How Short Will the New ROCKFORD Theme Be? -

How Short Will the New ROCKFORD Theme Be?


David Shore’s remake of The Rockford Files, if it’s picked up, is likely to wind up filling one of the NBC prime-time slots vacated by Jay Leno. Wired offers a bunch of ideas for casting (Bruce Campbell would have been perfect in his prime, but I think he’s a bit old for the part), but I’m almost more interested in what they’ll do with the famous main title. The answering-machine gimmick doesn’t have a clear equivalent today — when people call Jim and leave a message, we’re not likely to hear it — and the show will not have a full minute for the theme song.

My own preference would be for them to find some equivalent for the messages, follow it with a few bars of the theme, and then play the full theme over the closing credits. Sure, the closing credits music isn’t often heard on the network itself, but it will be heard on the DVDs and even some stations (the A channel and City TV are two channels here that sometimes play the closing credits).

One of the reasons Rockford is difficult to replicate — Republic of Doyle is fun so far, but it’s still finding itself early in its run, and the USA shows are a somewhat different style — is that it was a show that was in large part a parody of other television show conventions, while at the same time being basically serious. That is, the stories and characters were supposed to be taken seriously, most of the time, but the character of Rockford and the way he acted was consciously built around doing the opposite of what Mannix or McGarrett would do in a similar situation. As creator Stephen J. Cannell explained, he created the character by asking himself what he would do if he were a detective: he would really care about getting paid, he would run away or try to win by cheating if he were faced with a stronger opponent, it would hurt his hand if he punched someone. He made this really explicit when he introduced Tom Selleck as Lance White, the ultimate parody of the perfect TV detective (his episodes even included parodies of the way TV cop shows were shot in the late ’60s, all extreme close-ups and stiff acting). And yet, Rockford is a heroic character who defeats the bad guys, and when he came too close to being a complete loser, the show didn’t work.

This element of the show is hard to repeat because the conventions of TV are different today. But they’re not impossible to repeat, because TV is full of mystery-solvers acting in certain ways. If Shore looks at the many popular TV mysteries, and has his Rockford acting like the opposite of the characters on those shows, then he could make the new show into a commentary on today’s television, just like the original was a comment on the TV of the late ’60s and early ’70s.

This clip from the original Rockford pilot unfortunately is missing the punchline, one of the great lines: “The trouble with Karate, Jerry, is that it’s based on the ridiculous assumption that the other guy will fight fair.” But at least it shows Rockford’s hand in pain after he sucker-punches a guy, and Rockford using cheap insults to goad a stronger man into making a fool of himself (which, like a number of things in the early episodes, is partly inspired by a scene in Garner’s 1969 movie Marlowe, where he did something similar to Bruce Lee).

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How Short Will the New ROCKFORD Theme Be?

  1. I'll be a little more interested in casting, I think, with the bonus that we'll hear about that even if we don't ever see it. That Wired list makes me shudder though. Vince Vaughn? Noooo.

  2. For what it's worth, the rumour around the Stargate fandom is that the role of Jim Rockford has already been promised to Joe Flanigan (the deeply untalented star of Stargate Atlantis). If that's true, it's one more reason to avoid this remake entirely – on top of the fact that it's going to be on NBC, the network that totally mishandled Southland and can be guaranteed to mishandle this project too. Still, it'll be fun to watch it crash and burn, from a distance, and at least it might prompt a new wave of viewers to watch the original.

  3. I always thought there was something vaguely Canadian about Jim Rockford — his self-deprecating wit and the fact that, unlike other TV detectives, he actually lost as many fights as he won. Interesting that three of the actors that Wired suggests for the role are Canadians.

  4. excuse me james garner fan: joe flanigan is perfect for this role he's good looking, funny, charismatic, and has all the abilities to pull this off. that is why alot of people want him on this role if you dont then just dont watch the show.

  5. And if you think Joe Flanigan would be wrong for this part. Take a look at this fanvid. Joe has the looks, the attitude and the acting skills. He's the perfect Rockford.

    [youtube 7EqLdmFVTYE youtube]