A new 'Rockford Files': Good idea, or bad? And what does James Garner think?


Usually I think remaking a TV classic is a bad idea, but the news that House producer David Shore is thinking of doing a new version of the great James Garner series The Rockford Files fills me with hope, not cynicism.

Yes, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to match the wily charm that James Garner brought to this wonderful 1974-80 detective show about a stubbornly independent, low-income private eye. But House proves Shore knows how to showcase prickly heroes.

Co-created by Stephen J. Cannell and the great Roy Huggins, the original Rockford Files writing staff included Sopranos creator David Chase. The new Rockford is slated to air on NBC, which gives me some pause — this is the network, after all, that had no idea what a treasure it had in its recent Damian Lewis crime show Life. I’m thinking USA Network, where, y’know, characters are welcome, would be a better home for a fresh Rockford Files.

What do you think? Is remaking The Rockford Files a good idea? Bad? And who would you cast as rugged wise guy Jim Rockford? (My colleague Marc Bernardin just came up with a brilliant idea: ABC, if it cancels Castle, frees up Nathan Fillion to become a potentially-ideal Rockford. That get some casting ideas sparking?)

UPDATE: My colleague at Time Magazine, James Poniewozik, has a few typically astute things to say about a Rockford remake (also check out his exemplary blog via my blogroll).


Comments (46 total) Add your comment
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  • nap

    NO WAY!! People may copy the Mona Lisa so they can learn a technique. But you will never be able to come up to the standards of a masterpiece. Rockford Files was a masterpiece because of James Garner. Try as you may you will never be able to replace him. Although I wish you could.
    Garner fan.

  • Loo

    I would love if it were possible to do Rockford justice but I just don’t see it happening. Garner was far too good to top and everyone else would just be a pale knock-off.

  • gary klein

    a middle aged person like bruce campbell who plays sam ax on burn notice would be perfect as jim rockford. the 90s remake tv movie rockford files were too long with not much substance to the shows, like from the 70s. the acting was there but the writing wasnt. the show needs action, good characters and light humor that the writers and james garner made possible. just my opinion.

  • Isembard

    Overall, I think it’s a wretched idea. How often do these remakes ever match the quality or fun of the originals? Add to that that it was such a distinctly James Garner role. If it has to be, I do like the suggestions of Fillion (though I think he’s a bit young) and Campbell (though I think he’s a bit too comic), but then I’d be willing to give anything with Fillion or Campbell on screen. What’s really sad is that the networks are so pathetically devoid of original ideas.

  • Charles

    Rockford is one of my favorite nostalgia shows and James Garner was sublime in it. The theme song alone is worth the price of admission. But perhaps Bruce Campbell could bring some of that wise but weary charm that Garner had. But did you have to bring up how “Life” got screwed by NBC? Now I’m pissed off just thinking about that again!

  • Lnicol

    I think Damian Lewis would make an excellent Jim Rockford, but who would play Angel?

  • Ted

    he’s a perfect CASTLE, so why would he be better inhabiting a former gumshoe’s iconic persona when he’s doing a great job creating one now. Here’s an idea: why not appreciate and write about him in CASTLE and maybe that show can grow some viewers.

  • Derrick

    As much I love the idea of Nathan Fillion as Rockford, I hope Castle surives!

  • Ricky

    Bruce Campbell was the first person that popped into head.

  • Elizabeth

    Please, no…

  • Suze

    Love the Damian Lewis and Bruce Campbell ideas…they’d make great Rockfords. Or how about one of the great character actors who have been around for years…Ray Abruzzo or Philip Casnoff…someone with a bit of a scary side.

  • Jim Zale

    Nathan Filion would be fine, but I like Castle. Earlier this year I was thinking that USA should do some TV movies of the Rockford Files with Bruce Campbell as Rockford, James Gammon as Rocky, and Adam Arkin as Angel.

  • susan

    YES Rockford remake and Yes on USA. No no no on Nathan Fillion. Rockford is a masculine everyman. Fillion could be good in a remake of Magnum, but not Rockford. Anyone under 40 would be laughable.

  • TLC

    I think Jeffrey Dean Morgan might be able to capture Jim Rockford. Jennifer Esposito gets my vote for Rita.

  • Eli Katz

    Obviously no one can replace James Garner. He was the best. So for a Rockford remake to work, the shows producers should try to find somebody who would do a completely new interpretation of the Rockford character. Why not, for example, try making Jim African-American? That way die-hard fans will make fewer unfair comparisons betwen the original and the remake.

    My suggestion for an African-American Rockford: Wendell Pierce. He played Bunk, the hard-drinking murder police on The Wire, with perfect sardonic wit. I’d love to see him play a down-on-his-luck, ex-con PI trying to get by with a joke and a few fake business cards.

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