If ever a star had that certain something which put him in the same category as those shining ones from the 1930's and 1940's, it was James Garner. He had a fine film career, to be sure, but it was his laconic charm as Jim Rockford on television with which he will always be most identified. He was an ex-con given a full pardon when it was discovered he was innocent after all. Working as a P.I. and parking his gold Firebird in front of his trailor on the L.A. beach, Rockford could never quite shake the ex-con tag, nor could he shake his old cellmate, Evelyn "Angel" Martin.
Stuart Margolin was Angel, always looking for the easy buck, and getting his old buddy Jimmy into trouble with him. Neither Rockford or the viewing audience could stay mad at Angel for long, however, because in Margolin's hands, Angel was really a stand-up guy at heart and you had to admire his enthusiasm. Noah Beery, Jr. portrayed Rockford's lovable dad, Rocky, with equal aplomb.
Rocky was an easygoing retired trucker who loved to fish, and passed on the hobby to Jim. Between the car chases, cons, and mad scrambles to stay out of jail were simple moments of life we all recognized from our own. It was that down to earth formula, coupled with Garner's charm and some excellent writing from Juanita Bartlett which kept Jim Rockford coming into our homes week after week for years. Rockford would only work on closed cases in an effort to avoid the cops which, of course, never quite worked out.
Joe Santos was Rockford's often exasperated police pal, Dennis Becker. He was the buffer between Rockford and Becker's superiors, who in season 6 was James Luisi as Lt. Chapman. He hated Rockford and wanted any excuse to pull his P.I. license. Becker was a pal, but could only do so much for Jim as he had to stay out of hot water himself. He had a wife and kids to support, and for some strange reason, that sometimes took priority over helping his old buddy Jim out of a complicated jam. Beth was gone by this season, but Rita Moreno lit up the small screen as Rita Capkovic.
Season 6 only had 12 episodes, but some really fine ones, and some terrific guest stars. Rockford got to go to Hawaii in one installment. In a way, looking back, as someone has already mentioned, it was sort of the changing of the guard type of season. Tom Selleck would reprise his role of Lance White, the detective so perfect it drove Rockford nuts! Larry Manetti would guest star on an episode as well. They would make Magnum P.I. a television staple the following year, and by the end of its long run, Joe Santos would star on that classic also.
Season 6 episodes are: PARADISE COVE (MARIETTE HARTLEY) -- LIONS,TIGERS, MONKEYS AND DOGS (LAUREN BACALL--2 PARTER) -- ONLY ROCK AND ROLL WILL NEVER DIE (MARCIA STRASSMAN--2 PARTER) -- LOVE IS THE WORD -- NICE GUYS FINISH DEAD (TOM SELLECK) -- THE HAWAIIN HEADACHE -- THE NO-FAULT AFFAIR -- THE BIG CHEESE -- JUST A COUPLE OF GUYS -- DEADLOCK IN PARMA
It was only from December of 1979 through January of 1980 that we got to enjoy Mike Post's Rockford Files theme song, which only began after we'd heard one of those crazy messages on Jim's answering machine. It had only been a couple of years since Garner had finally gotten his Emmy Award for his fine portrayal of the affable Rockford. There is comfort food, and comfort television, and Rockford certainly falls into that category. A really fine television show worthy of its fan base.