Television News: "The Rockford Files" Filed Again at NBC

2/28/2010 Posted by Admin

Television News

"The Rockford Files" Filed Again at NBC

By our guest blogger, Sanela Djokovic

In trying to rebuild their primetime credibility, NBC seems to be gearing toward a major trend in the entertainment industry—making something old new again. According to, NBC has cast Dermot Mulroney to star as Jim Rockford in their remake of the 1970’s hit cop drama “The Rockford Files.”

Mulroney, known mostly as the leading man in several romantic comedies, such as “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” “The Family Stone” and “The Wedding Date,” will succeed James Garner, who portrayed Rockford for six seasons in the '70s. Garner, who had film and television success before this defining role, brought the subtle charms and deviations that made the private investigator a unique and beloved television character, not only during the show’s run, but for decades after.

The cop drama genre is a winning one; it seems it will never die. And that’s a good thing, which NBC has proved time and time again, especially with the “Law & Order” franchise, which hasn’t grown stale. “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” in particular, continues to engage viewers with intensity, thorny plots ripped from the papers and a combo no one can counter—Benson & Stabler. And, while they have played smart and safe with this formula, they played stupid with their biggest spark—the original, gritty, energetic and critically acclaimed “Southland,” which they dropped after the disastrous 10 o’clock Leno deal, but attributed to ratings. Another network, TNT, was smart enough to pick up the drama starring Ben McKenzie and Regina King, which is just into its second season and once again receiving mighty reviews.

“Parenthood,” an NBC drama-comedy, first airing after the Olympics, also takes on the task of remaking and modernizing a classic—the Academy Award-nominated 1989 film of the same title, starring Steve Martin, Dianna Wiest and Mary Steenbergen. The new show stars Peter Krause, Lauren Graham, Dax Shepard, Erika Christensen and Monica Potter. NBC tried to create a TV adaptation for the film once before in 1990, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, David Arquette and Thora Birch, but it failed to appeal to critics and viewers.

These remakes are likely to be moderate successes. Both projects have good actors on board, while the creator of “House,” David Shore, is at the head of Rockford 2.0, and Ron Howard and Brian Grazer on the production team for “Parenthood.” But, the chance of replicating the impressions and effects of the originals (especially given that the originality part will be missing) is slim. Mulroney and Graham will probably do well in their respective roles, but drift of being the next this person or that person hardly every delivers.

Straight-up remakes of television programs, films and songs are tedious and trying. Sure, what we watch and listen to are often slight variations of something else we’ve watched or listened to, but why use the exact premise, the exact title and the exact characters? Not that one tactic garners more merit than the other, but at least those of us who have seen “The Rockford Files,” will not always compare Mulroney to Garner, and declare that Mulroney cannot compare to Garner. And, even if we do appreciate it, we won’t be inclined to admit it.

The reasons why remakes comprise a big chunk of new productions vary. Sometimes, it’s a chance to pay homage to work they admire, sometimes simply to recreate success. Maybe sometimes its to make something good even better. But, fans want to know that some things won’t be touched.


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