James Garner returned to television in 1974 with a crime drama that seemed like a reincarnation of his Western hit, Maverick, if but because the character traits are almost exactly the same.
The Rockford Files cast Garner as ex-con-turned-private-investigator Jim Rockford, who had as many run-ins with the police, largely because of his past more than anything, as with the suspects he was pursuing. If he needed advice, he turned to his father, Rocky (Noah Beery, Jr.), but he was vulnerable to being lured into one scheme after another by fellow ex-con Angel Martin (Stuart Margolin), who just couldn't stay on the straight side. Rockford's police contact was Lt. Dennis Becker (Joe Santos), who was alternately warning Rockford away and asking for help.
While the series ended in 1980, Garner revisited the role in a series of TV-movies during the decade, after a brief return to his earlier role of Bret Maverick. Today, the series airs on Me-TV six days a week (check listings), at least through the summer. Most people might remember Garner more for Rockford than either Maverick or the Polaroid ads he did with Mariette Hartley during the 70's.
In memory of Garner, who passed away today at 86, we present a season 1 episode, "The Kirkoff Case", with a pre-Barney Miller Abe Vigoda:
Rockford also birthed a spin-off in the short-lived Richie Brockelman, Private Eye, which amounted to a summer replacement series one year. Its star, Dennis Dugan, is better known now as a filmmaker, having worked with Adam Sandler on a couple of films.