The Rockford Files (1976) – Return to the 38th Parallel & Piece Work

 

Ned Beatty and Veronica Hamel make return appearances in this week’s installment of The Rockford Files, and Jim (James Garner) has his hands full.

First up is Return to the 38th Parallel, which originally aired 10 December, 1976. It was written by Walter Dallenbach, and its phone gag features an insurance company calling to say yes, they got the claim, but he never paid the premium.

Jim meets up with an old Korean war buddy, Al Brennan (Beatty), who has shown up in town with some serious bookie problems. Keeping that a secret from Jim, he inserts himself into a case Jim is dubious about taking. Marcy Brownwell (Hamel) is trying to hire him, but he’s a little reticent. When Brennan takes it, pretending to be Jim’s partner, things just get worse and worse for everyone involved.

And just because they survived a war together and got themselves in and out of numerous scrapes, things aren’t so smooth now.

It’s nice that every now and again, we’re reminded that not only was Jim a con, but he also served in the military. There’s a whole backstory to him that we only get glimpses of now and then, and honestly I love hearing about in just this way, doling out a little at a time. I do like hearing the stories that Brennan shares, but it’s obvious that Jim is tiring of him, and he’s not the same guy he was then…

As things start to go south in the case, revelations are made, and Jim has to reevaluate his friendship with Brennan, because, he seems to be in the middle of everything.

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The second episode, Piece Work, aired 17 December, 1976. Penned by Juanita Bartlett this featured a phone gag that was a call back to the root canal problem Jim got a message about a few episodes ago.

This time out, Jim gets involved in an insurance claim, and sadly, and to no surprise, everything spirals out of control, and ends up being much bigger than was originally thought.

This one, though written by Bartlett, who has done some fantastic work on the series, just didn’t hold my attention as much as the previous episode, in fact it felt like yet another insurance story, though the gun-running angle was cool!

Yes, there were good moments in it, the byplay between Jim and Rocky (Noah Beery Jr.) and Becker (Joe Santos) is always fun to watch, but it just felt like a been there, done that kind of episode.

And Garner is always a joy to watch, because in this role, it never feels like he’s acting, he simply IS Rockford, and that to me is a sign of a great actor, and honestly, no matter how good the stories are, and a lot of them are really great, it’s his performance, and his interactions with the other recurring characters that brings me back, time and time again.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the series brings me next week!

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