Popular crime/action series, co-created by Roy Huggins (Maverick, The Fugitive) and Stephen J. Cannell, 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.
This show provides examples of:
Aloha Hawaii: "Dirty Money Black Light", "The Hawaiian Headache"
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.
Immediately subverted: she says "I saw them," Lt. Becker says "I'm sure you did," usually a lead-in to a patronizing "you're just stressed" until he points to tiny holes in the walls, saying "They were put up with pins."
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.
Malicious Misnaming: Gandy always referred to Rockford as "Rockfish". May not be malicious but it did bug Rockford a lot.
Noodle Incident: In "The Aaron Ironwood School of Success", Rockford limps badly all the way through the episode. The real cause was Garner's severe injuries from doing his own stunts.
Rocky. You're limping. What happened?
Jim. Oh, I was fishing and fell off the pier.
Beth. Why are you limping?
Jim. I fell off my skateboard.
Aaron. You're limping.
Jim. Aw, I was dancing the other night, I got a little carried away, I started to dip and I slipped.
The Other Darrin: Rocky was played by Robert Donley in the pilot, before Noah Beery Jr. took over the role for the series proper.
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.
The show's penultimate episode, "Just a Coupla Guys", was also intended as one of these.
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 confused with the real Bay City, Michigan), a location that originated in the novels of Raymond Chandler.
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.
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?"