7 IMPORTANT THINGS YOU CAN LEARN FROM JIM ROCKFORD
#7: Know-it-alls don’t really know it all
Two characters on the show summed up this concept better than possibly anyone else in television history: Jim Rockford when he played anyone other than Jim Rockford, and petty con man friend Angel Martin. Some examples:
Jim Rockford (as Jimmy Joe Meeker in “Never Send a Boy King to Do a Man’s Job”): “Honey, how about the part of the horse that went over the fence last, huh? Hey, hey (pointing), hi-yo silver away!”
Harold Jack Coombs: “You got a problem, fella?”
Rockford: “Oh, nothing I can’t handle in a pair of regular pants.”
Coombs: “And your high heels?”
Rockford: “Well, now, don’t you look cute?”
Coombs: “Just a racing uniform.”
Rockford: “Oh yeah? Yeah, that looks like something Captain Space would wear in that Saturday morning kiddie show.”
As well as:
Angel Martin: “Hey, Buckaroo — I don’t let nobody outta my sight. This is the big one. This is the big score. I don’t sleep. I sit on my blanket with my gun on my lap and I keep an eye on you all night long …”
Rockford (unimpressed): “Yeah, Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tom Holt. Terrific ending, almost everybody ate a bullet.”
Second rule of the world, just behind the one about waiting 30 minutes after eating before swimming: just because something is said with certainty doesn’t make it so. Watch 15 minutes of C-Span for confirmation of that fact.
#6: Even an ‘everyman’ looks good driving a cool car
So you’re an average person. Cast in a movie, chances are you will look more awkward than cool. Christian Slater is living proof of that. Fancy clothes? Pee Wee Herman is still Pee Wee Herman, even in an Armani suit. Far too many average folks bought and subsequently lost big houses in this economy for that to be cool. However, based upon this, the car most certainly makes the man.
Notice the little nod he gives the bad guys as he’s backing out of the dead end? Everyone looks good driving a cool car — even the stiffs driving the Corvette.
#5: Women love men who love women
Rockford always held the elbow of the woman he was walking with and was protective of the fairer sex, even when trading barbs or making snide comments dripping with sarcasm. Notice the encouragement he gives here (from “Forced Retirement”):
Beth Davenport: “I don’t want to raid Harcourt & Lowe’s client list when I leave, but I am worried about my clients. Where are they going to come from?”
Rockford: “Oh hey, they’ll come, they’ll come. And, you know, you’ve always got me.”
Davenport: “Thanks, Jim. I was talking about paying clients though.”
Despite the “ouch” moment, chicks still dig the caring, compassionate man. Maybe just a little bit more if he’s got a credit card.
#4: Mouthing off has its minuses
Other television detectives were quick to draw the gun. Barnaby Jones somehow managed to squint through his cataracts sufficiently to wing the bad guy in the shoulder each and every time. Not Jim Rockford. His mouth was his biggest weapon. Unfortunately, Angel Martin’s mouth was not, as can be seen in this clip.
Nobody melted more quickly than Angel. Stay frosty.
#3: Real men don’t drink anything with an umbrella in it
Rockford’s drink was scotch and soda, or if he was feeling particularly hardcore, scotch on the rocks. An exchange proving the validity of that choice, from “The Kirkoff Case”:
Tawnia Baker, at the bar: “Where have you been?”
Rockford: “I had to rent a car. Somebody kicked my headlights out. Don’t you ever take any time off?”
Tawnia: “On the phone you said eight o’clock. It’s nine.”
Rockford (looking at a fruity drink left on the bar in front of him): “What the devil is this?”
Tawnia: “You’ve been fighting.”
Rockford: “Not me, no, the other guys did the fighting. I stood there and caught punches. Could I trade this in for a scotch and soda please?”
The man at the bar just prior to him ordered the fruity drink. He exited, stage left, as soon as Rockford arrived, and his drink left shortly thereafter. Rockford and his scotch remained with the girl. Quod erat demonstrandum.
#2: Embrace cynicism
Perhaps the most emblematic example of cynicism in the entire series was in the episode “White on White and Nearly Perfect”, in which smiling, white-clad, good-guy fellow private investigator Lance White played the foil character to Rockford’s distrusting, cynical self. A classic exchange:
Jim Rockford: “Yeah, well, we got snarled up in a case in August. I ended up doing 90 days on a county honor farm.”
Lance White: “Well, I’m sorry about that, Jim, but I had my client’s interests to protect and you did break into that hotel room.”
Rockford: “What client? Who where you working for? Nobody seemed to know.”
White: “Well, that was kind of a strange one, those 3 little boys hired me.”
Rockford: “The triplets? They were only 8 years old.”
White: “Yeah well when their folks were killed by the mob, I kind of took ‘em in. Finally, I made arrangements for them to live on a friend’s farm in Vermont.”
Rockford: “Isn’t that nice? A happy ending. We all got to go to a farm.”
If you haven’t seen the episode, trust me — you want to smack Lance White silly. Stay real, stay cynical. Your blood pressure will thank you for it.
#1: Punching hurts
Rockford was amongst the first major television characters to regularly hurt themselves connecting on a punch. Contrast that with the ludicrous Batman television series fights whereby Batman and Robin biffed and powed their way through fistfights, never once flinching as fist met jaw. Afterwards, they occasionally even broke into spontaneous dance to 60’s go-go music. Pass the umbrella drink, Boy Wonder.
There you have it. The seven lessons The Rockford Files can teach us in today’s post-Rockford world. As you’re gazing at the humble trailer, the wavering ethics, the cool car and the glass of scotch, remember the lesson within the lessons: don’t judge a DVD by its jacket.