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David Shore to Remake Rockford Files: Who’s Gonna Drive the Firebird?

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Television viewers of a certain age are likely to have fond memories of The Rockford Files, which aired on NBC from 1974 to 1980 and starred the wonderful James Garner as private detective Jim Rockford. The show was noteworthy for successfully straddling the fine line between comedy and drama and for its anti-hero leading man — instead of a square-jawed, all-American hero, we got a square-jawed, all-American guy who was mostly just trying to get by.

While the show was a classic in the private eye genre and was definitely a product of its time, it had an enduring comic sensibility that worked in large part because of the laid back way in which Garner played the title character — consistently down on his luck and caught eternally between the cops and a hard place, Rockford was a charming underdog we couldn't help but love.

Having fond memories of the show, it was with mixed feelings that I heard the news that NBC (along with Universal Media Studios and Steve Carell's production company, Carousel Television) has tapped House creator and executive producer David Shore to remake the show. In discussing the news in Variety, Shore said he's only just started thinking about an approach. "What makes 'Rockford' timeless is that he's vulnerable, he's flawed. He's used to hustling and getting hustled," Shore said. "Sometimes he's a hero and sometimes he runs away." I've no doubt that Shore gets the show's vibe, but if part of Rockford's charm was its portrayal of the late '70s zeitgeist and the other part was its leading man, any successful rebirth will have to figure out a way to transplant the heart of the show into the Age of Irony — and of course the title role has to be perfectly cast.

Needless to say, reaction on the Internet has ranged from the positive to the negative, and hitting all points in between. The question on everyone's mind, of course, is who will play Jim Rockford? Who on the current scene is big enough to fill James Garner's gumshoes?

james garnerLeaving aside the question of updating the show's cultural milieu, let's think about the character of Jim Rockford. He's not exactly a model citizen, although he's pretty damn good at what he does. He's done time in prison (and has the ne'er-do-well ex-con friends to prove it), and he probably owes as much money to creditors as some of his deadbeat clients owe him. He lives in a trailer on the beach in Malibu. Oh, and there's that kick-ass Firebird he drives. Garner was a handsome man in his prime, but was also a regular sort of guy, which meant that he appealed to both male and female viewers, and I think it's essential that the actor who takes up the gauntlet have that same broad appeal and be able to walk the fine line between disreputable and sexy.

Now that I think about it, I'd like to see the remake happen, but I'd like to see it happen the right way. Remakes of classics, whether they be TV shows or movies, are risky — do them well and you'll make an awful lot of people happy and, if you're lucky, you'll create a whole new generation of fans. Do them poorly and there's hell to pay. And of course it won't just be the grumpy old fans who saw the show's original broadcast who'll be irate — in this day of TV-on-DVD,  the ire will span the generations.

bruce campbellSo without further ado, here's my casting suggestion: Bruce Campbell. There's no question in my mind that this would be a good fit. Campbell has the square-jawed, slightly dissolute good looks of a man who's an hour past his sell-by date. He does seedy well. He's a credible action guy, and we already know he can be funny. Plus, he comes with a built-in fan base. Yeah, I really like this idea. I like it a lot. I'd watch this show. You listening, Mr. Shore? I'm thinking your people should call Bruce's people.

What do you think? Is the Rockford remake a good idea or a bad idea? Who do you think could play Jim Rockford?

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About Lisa McKay

  • http://www.tv-eh.com Diane Kristine

    I was a little too young to be a fan of the original and have never been much into cop/detective shows, but I can see David Shore doing well with that type of character. I wonder why a remake rather than doing an original detective series, but that’s the way Hollywood works, right?

    I don’t know Bruce Campbell well enough to say. I’d love to see George Clooney in that kind of role, though he’d never do it at this point in his career. I miss the Clooney on my TV every week.

  • http://oakhaus.blogspot.com Bill Sherman

    The big question is: how does Bruce look in a checkered sports jacket?

  • http://willkillforfood.com Lisa McKay

    Bill, I think the answer to that question is obvious — Bruce would look like a natural in that sports jacket.

  • Bliffle

    Bruce Campbell? Are you refering to the author of the book “Making Love The Bruce Campbell Way”?

  • http://willkillforfood.com Lisa McKay

    Yup, same Bruce Campbell.

  • http://pwinn.tumblr.com/ Phillip Winn

    I was in the “The Rockford Files was classic TV and should be allowed to rest in peace” camp right up until the moment I hit page 2 and saw Bruce Campbell’s pictures.

    Genius. With Bruce Campbell, it could work. Anybody else? No way.

  • http://spacehotel.com/ DW

    Bruce Campbell would be a score for this role, I like your thinking!

  • Kris

    Steven Weber would be a fantastic Jim Rockford.

  • Grace V

    Joe Flanigan (see the episode Vegas from Stargate Atlantis) would make the perfect Rockford.

  • ELL

    Here’s another vote for Joe Flanigan. He can pull off the balance between drama, comedy and action. A smart-a$% lady’s man that guys would like to have a beer with. That’s what Rockford needs to be. That’s what Flanigan would bring to the role.

  • FitzBoodle

    I was thinking Bruce Campbell, myself. He’s a natural.

  • Elyse

    Joe Flanigan of Stargate Atlantis… he’s got the wit, charm, charisma, sense of humor and you gotta watch the “Vegas” episode to see how well he can act. Yup, bring Flanigan to this part and it’s ‘must watch TV’ for me :)

  • Diana Shaffer

    I agree that Joe Flanigan would make a good Jim Rockford. He’s great at action, wry humor, and he’s just got the right look.

  • nicscifichick

    Joe Flanigan could definitely nail this role!

  • Erika

    I disagree about Bruce Campbel. Joe Flanigan would be perfect for the role. Check him out in the episode Vegas of Stargate Atlantis.

  • sgakaz

    Joe Flanigan would be a much better fit than anyone, age, looks and style.

  • Suzieb

    I remember the original Rockford and as a James Garner fan I believe that Joe Flanigan is the best for the Rockford role.
    He’s got the charisma, the dry/sarcastic wit and more than enough talent to handle the role.

    The StarGate Atlantis episode ‘Vegas’ say’s it all!

  • rsharpe

    I remember “The Rockford Files”. After having watched Joe Flanigan in “Stargate Atlantis”, particularly the episode “Vegas”,
    I think he is the clear choice for the lead role. He is a witty ladies’ man who can do action and sarcastic humor. He has my vote.

  • susan

    I think the actor Joe Flanigan would be great as Jim Rockford. I saw him in Women’s Murder Club and watched Stargate Atlantis because he was in it. He is athletic, charming,has a wry & self deprecating sense of humor and is sexy. He fits the role of the laid back, disreputable yet lovable hero perfectly.

  • http://delibernation.com Silas Kain

    I think George Newburn would be better.

  • Jane

    Joe Flanigan would be perfect for this role. The episode Vegas in Stargate Atlantis was almost like a rehearsal for Rockford. He has the look, the right attitude, the charm and can do the cool look or the scruffy. He’s a must for this role.

  • MaggieW

    Bruce Campbell looks a nice enough guy but he hasn’t got the Rockford look. Now if you want an actor more a James Garner type, then Joe Flanigan would fit the bill perfectly. Loved him in Stargate Atlantis and I know he could carry the role well. Just watch the episode Vegas to see why.

  • Sarah

    If you take the idea that a remake of Rockford should also be a reboot of the story (ala Star Trek: XI), then I think they would be wise to consider Joe Flanigan for the role. He plays depreciating dry humor with a light touch. He’s got the maturity to carry off the role with a scruffy, gritty realism and would effortlessly bring sex appeal to the part as well. Watch him in SGA 519 ‘Vegas’. The episode is a 43 minute audition for this role.

  • Tina

    Hands Down Joe Flanigan as Rockford! He has the dark good looks, the swagger and great at dry humor! To me no one else would do this role the justice it deserves~ My vote:
    JOE FLANIGAN!

  • gaby737

    Hello Rockford producers … Joe Flanigan would be great for this role ….. please … we want to see .. I am a fan since Argenitna, Black River, San Carlos de Bariloche .. so I write from far away …. he has fans around the world believe it or not .. my greetings

  • kim

    I’ve seen Joe Flanigan’s acting, I agree with some of the comments here, he certainly seems to have that world-weary personality combined with wit that shines through that would make a perfect Rockford.

    I don’t recall watching any of Bruce Campbell’s roles, at least not that I remember. I’ll have to go chase up youtube and see if there are any snips there.

  • betty

    Bruce is already on Burn Notice and I can’t lose my Sam Axe!! Besides, Joe Flanigan is the only man to fill James Garner’s shoes. Heck, ask Jim himself – betcha he’d tell you the same thing. Hey, Producers! Check out the “Vegas” episode on Startgate on your own NBC owned SyFy network.

  • rsharpe

    Joe Flanigan is the perfect choice for the remake. He can be an action here but an intelligent, wry sense of humor. He definitely has my vote.

  • rsharpe

    Joe Flanigan is the perfect choice for the remake. He can be an action here but an intelligent, wry sense of humor. He definitely has my vote.

  • Melissa

    I love Bruce Campbell and he’s the right age and level of snarkiness. But what about Joe Flanigan? He’s so cute and has a good comedic timing, and has just a hint of darkness the role requires. Oh and did I mention he’s CUTE?

  • Melissa

    Hey another thought would be Misha Collins (Castiel on Supernatural) He would make a great Rockford too. But I still love Joe Flanigan for this role.

  • Dessous Girl

    I disagree about Bruce Campbel. Joe Flanigan would be perfect for the role. Check him out in the episode Vegas of Stargate Atlantis.