: "I Still Love L.A." (1994), "A Blessing in Disguise" (1995), "If the Frame Fits...", "Friends and Foul Play", "Punishment and Crime", "Godfather Knows Best" (1996), "Shoot-Out at the Golden Pagoda" (1997), "If It Bleeds...It Leads" (1999).
  • Shout-Out In a couple of episodes, Rockford travels to the fictional Bay City, California (not to be confuse with the real Bay City Michigan). Bay City CA is from the novels of Raymond Chandler.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Maverick.
  • Stalker Shrine: One is made for Beth. See the trope page for more details.
  • Statute of Limitations: Plays an important role in one episode. A friend of Rockford's stole half a million dollars and the statute of limitations is nearly up. However, many criminals know about it and try to steal the soon-to-be clean money.
  • Stephen J. Cannell
  • Syndication Title: Jim Rockford, Private Investigator.
  • Tap on the Head: Rockford, the King of Concussion, got this about Once an Episode.
  • Vehicular Sabotage: This is a very common occurrence on The Rockford Files where someone seems to cut Jim's brake lines every third episode.
  • You Look Familiar: James Garner's brother, Jack, appeared throughout the show's run as a number of different characters, one of which (Police Captain McEnroe) was a semi-regular in the final season and appeared in each of the reunion movies.
  • You Wouldn't Hit a Guy with Glasses: Implied in "The Kirkoff Case": Rockford puts on glasses and pretends to be an insurance agent; when the disguise fails and he starts getting roughed up, he protests, "Didn't you notice I was wearing glasses?"