Growing up, that twangy Mike Post music provided a part of the soundtrack of my life. I remember walking around school and everywhere you turned you heard kids saying, “That’ll be $200 a day plus expenses.” We all printed up fake business cards. I can tell you firsthand that it takes more than the props. I didn’t have Jim’s natural charm and finesse. Somehow fifth grade’s Sister Margaret wasn’t buying that my NSA credentials meant my homework assignments were classified and above her clearance level. As I sat in detention wondering what could have possibly gone wrong, one theme kept going through my mind. This is gonna cost her. You guessed it. $200 a day plus expenses.
James Rockford lived in a trailer on the beach. His lovable dad was a truck driver who never did understand how his “sonny” could be mixed up in the dirty world of private investigations. While Rockford always projected a tough guy exterior, it was his soft spot for a sad story that often got him deep in trouble. He could understand the world of injustice. He had spent 5 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Even after a full pardon, the cops considered him a lowlife ex-con. His one buddy, Lt. Becker, usually laid low among his fellow officers, often afraid to admit to being Rockford’s friend. Rockford was also king of the con. When normal tactics didn’t work, he could bring together a group of scam artists and con men to handle the largest of productions. He traveled with his own business card printing press. Afraid of guns, Rockford usually kept his in the cookie jar.
Some of the show’s truly brightest moments appear in Season 2. “The Farnsworth Strategem” is by far one of Rockford’s best scam episodes. Gearjammers is a great 2-parter that features Rocky, Jim’s dad, very prominently. Who can forget our very own Chef, Isaac Hayes, as Rockford’s ex-con buddy Fitch?
Each episode of The Rockford Files is presented in a standard full frame format.While one must consider the 30 year age of the original print, I was very impressed with the transfer given to us here. The color is as good as it ever was. Grain is there, sure, but minimal. There are occasional specks and artifacts from the original print. The style is preserved wonderfully here. The contrast levels survive, perhaps even stronger than the original broadcast looked.
Each episode is provided with a simple Dolby Digital 2.0 track. Again, the audio was given some noticeable care. The trademark twangy music comes through with just enough punch. Dialogue is always easy to understand. While there are really no dynamic lows to ride your sub, there is enough bottom to make the point. I found none of the high-end distortion common in older TV transfers. More than what I heard, it was what I did not hear that impressed me most. Too many 70’s shows contain an annoying if subtle hiss from the original recordings. I couldn’t find any of it on The Rockford Files.
There is an on-camera 9 minute interview with Stephen J Cannell. Mostly he talks about shopping the pilot around, which we’ve unfortunately heard before. The best news is the inclusion of the original pilot, once slated for the first season and now finally included.
I should address packaging. There is a significant improvement with single-sided discs. Hooray! Unfortunately the case is one of those overlappers that requires you to remove both discs to get to the even numbered ones. At least it’s a step in the right direction.
Now I’m grown, and The Rockford Files is a bittersweet reminder that I’m not a kid anymore. Still, for almost 50 minutes at a time, it all comes back. I only wish that Universal would give us more. I want to see how such a defining element of my life came into this world. Cannell’s short talks are certainly very nice additions, but still I want more. Call me greedy if you must. If you are either too young or too old to have shared in my adolescent Rockford experience, it’s not too late. You gotta watch this show. “It’ll change your life.”