The Rockford Files (1976) – The Italian Bird Fiasco & Where’s Houston?


Private investigator Jim Rockford (James Garner) tackles a couple of interesting cases in this week’s installment of The Rockford Files.

First up we have The Italian Bird Fiasco, which originally aired 13, February 1976, and was directed by film legend Jackie Cooper. It was written by Edward J. Lasko. The phone gag this time featured a young woman calling about Jim’s zodiac sign, and if he ever has Virgo rising, then he should call…

Jim is hired by Thomas Caine (William Daniels) to make a purchase at an art auction, unfortunately, Caine, despite claiming he’s an art dealer, is a good deal shadier. It seems that these pieces of statuary, in the shape of cormorants, may actually be being used as a carrier for diamonds.

Jim quickly ends up in over his head, despite some questionable aid from Becker (Joe Santos), and an art dealer friend of his, Ted Haller (Ron Silver). Things get even more complicated, when the same woman, Maggie (Camilla Sparv) keeps popping up at the auctions, desperate to bid on the same pieces Jim has been commissioned to purchase.

This one tries to take on a more international air, by opening with stock footage of Heathrow airport, but the action that takes place there was obviously shot in California. It doesn’t detract from the smart, and fun plot though, letting Jim have a lot of fun in this episode as he realizes what is really going on, and works to come out ahead of the game.


The second episode this week, is a little more convoluted. It originally aired 20 February, 1976 and was written by Don Carlos Dunaway.  The phone machine message, oddly enough, is another zodiac themed message, this time from a zodiac restaurant, who is calling to remind Jim that he hasn’t paid the bill yet, and if he doesn’t they will repossess his birthday.

Jim and Rocky (Noah Beery Jr.) get pulled into a case investigating a crooked real estate deal, that has led to the murder of Peter (Dabbs Greer), one of Rocky’s friend, while looking for his daughter, Houston (Lane Bradbury).

Diel (Tom Atkins) as well as Beth (Gretchen Corbett) get pulled into it through the course of the episode, but the best thing about it, was the way Houston kept pushing away dealing with her father’s death, being constantly strong, until everything is settled, and then Jim says the simplest of things, and she has to excuse herself…

… they find her, and leave her, weeping out her grief in her bedroom.

It’s a really nice ending to the episode, that while smart and engaging, just didn’t have the sense of fun that most of the episodes have.

Amazingly, this puts us near the end of Season 2, two episodes to go, and then we’ll be onto season 3, which will see us at the halfway point for the series! It’s going by incredibly quickly!




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