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HTF DVD REVIEW: The Rockford Files: Season Six

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#1 of 12 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted January 26 2009 - 07:51 PM


Studio: Universal
Original Broadcast: 1979-1980
Length: 9 hours 52 mins
Genre: Detective Series/Action/Comedy

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Color/B&W: Color

  • English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono

    Subtitles: English SDH
    Rating: Unrated (TV-safe violence)

  • Release Date: January 20, 2009


    Starring: James Garner, Noah Berry, Stuart Margolin and Joe Santos

    Series Created By: Roy Huggins and Stephen J. Cannell

    The Rockford Files: Season Six is the final season DVD set of the series, consisting of the twelve episodes filmed before health issues forced a premature end to the show. While the packaging here indicates the final episode, “Deadlock in Parma”, to be a “Series Finale”, this is more than a little disingenuous. In reality, that episode was simply the last one filmed before the series went on hiatus. But don’t let that fool you as far as the quality here. These episodes are just as good as the prior seasons of the show. If anything, they illustrate how unfortunate it was that the show had to come to an end in such a fashion. (For the record, James Garner’s injuries to his back and knees have plagued him over the decades since the show ended – an unfortunate consequence of having performed many of his own stunts over the years.) And for those looking for a happy ending, in the 1990s, Garner and the gang returned to make a series of 8 TV movies – thus proving that perhaps you can go home again sometimes.

    The nice thing about The Rockford Files as a TV show is that it’s very easy to jump in and start watching without a lot of preface. (Unlike, say, LOST, where trying to start watching the show as of this season would be confusing...) The series follows the detective business of Garner’s Jim Rockford, a genial ex-con (he was innocent) who lives and works out of a mobile home in Malibu. Within a few minutes of the show’s trademark answering machine opening, we’re off and running with Rockford on his latest problem. The emphasis of the series tends to be on gentle character comedy, with the show’s mysteries being solved along the way. Rockford is a likeable, easygoing guy, and the show reflects his outlook on life. The show also benefits from some strong writing talent, including David Chase some twenty years before he would create The Sopranos, and a regular array of interesting guest stars. (I should also note that the sixth season was nominated for the usual slew of Emmy Awards in 1980, with Margolin winning a second acting award for his role. In general terms, the series, Garner and Noah Beery were nominated as well. I’ll dissect the other nominations as we get to the episodes.)

    As expected, the complete episodes are presented here, in the order of airing. The episodes are presented in full frame and 2.0 mono sound. As I noted in my review of other series from this time, the episodes have the same basic look as when they were originally aired, although the sophistication of today’s TVs and HDTVs reveals the flaws and color limitations to be expected from a nearly 30 year old source. There is no remastering happening here, but it really wouldn’t make any difference, particularly for fans of the series. There are no special features here, aside from a few previews for other Universal Television DVDs on the first disc.

    We’ll go through each disc in order. THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THE EPISODE DESCRIPTIONS HERE. .


    This disc contains the first four episodes of the season:

    “Paradise Cove” – Stephen J. Cannell writes and directs the season opener himself. The story here finds Rockford forced to work as night watchman for the trailer community, and the episode features an Emmy-nominated performance by Mariette Hartley. (Trivia note: Hartley had won an Emmy the year before this for her guest work on The Incredible Hulk, and was in the midst of doing a large number of commercials with Garner for Polaroid Cameras.)

    “Lions, Tigers, Monkeys and Dogs (Part One)” – Rockford deals with an uncomfortable situation at a masquerade ball. Lauren Bacall guest stars here, and her performance draws an Emmy nomination.

    “Lions, Tigers, Monkeys and Dogs (Part Two)” – The second part of the prior episode wraps up the story.

    “Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Will Never Die (Part One)” – Rockford gets caught between mobsters and a musician in a story written by David Chase.

    -When this disc is initially put in the player, you can see a series of non-anamorphic trailers, including one for the season sets of Columbo, a collective trailer for Knight Rider, The A Team and Magnum P.I. and trailers for Monk and Life.

    There is also a “Previews” menu, which brings up non-anamorphic trailers for the season sets for Columbo, Friday Night Lights, Heroes, House, Law & Order, Monk, The Office, psych, and Quantum Leap.


    “Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Will Never Die (Part Two)” – The second part of the prior story gets wrapped up here.

    “Love is the Word” – Rockford takes a case for his ex, only to find that complicates things. This one has a script by David Chase.

    “Nice Guys Finish Dead” – Rockford tries to find out who murdered the guest speaker at an awards dinner. Tom Selleck guest stars here as Lance White.

    “The Hawaiian Headache” – Rockford’s vacation is disrupted and he winds up in the middle of an international conspiracy.


    “No Fault Affair” – Rockford’s father gets involved when he sees Rockford trying to handle two cases at once. This episode is notable for receiving a nomination for the 1980 Eddie Awards. (These are given for Editing)

    “The Big Cheese” – Rockford tries to get a package of evidence from the mail service.

    “Just a Coupla Guys” – David Chase writes this possible Sopranos precursor that finds Rockford in New Jersey doing protection duty for a local mobster.

    “Deadlock in Parma” – Rockford gets caught in the middle of a city council vote when he proxies one of its members. This is the final episode of the series, although not by any means a series finale. Think of it more as a typical episode of the series.


    The Rockford Files: Season Six, offers full-frame presentations of the best masters available. The image here is what you saw when these episodes originally aired. Picture quality varies throughout, but this is to be expected from 30 year old prints made on a television schedule. As far as the transfer itself goes, it is an accurate representation of the series as it was telecast.


    The Rockford Files: Season Six is presented in an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono mix that essentially gives us what we heard during the original broadcasts 28 years ago. The dialogue is mostly clear, as is the music and the sound effects. One particularly clear (and hilarious) moment comes right in the first episode, where tape recordings are played of Rockford’s various escapades at the mobile home park. Meaning that we hear a pretty clear series of recordings of gunshots, tire squeals and then an explosion. Much of which gets played to Garner’s exasperated expression.

    IN THE END...

    The Rockford Files: Season Six is a pleasure to recommend both to fans of the series and to people who haven’t experienced it before. This isn’t exactly high definition picture or sound, but that’s not what Rockford fans would expect or want. It’s just another twelve episodes in the company of what feel like very good friends indeed.

    Kevin Koster
    January 26, 2008

    #2 of 12 OFFLINE   Richard Gallagher

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    Posted January 27 2009 - 02:04 PM

    Thanks for the review. I'm very happy that Universal has put out the entire series. Now if they will just release the CBS movies!

    Rich Gallagher

    #3 of 12 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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    Posted January 27 2009 - 02:18 PM

    My gut says they probably will. We'll just have to see.

    #4 of 12 OFFLINE   chas speed

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    Posted January 27 2009 - 04:35 PM

    I think "Nice Guys Finish Dead" is my all time favorite episode. It's weird they included a picture of Rockford with his father from the pilot on the DVD box and not the actor who played it on the rest of the series (nice picture though). I always thought it was strange that in the book on The Rockford Files that they don't even mention the cast change after the pilot.

    #5 of 12 OFFLINE   WaveCrest



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    Posted January 29 2009 - 10:29 AM

    It's a pity there wasn't a trailer for "I Still Love LA", the first of the 90's Rockford Files TV movies, in this boxset. Still waiting for Season 6 to be announced for Region 2.

    #6 of 12 OFFLINE   David Weicker

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    Posted February 10 2009 - 02:37 PM

    I thoroughly enjoyed this season, as well as the rest of the series (I own all six). But I too was puzzled by the picture on the back. Yes, it is a terrific picture, but Noah Beery Jr was the one and only Rocky. I also wish there was a way they could have had both episodes of Only Rock And Roll Will Never Die on the same disc, instead of splitting it across two discs.

    #7 of 12 OFFLINE   chas speed

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    Posted February 10 2009 - 04:39 PM

    It's funny I have never really heard the story about why that guy was originally cast as Rockford's dad and then the part being recast. He kind of looked like a pirate.

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    Posted February 10 2009 - 11:47 PM

    My understanding was that Noah Beery, Jr. was the original choice, but he was unavailable for filming the pilot. By the time the series was picked up, he was free and joined the cast as per the original plan.

    #9 of 12 OFFLINE   chas speed

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    Posted February 11 2009 - 05:02 PM

    That makes sense. I still think it's odd that nobody ever mentions the cast change in the book about the Rockford Files. It's still a great book though.

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    Posted February 11 2009 - 11:50 PM

    I assume you are referring to the excellent Ed Robertson book on the show. I read about the recasting in another book called "The Rockford Phile" by David Martindale. Not as comprehensive as Robertson's, but a good book with some original interviews of the creative team. I reread the chapter on the pilot last night. Beery was Stephen Cannell's one and only choice from the beginning. The other producers liked the idea fine, but apparently Cannell was passionate about the choice, partly because he named and patterned the characted after his own father. Roy Huggins thought Cannell was so intent because they looked alike, but Cannell said he thought Beery would be the best one to capture the simultaneous love and warmth with bemusement at his son's work. Beery was already committed (I think to Doc Elliott), so had to turn it down, but the timing worked out after the pilot was picked up.

    #11 of 12 OFFLINE   chas speed

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    Posted February 12 2009 - 04:52 PM

    You had to have a lovable actor like Beery in that role. I was just watching "The Hawiian Headache" last night and if they would have had any actor other than Beery driving Rockford nuts like that the father character would really have come off annoying.

    #12 of 12 OFFLINE   FanCollector



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    Posted February 12 2009 - 11:39 PM

    I agree completely. Beery was nowhere near old enough to be James Garner's father, but it didn't matter because that warmth Cannell wanted infused their every scene together, even as the characters might be annoying each other.

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