TV 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?