This series brought to full maturity the development of James Garner in television characters. First there was Garner's Maverick days when he was one of a group of tin horned gamblers who were living by their wits & conning people. It is a classic Western series which introduced Garner to fame.
Garner then started getting movies roles like The Great Escape where he is a con man again, & romantic comedies with Doris Day. While some of his movie roles were good, he never quite became a major movie star. One of his lesser known roles, The Wheeler Dealers is an interesting film to see as he is the star role in it & the premise is a stock broker.
Jim then came back to TV with Nichols (also know as The James Garner Show). This is the first show with Cherokee Productions where Jim was well cast as a turn of the century western cowboy who didn't like violence. Sadly, this series failed in spite of introducing Margot Kidder to Americans, folks just weren't ready for Garner with little action & a bad NBC time slot.
Then, came Rockford, which went deeper into all the characters Garner had developed & became a smash. This shows main carry over from Nichols is Angel (Stuart Margolin) who was a main stay in both shows. Rockford added Noah Berry & a lot of good actors. It had sharp unpredictable scripts. It also introduced special effects wizard Steven J Cannell & established production company Glen A Larsen to putting it together.
The marriage was made in heaven. The combination of these skyrocketed into a great series in which the main character seems to be stuck getting nowhere, but we love them so much we feel for them. In the end, Rockford still has the tin horn of Maverick, the con man from his other roles, the romance from his leading man movie days, & his spirit from Nichols, all developed into the essential formula.
Some of the scripts do show some small holes, but with a wink & a grin, Jim Garner pulls it off smoothly. The character make up & entertainment are so good, you don't care. Just call & leave the message, Jim will get back with you.
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