Monday, March 24, 2014

This Week in Television History: January 2014 PART IV

Listen to me on TV CONFIDENTIAL:


As always, the further we go back in Hollywood history, the more that fact and legend become intertwined. It's hard to say where the truth really lies.


March 27, 1974
The Rockford Files premier episode.  


The Rockford Files is an American television drama series which aired on
the NBC network between September 13, 1974 and January 10, 1980. It has remained in
regular syndication to the present day. The show stars James Garner as Los Angeles-based private
investigator
Jim Rockford and features Noah Beery,
Jr.
as his father, a retired truck driver.
The show was created by Roy Huggins and Stephen J.
Cannell
. Huggins had created the television show Maverick (1957–1962), which had also starred Garner, and he wanted to try to recapture that magic in a "modern day" detective
setting. He teamed with Cannell, who had written for Jack Webb productions such as Adam-12 and Chase (1973–1974, NBC), to create Rockford.

The show was credited as "A Public Arts/Roy Huggins Production" along with Universal Studios and in association with Cherokee Productions. Cherokee was the name of Garner's company, which he ran with partners Meta Rosenberg and Juanita Bartlett, who doubled as story editor during most of Rockford's run.

The series theme by composers Mike Post and Pete Carpenter was released as a single and went to #10 on the Billboard Hot 100, remaining on the chart for 16 weeks. and won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement for 1975.

In 2002, The Rockford Files was ranked #39 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.

Producers Roy Huggins and Stephen J. Cannell devised
the main character to be a rather significant departure from typical television detectives of the time, essentially Maverick as a modern detective. Rockford had served time in California's San Quentin Prison in the 1960s due to a wrongful conviction. After five years, he received a pardon. His infrequent jobs as a private investigator barely allow him to maintain his dilapidated mobile home (which doubles as his office) in a parking lot on the beaches of Malibu, California.

The show's title sequence began with someone leaving a message on Rockford's answering machine, which were still novel in 1974. A different message was heard in each episode. These frequently had to do with creditors to whom Rockford owed money, or deadbeat clients who owed money to him. They were usually unrelated to the rest of the plot. As the series went on, this gimmick became a burden for the show's writers, who had to come up with a different joke every week. Suggestions from staffers and crew were often used.
In contrast to most television private eyes of the time, Rockford wears low-budget "off the rack" clothing and does his best to avoid fights. He rarely carries his Colt Detective Special revolver, for which he does not have a permit, preferring to talk his way out of trouble. He works on cold cases, missing persons investigations, and low-budget insurance scams, and he repeatedly states in the series that he does not handle "open cases" to avoid trouble with the police.
In early episodes of the show's first season, Rockford's trailer is located in a parking lot alongside the highway (address 2354 Pacific Coast Highway) and near the ocean; for the rest of the series, the
trailer is at Paradise Cove (address 29 Cove Road), adjacent to a pier and a restaurant ("The Sand Castle", now known as the "Paradise Cove Beach Cafe").
In the series of television movies from 1994 to 1999, Rockford is still living in a trailer, but it has been extensively enlarged and remodeled.






In an interesting piece of homage, the trailer serving
as a home for Mel Gibson's "Martin Riggs" character and his
girlfriend, shown near the beginning of Lethal Weapon IV, appears to be located
at nearly the exact same spot.
The show went into hiatus late in 1979 when Garner was told by his doctors to take time off because of his bad knees and back, as well as an ulcer. He sustained the former conditions largely because of his insistence on performing most of his own stunts, especially those involving fist fights or
car chases. Because of his excruciating physical pain, Garner eventually opted not to continue with the show a number of months later, and NBC cancelled the program in mid-season. It was also alleged that Rockford became extremely expensive to produce, mainly due to the extensive location filming and frequent use of high-end actors as guest stars. According to some sources, NBC and Universal claimed the show was generating a deficit of several million dollars, a staggering amount for a nighttime show in those days, although Garner and his production team Cherokee Productions claimed the show always turned a profit.


March 30, 1994
First episode of Ellen (originally titled These Friends of Mine for season one).  
Ellen, Ellen DeGeneres' popular show about single thirty-somethings in Los Angeles, premieres. The show quickly became one of the country's Top 15 most watched shows and drew even more attention when, in April 1997, the gay title character "came out" to her friends in a high-profile episode featuring cameos by Oprah Winfrey, k.d. lang, Demi Moore, Billy Bob Thornton, and Dwight Yoakum. Some 42 million viewers watched the special hour-long program. Ellen became the first prime-time sitcom to feature a gay leading character. However, the show was not renewed the following season.


To quote the Bicentennial Minute, "And that's the way it was".

 
Stay Tuned



Tony Figueroa
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