• As essayed by James Garner, Jim Rockford is one of the best characters in TV history - in, I might add, one of the best series. The Rockford Files never ceased to be entertaining during its '70s run and remains so in syndication. There's something comfortable about the show, probably because of the well-drawn characters that we feel we know.

    If we didn't love Rockford so much, I guess we'd call him a loser. But we love him too much and are pulling for him too much to ever call him a loser. He never has any money. He lives in a dilapidated trailer on the beach. He's not married. He was in prison, though he didn't commit the crime and was pardoned. Helluva way to treat one of our ex-servicemen (Korea). His father, Rocky, was a truck driver and wants his boy Jimmy to take it up. It's steady, and he might get beat up less.

    Jimmy, however, would rather be a private investigator. In order to do this, he occasionally runs afoul of police lieutenant Chapman and gets his buddy Dennis in trouble for using the power of the police to do him a favor. He also sometimes winds up embroiled with his con friend and former cellmate, Angel Martin, always in trouble and always looking for the main chance. And if attractive attorney Beth Davenport isn't hitting him up for pro bono help, he needs her to bail him out of jail.

    It all sounds a little sad but it's endlessly fun, with some really classic episodes and great dialogue. This is also the series that launched Tom Selleck. In two episodes, he played perfect detective Lance White, a man who, unlike Rockford, couldn't take a wrong step and is beloved by every human being with whom he came in contact. The juxtaposition between Rockford and White is hilarious.

    As Rockford, Garner is perfect, and the cast uniformly excellent, particularly Noah Berry, Jr. as his dad. If the clothes and the cars are dated, the acting, the relationships, and the story lines are not. The Rockford Files is one of the classics.