It would appear that NBC were very serious indeed when they mentioned that they were bringing 70’s detective Jim Rockford back to TV screens for a modern take on the weary detective.
Producers Steve Carell and David Shore now have a replacement for original Rockford Files star James Garner in the form of Dermot Mulroney.
The Rockford Files was an Emmy Award winning detective series about a down on his luck Private detective with a copper Firebird (and an answering machine), who lived in a caravan on the Californian beach. His low level cases were often dangerous, and sometimes he would work the case without getting paid (despite his best efforts).
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the new Jim Rockford is described as “slightly crumpled, wry humored, cynical, world weary, compassionate when it’s called for and easily irritated by morons.”
The trade paper also states that his “troubled past includes doing some time as a convict and as a cop.”
I feel that’s where they’ve made their first mistake – if Rockford is a former cop it loses one of the main bits of character focus from the original series, in that the cops hated Rockford for being a Private Detective and a former criminal (albeit pardoned). Making him a former cop puts him on the inside track and makes him less of an outsider.
I’m also slightly worried that with Steve Carell onboard the show will be a bit too humorous and self-referential. The original Rockford wasn’t exactly gritty, but Garner had a laid back charm and easy delivery that made him likable. I just feel that this modern-update could be more like the Starsky and Hutch movie than a true update of the iconic detective drama.
As for Mulroney’s involvement – he’s an okay choice, and I can see that the producers are going for “laidback” but I don’t think that he’s got the presence or charisma to step into Garner’s shoes. The actor normally plays second fiddle in a lot of big films; he was the titular best friend in My Best Friend’s Wedding and recent years have seen him Zodiac, Burn After Reading and About Schmidt. Like many actors whose career failed to ignite on the big screen, it looks like he too is finding solace on television.
The Rockford Files was created by Stephen J. Cannell and Roy Huggins (who also created Garner’s Maverick), it ran for six seasons, and unlike most shows it wasn’t canceled due to poor ratings or contract disputes, but because the work schedule took it’s physical toll on Garner’s health.
In the mid-to-late-nineties Garner returned to the role of Rockford for a series of television movies, which while enjoyable didn’t match the charm of its original run, even though they brought back much of the original supporting cast.
No matter how good the 21st Century update of The Rockford Files is, I know that it will not be as good as the original – and I know that before a single frame has even been shot!
That’s my opinion, what do you guys think?