The Rockford Files (1978) – The House on Willis Avenue

 

Season four of The Rockford Files comes to a close with this feature-length episode that aired 24 February, 1978, and was written by Cannell himself. The phone gag this time around features a call from the phone company, advising him that there is  an end to his service coming… in two minutes. And I wonder if that perhaps meant that they weren’t sure at this point if they were coming back for season 5…

This is only the second episode so far that has had a text tag at the end of it, citing its basis in things that are actually occurring, and as the episode plays out, foreshadowing the rise of Big Brother, I wonder what Jim Rockford (James Garner) would think of the world today.

There are a couple of very welcome guest stars in this episode, including Jackie Cooper, who has also directed a couple of episodes, and Howard Hesseman, best known for his Johnny Fever on WKRP In Cincinnati.

When a number of gumshoes gather for the funeral of private investigator, Joseph Tooley (Paul Fix) Jim finds himself investigating his peer’s death, even though it was ruled an accident on the highway. He finds himself paired up with a young, brash fellow investigator, Richie Brockelman (Dennis Dugan), who is convinced that there is something suspicious going on.

Hesseman plays Al Steever a political activist who is trying to stop a series of constructions that seem to violate legal mandates, and nothing is being done about them, it slowly ties into Tooley’s death as Jim and Richie dig.

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They find a private company, run by Garth McGregor (Cooper), who using his international connections with governments and law enforcement, as well as the burgeoning computer industry (demonstrated by the massive computer banks seen everywhere in Garth’s company) is gathering information of all manner, compiling them into files on everyone – and then allowing the government to have them for a price, in a happy, locked-up business deal.

Jim and Richie get some nice moments together, posing as repair men a number of times to slip by unsuspecting secretaries and they have a somewhat good chemistry together, though I personally hope the plan wasn’t to introduce a new, young sidekick for Jim.

Becker (Joe Santos) and Rocky (Noah Beery Jr.) both get appearances in this episode, and Beth (Gretchen Corbett) gets mentioned, so it’s nice everyone is thought of in the season finale.

Jim’s car gets shot up, so does he, though I don’t recall him spending any time in a hospital getting patched up.

Nonetheless as a huge episode, this one works nicely, and the pacing doesn’t slow at all, it all moves nice and smoothly, and shows a series at the top of their game.

Season 5 begins next week!

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