So I’ve been at home suffering from a bad cold and feeling up to doing little except watching daytime television, including episodes of one my favourite shows from years past, The Rockford Files. All about Jim Rockford (James Garner), the somewhat smart-alecky private detective and his sleazy friend Angel (who everyone loves even though he’s, well, sleazy) and his father and the attorney he sometimes works for. Oh, and Dennis, the grudgingly helpful cop.
Mostly the cops aren’t helpful in this show; very few people are helpful in the show as Rockford tries to get to the bottom of crimes. There’s corruption and incompetence and just a sense that the whole universe is against him. I think there’s an appeal in that, which comes across better in the earlier years of the series.
In some of the later episodes (and I was surprised to see they kept making them till 1980) the focus seems to drift away from the crime solving to the lives of Rockford and his friends. This seems to be an occupational hazard of crime series: they begin by focusing on the people who commit the crimes but eventually switch to telling us about the crime fighters (in CSI, Law and Order, or whatever). Boring, and anyway you learn more by the indirection of the early episodes.
So in the early episodes it’s easier to identify with the tough (but kind underneath) Rockford who has to go it alone with no one to help him. Or almost no one. In the episode I saw today his father comes up with a useful insight which in a way puts Rockford in his place. It’s a memorable scene, at least to me, in which when Rockford says a guy in a semi tried to kill him, his father quizzes him about the type of semi and then declares that they weren’t trying to kill him, just scare him to death.
Who knows if Rocky (the father) is right? But Jim doesn’t argue with him, and it’s almost comforting in a way. Here is someone (Rocky) who knows and who is providing the knowledge to help. Maybe that’s why I remembered the scene: because it’s nice to think that there’s someone out there in the indifferent, sometimes confusing universe who both knows and cares.