The Rockford Files: Season 2
July 5, 2006
“This is Jim Rockford. At the tone, leave your name and number and I’ll get back to you.” James Garner and his classic Pontiac Firebird are back for another season of this entertaining show as he continued his popular portrayal of the engaging, easy-going private investigator Jim Rockford who specializes in closed cases. Fans often cite this season as a mixed bag, weaker than the first one because of co-creator Roy Huggins’ departure and Stephen J. Cannell’s perchance for more silly humour and less action. That being said, there are still many excellent episodes to choose from in this set.
Linda Evans guest stars in “The Farnsworth Stratagem” which has Rockford helping out Detective Becker (Santos) and his wife when he invests in a phony oil corporation that involves shady real estate deals and organized crime. Evans, with her trademark sexy, husky voice, plays one of the investors who got roped into the scam and helps Rockford in his investigations. He also enlists the aid of his semi-retired truck driving father (Beery) and former fellow inmate Evelyn “Angel” Martin (Margolin) to track down the mastermind of said scam, Simon Lloyd. As always Beery and Margolin provide light, comic relief when things get too heavy.
Knot’s Landing’s Joan Van Ark guest stars in “Resurrection in Black and White” as a reporter for a magazine working on a feature article about a man she’s convinced was wrongly convicted of homicide. She wants Rockford to investigate the man’s case but he’s skeptical even though he too had been unfairly incarcerated. After someone takes a shot at Rockford and the reporter, he becomes a bit of a believer, especially when the file containing the evidence is stolen from the police station. Van Ark is her usual perky, adorable self and her character’s idealism plays well off of Rockford’s jaded cynicism. They make a good team and the two actors have excellent chemistry together.
In “The Reincarnation of Angie,” Rockford is hired by the sister of a stockbroker who she fears is in trouble but soon finds himself under investigation by the FBI. Coen brothers fans should take note: The Big Lebowski (or, rather the “other” Lebowski) David Huddleston guest stars. There’s a funny moment when Rockford and the sister search her brother’s house for the combination to his safe and his off the cuff suggestion actually pays off. Garner’s reaction, as always, is priceless.
Isaac Hayes makes a memorable appearance in “The Hammer of C Block” as Gandy Fitch, an ex-convict and Rockford’s former cellmate. It seems that Fitch served 20 years for killing his wife but claims that he didn’t do it. Rockford owes him a favour and Gandy has come to collect, asking him to find the real killer. Hayes brings a gruff edginess to the role of a surly ex-con who keeps calling Jim, “Rockfish,” much to his chagrin. Hayes brings an authentic, tough guy swagger that plays well off of Garner’s laid-back nature.
“In Hazard” sees Rockford’s on-again, off-again love interest Beth Davenport (Corbett) in jail as he finds out that some of her clients have ties to the Mob. She asks Rockford to help her out on a tax evasion case and gets roughed up by some thugs. Then, Beth is poisoned in prison. Rockford teams up with Becker and his father tags along as they help out their friend. Beth brings out Rockford’s sensitive side as we get to see how much he really cares about her.
“Stephen J. Cannell On-Camera Interview” features the co-creator of the show talking about how it was created and where the title came from. Apparently, he put a lot of himself in the show, including Rockford’s non-violent ways and his relationship with his father which mirrored his own. Cannell says that the network hated the teleplay for the Pilot but co-creator Roy Huggins defended it and they took it to a rival studio. This is a nice extra with Cannell telling some good anecdotes.
A common complaint of the Season 1 DVD set was that the 90 minute Pilot episode was not included and so Universal has put it on this set. A few striking differences between it and the series become readily apparent. The opening credit sequence that we all know and love is not present and a different actor plays Rockford’s dad. He’s definitely not as good as Noah Beery so it’s easy to see why they changed actors in the role. The Pilot also features underrated character actor William Smith (The Outsiders, Rumble Fish) as a nasty killer.