After it’s premiere in 1974, The Rockford Files quickly becomes one of the most popular television series of the 1970s. Thanks to its gritty realism and stand-out performance from screen legend James Garner. The charm of the show is that James insists on doing his own stunts for the series, just like before. However, the aging star isn’t the man that he is. The meticulous stunts of the series begin having an effect on the star by the show’s sixth and final season. One of the reasons that the show ends, although there are also budgetary concerns and creative droughts involved. Join Facts Verse as we explore the reason The Rockford Files cancel.
The Rockford Files premiered in 1974, and it quickly became one of the most popular action series of the 1970s. Featuring screen legend James Garner as the character of Jim Rockford. The show follows the titular private investigator attempting to crack unsolved cases in his trademark Pontiac Firebird. Avoiding gunfights in favor of car chases, the show features legendary on-screen driver James Garner. He performs all of his own stunts both in and out of his iconic vehicle. James learns to drive during his earlier days in film, and he insists on doing his own stunts.
Part of the charm of The Rockford Files is that Jim Rockford isn’t always in power against the bad guys. Jim is in situations that appear he can’t escape, the character is much more relatable to the audience at home. James’ insistence, as well as his weathered demeanor after years of performing. He lent authenticity to the notion that the character of Jim Rockford is slightly down on his luck.
The stunts were a huge part of The Rockford Files. The show features impressive car stunts as well as more traditional fistfights. James Garner gives his all to all of the stunts involving his titular character. Performing his own stunts win him the respect of both his peers and the audience, but cost him his health. The Rockford Files’ six seasons, affect James Garner to the point where he decides he can’t do it anymore.
Despite the fact that The Rockford Files is a professional production that puts consideration into the safety of those involved. There isn’t much that can be about James’ natural aging. The doctor tells James to stop performing stunts, he knows that there’s a little that he can do besides comply. He also knows that complying means that he’s no longer able to perform in the role of Jim Rockford. Without James in the title role, NBC felt that there was little reason to go forward with the series. This is especially true that gives other issues involved in the production, such as budgetary concerns.
The Rockford Files center on the character of Jim Rockford, a falsely imprisoned convict before becoming a private investigator. During his time as a private investigator, he uses his connections during his time in prison. He helps get to the bottom of crimes that the police are not able to solve. Other action protagonists at the time of the series’ popularity are flashier in nature, Jim Rockford is a blue-collar demeanor.
In addition to can’t resist fighting, Jim Rockford lives a downtrodden life compared to other protagonists. The character lives in a mobile home, and his appearance is cheaper than what you think of a hero’s wardrobe. Still, these unique attributes only made James’ character that much more of a relatable hero to the audience at home.
For all of these reasons and more, The Rockford Files is a major success. James Garner needs to revitalize his decades-long career after the success of his 1950s television series Maverick. Maverick inspires The Rockford Files, a previous hit series in which James plays the titular character.
After The Rockford Files came to an end, James continued working, though he never had another giant hit.
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Before considering the role of Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files, James portrays another titular character in the popular series. That series was the 1950s series Maverick, which featured James Garner in the role of rogue card player Bret Maverick. Bret is an underdog that strikes a chord with the audience, and this formula repeats when creating Jim Rockford. Maverick’s original run was from 1957 to 1962, ending 12 years before The Rockford Files premiered.
James’ a great deal younger during the filming of Maverick than he is during the filming of The Rockford Files. He is a much easier time keeping up with the demand of the series. The same can be it for James’ other work around the time, including his work in film. James recognizes for giving it his all with his performances. Though this habit didn’t come around to bite him in the butt until the filming of The Rockford Files.
Following his time on Maverick, James Garner became a notable film star during the 1960s. At the height of his success, he can be on the screen alongside such fellow legends as Steve McQueen and Doris Day. Despite his success on the big screen, James’ most memorable performances remain the characters of Jim Rockford and Bret Maverick on those two highly successful series that bore their names.
James Garner understood that it was his job to replicate the success of Maverick for The Rockford Files, and this meant giving his all to the show’s stunts. However, James was no longer the spry, young star that he had been during the filming of the prior series. Over the course of The Rockford Files, the demanding nature of the show’s stunts wore James’ body down to the point where he couldn’t do it anymore. His knees and his back were the parts of his body that had deteriorated the most over the years due to the actor’s insistence on performing all of his own stunts. By the time of The Rockford Files’ final season, the doctor had advised James to take a break from performing stunts.
By the time The Rockford Files came to an end in 1980, the show had been on the air for six seasons and had spanned 123 episodes. Many years later, the character of Jim Rockford revives for six made-for-television features in the 1990s. In between the original series’ end in 1980 and the time the first of these made-for-television features appeared in 1994, James Garner had been involved in a lawsuit against NBC for profits that he felt he deserved as a result of The Rockford Files’ syndication. During this time period, the actor also underwent major heart surgery.
Besides the toll that The Rockford Files’ stunts took on James Garners’ health, there was also the toll that the series took on NBC’s budget. The series was expensive to shoot even during it’s earliest days, and it’s budget quickly ballooned over the course of the show’s six seasons. Some of the things that made the show expensive included the multiple repairs and replacements that had to be made to Jim Rockford’s signature Pontiac Firebird, as well as some of the high-profile guest stars the series featured in its latter years.
James Garner had learned how to drive well while preparing for the 1966 motion picture Grand Prix. James was given extensive training before filming the movie, and it led to the actor developing an extreme interest in racing. He subsequently formed American International Racing and made a name for himself as a professional driver. This is part of why car chases were incorporated into The Rockford Files to such an extreme degree. The extreme nature of the car stunts in The Rockford Files made it so that Jim Rockford’s Pontiac Firebird had to be fully replaced numerous times per season, not to mention smaller repairs that needed to be made from episode to episode.
Over the course of The Rockford Files’ six seasons, there was a recurring opening gag that featured the character of Jim Rockford not answering his phone, resulting in a unique answering machine message playing during every episode! The task of coming up with a new and interesting answering machine message each episode eventually became too much for the show’s writing staff, so they decided to allow anyone in the NBC building to pitch their own ideas. The series featured some impressive talent behind the scenes on it’s writing staff for a number of episodes., including David Chase, the creator of The Sopranos. The Rockford Files also featured music from Mike Post, who would go on to create the iconic Law & Order theme.
Even though the 1974 television series The Rockford Files was a major success for both James Garner and the NBC network, the show ended up being canceled due to both the extreme toll it’s physical stunts took on it’s star and the impact that it’s intricate production took on NBC’s wallet.
Now it’s time to hear from you: did you know that The Rockford Files was canceled predominantly because of the toll that it’s stunts were taking on star James Garner, or did you not realize that the screen legend had always insisted on performing his own stunts? As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!