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Closing the Files

It’s always sad when you’re about to bid farewell to an old friend, and I’m feeling that right now, as I finally catch up with the eight Rockford Files tv movies James Garner co-produced from 1994-99. I’ve viewed the first three so far, and for once, the spirit and flavour of a great tv series has been lovingly recaptured, arguably because virtually everyone involved in these extended adventures worked on the original show.

James Garner and Lindsay Wagner in the pilot movie

I’ve recently re-watched all 119 episodes of the 1974-80 series, and it’s reassuring to observe how well the vast majority hold up after more than four decades. There are probably only a couple of clunkers in there, with the penultimate story — a weak back-door pilot about two low-level New Jersey hoods — redeemed by a tale about corrupt officialdom which was never intended to signal curtains-down. (Garner needed time to recuperate from a medical emergency, but Universal TV claimed he was faking it, killed the show and sued his production company. Garner sued back, and won.)

Fortunately, I’ve still got seasons two and three of Maverick (1957-62) to enjoy (although Jack Kelly’s entertaining enough to carry me through to the end of season five, despite the absence of ‘Brother Bret’), plus the short-lived pre-Rockford show Nichols (1971-2), the 1978 tv movie The New Maverick and the single season of Bret Maverick (1981-2). That should keep me going for a few months.

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