I had some high hopes for this final installment of "Rockford", produced in 1997 but inexplicably not aired until 1999.
The beginning started off fairly interesting, and even had some classic Rockford humor that we had become familiar with from the original series.
Rita Moreno's "Rita" character was back, this time happily married to a teacher, and far past her troubled life as a prostitute.
The opening minutes of the show quickly set up an interesting premise: What if someone you've known, respected, and really liked for years was accused of a horrific crime such as rape? And what if the circumstantial evidence is fairly damning, yet not quite enough proof to make you completely change your mind about your longtime friend?
Do you trust him? Do you believe him? When he acts evasive, is it because he's guilty, or because he's scared and confused over a serious false accusation?
I was very intrigued by this story line, and was really into it.
However, not too long after that, the "media" appears, and the entire episode goes into the toilet. I quickly realized that the purpose of this final "Rockford" movie was NOT to entertain, but rather to conduct a ridiculous, over-the-top attack on the media and its rush to judgment in the pursuit of ratings.
I have no problem with an episode essentially calling out the media. I have been a longtime media critic myself. However, from the moment an over-the-top TV station manager uttered the words, "It's guys like him who allow me to send my kids to Harvard/Westlake (an expensive LA private school)", referring to an accused rapist, I knew we were in for a bad movie. The "evil" media was so exaggerated that it turned the entire episode into a farce. It was like the writers were trying to make sure that even the most dim of their viewers understood the points that were trying to be raised.
That's not the Rockford I came to know and love. The Rockford Files was respected for its subtle humor and understated, almost hidden criticism of society. They had done "issues" shows before, but at least packaged them in an entertaining and thought-provoking fashion. This was more like TV for idiots.
Even the Rockford supporting cast had little to do. Angel had very little screen time, and absolutely nothing to do with the story's main plot, nor was his substory interesting at all. Beth Davenport came out of law retirement AGAIN to represent Rockford's client, only to be completely useless and ineffective at everything she did. In Beth's own words, "I'm 0-for-3 so far", which turned into something like 0-for- 5 by the time the episode was over. I always enjoyed seeing Beth coming in, kicking butt, and at least giving Rockford some wiggle room to solve the case on his own. Didn't happen this time.
And what about the case itself? Rockford did almost no investigating. There was just about zero detective work done. And the one thing Rockford did uncover simply introduced a huge plot hole that wasn't resolved until near the end. The case itself was solved by a deux ex machina tactic of introducing a crime supercomputer to spit out data that should have been known from the start. Yuck.
With almost no investigating being done, how did they occupy the time of a full TV movie? That time was filled with increasingly depressing consequences for Rockford's client, which were thought provoking at first, but eventually became redundant and unpleasant to watch. The ending, which I will not reveal, was not at all satisfying.
Should you watch this? If you want to complete your viewing of the Rockford Files library, then by all means do so. But it wouldn't hurt you at all to skip this one. I almost wish that I did, so I could remember the much better "Murder and Misdemeanors" as the final episode.