The Rockford Files: Tom Selleck Has Doubts About New NBC Series

Tom SelleckTV series remakes aren’t typically very successful, and NBC’s planned redo of The Rockford Files is facing a really big critic in Tom Selleck. Meanwhile, NBC keeps forging ahead with casting the pilot.

The Rockford Files originally ran on NBC for six seasons back in the 1970s, until star James Garner was so physically exhausted that he had to leave the show. He starred as Jim Rockford, a private detective who didn’t see himself as a hero, and seemed to be looking more for the money than the glory. His costars on the show are Noah Beery Jr. and Joe Santos, while Stuart Margolin, Gretchen Corbett, James Luisi, Tom Atkins, Bop Hopkins, Pat Finley, Isaac Hayes, and one Mr. Tom Selleck play recurring characters.

NBC has tapped movie star Dermot Mulroney, star of My Best Friend’s Wedding and Burn After Reading, for the role of Jim Rockford. In this version, the character is a former cop and also spent some time in prison. Garner’s Rockford had been a Korean war vet who spent time in San Quentin for armed robbery, but was pardoned for the crime he didn’t commit. The character is being described as “slightly crumpled, wry-humored, cynical, world-weary, compassionate when it’s called for, and easily irritated by morons.”

Alan Tudyk, star of Dollhouse, Firefly, and V, will play LAPD Sergeant Dennis Becker who doles out favors to Rockford, making him not a popular person on the police squad. It’ll be interesting to see if Tudyk and Mulroney can pull off the same chemistry as Garner and Joe Santos, who played Becker in the original series. Beau Bridges will play Rocky, Jim Rockford’s father and closest friend. He was a semi-retired truck driver who would have preferred Jim to get more stable employment, and was played by Noah Beery Jr. originally.

All of this is well and good, but Tom Selleck, who played Rockford’s rival Lance White in two episodes back in the 1970s, doesn’t see the remake as a totally positive thing. While he finds Mulroney to be a fine actor, he thinks instead of recasting the role of Rockford, they should just use James Garner again. He makes the point that “when you think of Rockford, you don’t remember ‘that episode about the bank robbery,’ you remember [Garner] making you laugh.”

Selleck notes that, “I’m a little prejudiced because he was really a formative influence on me, even a mentor in so many ways, even though he probably wouldn’t admit to it…” He concludes, “[Mulroney] has an uphill battle, and I wish him well.”

The new version of The Rockford Files is being written by the creator of House, David Shore, who is also a co-executive producer with Steve Carrell. If the pilot becomes a series, it’s bound to pick up viewers for the first few weeks as people tune in just to see it. The question is if those viewers will return week after week.

What do you think? Is Selleck correct? Does Mulroney have an uphill battle ahead of him? Would it have been better if he was going to play a completely new character?

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58 Comments · Read them below or add one

  1. Panda says

    Tom Selleck has the measure of the situation. Garner IS Rockford, just as Noah Berry Jr. is Rocky… The nephew angle works for me, and Becker’s son is on the LAPD; so make it a next generation thing…

  2. Aaron says

    Every comment seems spot on. Garner can not be rewritten or replaced, but why not give this generation the future hope of being self employed and earning the tidy sum of $200.00/day plus expenses? I forego the 10:00 news every night to watch Rockfords “blue collar” approach to life it was fun to watch in the 70’s and is just as fun today. OH one more thing, what american boy hasen’t tried to spin his car in a 180 “pull a Rockford” at least once.

  3. Philip says

    Unfortunately, Mr. Mulroney will either have to change the character to the point it won’t be recognizable or he will become an actor, playing James Garner, playing Jim Rockford (ala Steve Martin in the Pink Panther). The ensamble cast was nearly impeccable with a rare and awesome chemistry, the writing was nearly always genius, in short, the show worked and never “Jumped the shark.” Beau Bridges, although good, is no Noah Berry. I wish Mr. Mulroney well, and I would love to love a series again like I did the original, but I don’t have high hopes.

  4. Shirley says

    Unfortunately James Garner had a stroke two years ago. I saw a picture of him taken about one and a half years ago and he didn’t look well. He looked like a sick old man.
    It breaks my heart to see him like this.
    So I’m afraid Jim won’t be doing any acting at all.

  5. Don says

    I’m a huge James Garner fan just like most of the people who have worked with him over the years. I still catch Maverick on the western channel,my 34 year old son even likes it. Rockford was one the best shows ever,I watch the reruns and it’s still great. Wish they had brought Jim back to play Rocky but Beau will do a good job. Mulroney has a lot of Garners attributes and I hope the show stays on for years to come.

    • says

      @Alan Penberthy: It’s not scheduled to air. If it becomes a series (almost a certainty) they’ll likely air it as the first episode.

  6. shirley says

    I agree with Tony. If they go ahead with the new show make Rockford a veteran.
    I myself am a veteran and can understand James Garners portrayal.


  7. Nick Kitt says

    As long as they make Rockford a purveyor of confidence games somewhere along the way,this will work. I agree being a veteran in the Gulf War would help to convey Rockford’s resourcefulness to that end. Perhaps Rockford will be an ex-cop from bunco. It’s the only way, in this high tech age, one would be able to actually pull off an ingenious scam or two and that is essential to the character of Rockford.

  8. Tony says

    I think it is high time that they remake this great show. But as a Veteran, I AM HIGHLY PISSED OFF THAT THE NEW ROCKFORD IS AN EX COP AND NOT A VETERAN!!! WHY? Why can’t he be a gulf war vet – the time-line fits. Every show is about cops, why can’t they stick to the storyline – if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. The disconnect between the private eye who sees his cases differently than a cop made Rockford’s skills so believable. Veteran’s would appreciate themselves being portrayed in a good light – Just like Tom Selleck’s character did in Magnum PI. The producer’s of this new remake are doing Veteran’s and the original story an injustice

  9. Robert says

    No, no, no.. James Scott Rockford was an ex-CON. The Rockford character was never written as a former police officer. Your USA Network idea is right on. Something good happening is those USA corporate offices.

  10. G2 says

    I’m willing to give it a try. I’d think it had a better chance of success if it was on USA Network or even TNT.
    One minor point, Rockford was an ex-cop; they are just being true to the orginal.

  11. Wayne D says

    Rockford is Garner. If you replace James Garner it should be somebody with an audience draw already. James Garner had been succuessful previously with Maverick. Mulrooney is nowhere near what Garner was and will not have the audience draw. Garner should be Jim Rockford with a nephew or something doing the primary action. Somebody with the comedic and dramatic background to capture the flavor of the original Rockford Files.

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