InsidePulse DVD Review – The Rockford Files – Season Two


credit: www.amazon.com

Studio: Universal
Release Date: June 13, 2006
Number of Discs: 6
Number of Episodes: 22
Running Time: 18 Hours 26 Minutes
MSRP: $39.98

Creators:
Stephen J. Cannell
Roy Huggins

Cast:
James Garner….Jim Rockford
Noah Beery Jr…..Joseph “Rocky” Rockford
Joe Santos….Police Det. Dennis Becker
Gretchen Corbett….Beth Davenport
Stuart Margolin….Evelyn “Angel” Martin

The Show:

In my spare time, I’m the Vice President of the “Society to Prevent Cruelty to Classic TV Shows.” While stars are outspoken about the mutilations done to chickens in the name of the Colonel, few of them are willing to protest the evil techniques performed by TV programmers to their own shows. Did you know that an hour long show used to be 50 minutes long? These classic series are currently pruned to fit a syndicated running time that’s barely 40 minutes wide. Your TV set is a video veal pen!

The abuse suffered by these ’70s shows to fit into a 21st Century time slot is inhuman. They’ll digitally speed up the action to give them an extra minute or two. Mostly they hack away 10 minutes without a care. A cable superstation ran the same episode of The Rockford Files in the morning and at night. During the morning run, the channel chopped out an additional five minutes in the middle of Rockford to give more time to miracle pills, carpet and motorized wheelchairs. Do station managers think their audience doesn’t care to follow the show? With all the ads aimed at the elderly, they probably have research showing that the folks at home are incapable of remembering. This clipping is painful to both show and viewer.

Thankfully there is a solution to these savage crimes with studios putting out the uncut shows in season sets. I can finally watch The Rockford Files without fear of witnessing a deformed beast stumble across the screen. This is the show as the First Run Broadcast Gods intended us to see it.

What a relief to watch Rockford undiluted. In an era of slick sleuths, he was rugged all over. There was nothing opulent about him. He wasn’t decked out in trendy fashions – unless you envy the men’s section of Sears. He lived by the Pacific Ocean, but instead of a Malibu mansion on stilts, he had a crummy trailer home in a decaying parking lot. He didn’t mingle with the rich and famous. His close friends were bartenders and ex-cons from his days in the joint (especially the hyperactive Angel). Unlike so many TV detectives, Rockford cared about getting paid. He lived within the realities of his life. He even shopped for groceries. There was only one glamour item in his life – a bronze Pontiac Firebird. There was nothing special about his car since they seemed to blow up every third episode. Ultimately what made this show so engrossing was the swagger James Garner brought to the title role. He played it like a man and not a TV detective.

There’s so many elements of this show that elevate it over Booker, but what grabs my gizzard is the theme song. This is one of the most awe inspiring pieces of intro music in TV history. It really should be our national anthem. The instrumental kicks off bold with what sounds like a mix of drums and a tympani. It lets us know that we’ve got drive and impact. There’s the Americana past in the harmonica. A promise of the future rises with the synthesizer repeating the theme. A guitar solo punctuates the now. Just a little musical piece allows us to understand that Jim Rockford isn’t a man stuck in a time period. He’s immortal and ready for action. I bet we’d do better in the Olympics if the theme for The Rockford Files played.

This boxset covers the 22 episodes from the 1975-76 season. The early adventures feature cases coming from his family and close friends instead of paying clients. There isn’t a commentary track so we don’t quite know the driving force for the sophomore outing. The best of the batch is The Farnsworth Stratagem where Rockford’s main man at the police department, Detective Becker, gets stuck with an expensive investment in a worthless hotel. He bails out his pal by setting up a reverse sting to make Becker’s investment look valuable to the scam artist. Part of the plan involves Linda Evans hanging around a swimming pool wearing a bikini. Gearjammers has Rocky, Rockford’s father, getting in trouble with truck hijackers. Besides coming to his rescue, Rockford learns about his dad’s social life. This was a two part episode that really demonstrates how things have changed in television. The second parter starts with 10 minutes of recap. How long would it take for the “as seen on last week’s episode” montage on Lost and 24 under 70s catch up rules? The later episodes do feature strangers who contact Rockford through his Yellow Pages ad. But in The Hammer of C Block, Rockford has to prove that like himself, his old cellmate was wrongly convicted. The coolest part is the cellmate is played by Isaac Hayes.

If you enjoyed The Rockford Files in the past, this is the only way to watch it. Why would you want to miss out on Rockford speeding through the desert in his Firebird? Don’t be scammed.

Score: 9/10

The DVD

VIDEO
The show is 1.33 full screen aspect ratio. The colors look great especially with those fantastic 70s fashion patterns. There is dirt on the print, but it isn’t too nasty. The preview clips at the head of the shows are rough.

AUDIO
The only audio track is an English Dolby Digital in 2.0 Mono. The sound quality is good for a TV show from the mid-70s. The only subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES

Stephen J. Cannell: On Camera Interview (9:12) We discover how Roy Huggins planted the seeds in Cannell’s mind to create The Rockford Files. Cannell recounts how one network executive wanted to rip out every element of the show that made it special. Most of the talk focuses on the pilot and less on the history of the show.

Series Pilot (1:13:07): This is the original movie of the week that spawned the series. I’m not sure why it wasn’t included in the season one boxset, but if you already own that one – why wouldn’t you pick up this one? The biggest change between the pilot and the series is Robert Donley playing Rockford’s dad instead of Noah Beery Jr. While Donley isn’t a bust as Rocky, he just doesn’t have the same outlandish charm that Beery brought to the role. In the pilot, Lindsay Wagner (pre-Bionic Woman) hires Rockford to find her father’s killer.

InsidePulse’s Ratings for The Rockford Files
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE SHOW

9
THE VIDEO

8
THE AUDIO

8
THE EXTRAS

7
REPLAY VALUE

9
OVERALL
8.2
(NOT AN AVERAGE)