May 13, 1995 in Features

‘Rockford Files’ Keeps Its Endearing Qualities

Ray Richmond Los Angeles Daily News

Here it is, ladies and gents: the bona fide biggest sweeps-time tripleheader of the television year, a bonanza of counterprogramming zeal that pits a trio of network heavyweights opposite one another at 9 p.m. Sunday.

In the ABC corner, you have “Stephen King’s ‘The Langoliers,”’ the latest miniseries entry from the productive master of prime-time horror. This two-nighter (concluding Monday) is far from King’s best, unless you cherish the sight of Bronson Pinchot chewing more scenery than Pac-Man.

In the NBC corner, there is “Naomi & Wynonna: Love Can Build a Bridge,” another two-parter running Sunday and Monday that takes its sweet time getting to the musical story of the country croonin’ Judds. Yet, it’s entertaining nonetheless.

Finally, over at CBS, there is “The Rockford Files: A Blessing in Disguise,” a typically energetic and charming outing that shows James Garner has plenty of gas left in his cranky tank.

My advice: Watch “Rockford,” tape “Naomi & Wynonna” and ignore “The Langoliers.” You won’t be sorry.

A mere 21 years after it premiered on NBC, “The Rockford Files” is still paying dividends for Garner.

A “Rockford” reunion movie last November became the highest-rated TV movie of the television season. And suddenly, a minor piece of nostalgia was one of those gargantuan franchises that define a network and show up every time sweeps rolls around.

The second of several planned “Rockford” flicks on CBS arrives Sunday night (9 p.m., KREMChannel 2), and it is at least as adorable as the first.

Garner hasn’t lost a step in portraying the bemused private dick. He’s as disgusted and cranky as ever, and this time, in a movie titled “A Blessing in Disguise,” he has good reason to have ruffled feathers. Angel Martin (Stuart Margolin), Jim’s ex-con pal, has become a famed televangelist.

Worse still, the Rev. Angel has turned zealot in boycotting a new movie titled “Little Ezekial” that he and his flock believe is blasphemous. This puts the life of the film’s young actress, Laura Dean (Renee O’Connor), in jeopardy.

So Laura, a chatty, self-obsessed sort, seeks out the protective services of Rockford to keep herself from getting dead. And that, of course, puts Rockford out something awful.

The story is always entertaining. And there is simply no one better than Garner at playing the perpetually frazzled, hapless human.

May Jim Rockford never die.

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