Monday, October 2, 2006

THE ROCKFORD FILES – SEASON TWO

Not only is Universal's release of THE ROCKFORD FILES – SEASON TWO (1975-76) a marked improvement over their first season set, they've finally made available on DVD the original TV-movie pilot, which was notably (and annoyingly) missing from the first release.

THE ROCKFORD FILES was a huge mainstream hit in its day (running from 1974 to 1980 with eight TV movies in the 90's) and has been a syndication mainstay ever since, and for good reason. Simply put, FILES was the best private eye show in the history of the medium. Grounded by James Garner's incomparable charm and some of the sharpest writing on the tube (mostly by a young Stephen J. Cannell), the show chronicled the decidedly non-glamorous life of Jim Rockford, an ex-con (he was innocent) turned private investigator in Los Angeles. Rockford was one of the first TV eyes who didn't wear expensive suits and operate out of a fancy office. He worked out of (and lived) in an old mobile home on the beach, and realistically had to deal with overdue bills, collection agents and deadbeat clients.

The Second Season improved on the first in many ways, with even tighter scripts, an expanded supporting cast, and some top-notch guest stars like Louis Gossett, Jr., Rob Reiner, Linda Evans, and John Saxon, among others. Stand-out episodes include the two-part "Gearjammers," in which Rockford's dad (the great Noah Berry Jr.) is unknowingly targeted for assassination, and "The Hammer of C Block," which guest stars Isaac Hayes as an ex-con acquaintance of Rockford's who's out to clear his name. Series regular Gretchen Corbett gives a remarkable performance in "A Portrait of Elizabeth," a powerful episode which focuses on (and gives some real insight into) Rockford's attorney/sometime-girlfriend Beth Davenport.

Picture and audio quality of season Two is on a par with the first set – full-frame, 1.33: 1 transfers with a fair amount of age-related wear. Overall, though, the image is solid, with bright colors and only minimal print damage. For a show of its thirty-year vintage, THE ROCKFORD FILES looks pretty damned good. The soundtrack is Dolby mono, as is to be expected, and it's more than adequate.

With the Second Season set, Universal has abandoned the trouble-plagued dual-sided/dual-layered flipper disc and have instead spread the 22 episodes across six discs. For extras, Universal has provided a video interview with head writer and co-creator Stephen J. Cannell, and the complete TV movie/pilot film, "Backlash of the Hunter," which co-stars Lindsey Wagner.

Recommended.

BUY: The Rockford Files - Season Two