Jun 19, 2013

Rockford Files: Buddy of the Week

When I went to graduate school in Bloomington, Indiana in 1982, everyone kept assuming I was from Rockford, Illinois, and therefore a big fan of The Rockford Files (1974-80).  It was useless to point out that 1) I was from Rock Island, not Rockford; and 2) The show wasn't set in Rockford; that was his name.

I rarely watched -- it aired on Friday nights, when I was usually out or busy with friends -- but those few episodes I saw had some gay-subtext promise.

Jim Rockford (James Garner) was an antiheroic detective, who never used a gun and hurt his hand during fistfights.   He lived in a ramshackle trailer, where he frequently sought the advice of his comic-relief father (Noah Beery Jr., a Tarzan clone in the 1935 Call of the Savage).

There were no girl-of-the-week exploits, as on Magnum PI and other 1980s detective dramas; the episodes I remember had no hetero-romance at all, but had Jim Rockford helping out the male buddy-of-the-week.

Gay-vague street-smart informer Angel (Stuart Margolin) hopes to profit from an illegal garbage collection business.

The son of an old friend, a fraternity pledge (Bill Thornbury), goes missing.

Longsuffering police contact Davis Becker (Joe Santos) is framed for murder

I missed the two gay themed episodes:
1. "Requiem for a Funny Box": A washed-up comedian is murdered, and one of the suspects is the gay guy he's been blackmailing.
2. "The Empty Frame": A gay couple hire Rockford to retrieve some stolen paintings.

James Garner previously starred in the Western Maverick (1957-62), as an antiheroic gambler, paired up with various brothers and cousins played by Jack Kelly, Roger Moore, and Robert Colbert.

Over five decades he appeared in many other productions of gay interest, such as Move Over Darling (1963) with Chuck Connors and Doris Day; Victor/Victoria (1982), with Julie Andrews as a fake drag queen; The Glitter Dome (1984), with a lesbian villain; and 8 Simple Rules (2003-2005), with Martin Spanjers.