Sunday, January 10, 2010

Long Gone, Still Excellent

As incredible as this seems, it was 30 years ago tonight, on January 10, 1980, that The Rockford Files, starring James Garner--“the best private eye series to ever grace the television screen,” as The Thrilling Detective Web Site hails it--aired its final, 122nd original episode on NBC-TV.

That sixth-season installment of the show, titled “Deadlock in Parma,” finds Jim Rockford escaping Los Angeles to do a little quiet backwoods fishing. But the nature buff he hooks up with on the trail turns out to be a small-town councilman, who collapses over their trout lunch, leaving Rockford with his proxy to vote on an upcoming local proposition. Rockford is anything but enthusiastic about his situation, and his efforts to carry out his new friend’s wishes put him in an uncomfortable position between forces endorsing and opposing the proposal, which would open up the town of Parma, California, to gambling. An ambitious young woman journalist encourages our hero to do the right thing, but Rockford is having a hell of a time figuring out what that right thing might be.

If you’re a Netflix subscriber, you can sit back and enjoy all of “Deadlock in Parma” online. I don’t find it available for free elsewhere on the Web. However, Hulu does offer the wonderful 1974 Rockford Files pilot episode (“Backlash of the Hunter,” guest starring lovely Lindsay Wagner) for computer viewing, if you’d like to see where the show began. At least as of this writing, that pilot can be watched in two parts here.

Thirty years? Can it really have been so long ago? I suddenly feel ... well, ancient. But I also feel lucky to have been around when The Rockford Files was still the hottest P.I. show on the air.

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