The Perfect Life #16 by Dr. Perfect
Dear Dr. Perfect,
What is your favorite episode of “The Rockford Files?” I need to know for my dissertation in American Studies.
Dissertating from the Midwest
I’m surprised that I don’t get more letters about The Rockford Files. My favorite episode would have to be when Rockford was hot on the case of the Grim Reaper, a slasher terrorizing the streets of NYC.
Sorry, that’s the wrong 70’s detective drama. I was thinking of “Kojak.” I meant to reference the thrilling caper involving the disappearance of a wealthy socialite on the eve of her wedding. In “Lover’s Beware,” all signs point to a jealous ex who also happens to be the Governor’s son. No, that was an episode of Columbo!
Understand that I was raised on so many of these shows, they sometimes overlap. In addition to The Rockford Files, Kojak, and Columbo, we had Hawaii Five-O, Cagney and Lacey, Remington Steele, Magnum P.I., Murder She Wrote, and several others. Who can forget the disheveled Peter Falk, or the thickness of Tom Selleck’s mustache? The seventies and eighties were classic television. Back then, we had one TV, three networks, and lots of crack cocaine.
My grandmother was a big fan of Murder She Wrote and would often have it on when family visited. She even wrote her own fan fiction teleplays and asked for my feedback. In reading them, I think she missed the point of the show. Angela Lansbury’s character, mystery writer and amateur detective Jessica Fletcher, doesn’t actually commit the murders herself; she solves them. My grandmother’s stories always centered around the Fletcher character killing all of those who wronged her and then writing about it. There was the landlord, the loud neighbor, the rude parking attendant, and even her coach potato husband before Fletcher was “widowed.” My grandmother described her reimagining as intentional and said that the series would fare much better if Fletcher was revealed to be the murderer at the end of each episode.
Maybe she was right.
Robert Urich himself came to me in a dream, fresh from his success as the titular P.I. in Spenser: For Hire, and told me that no detective show was better than Mannix. I told him that I must have missed that show because it didn’t ring a bell. Urich then said, “Well, what about Charlie’s Angels?” I asked, “Are they detectives or what?” I always thought they were secret agents. That’s when his alpaca took out a chainsaw.
Thanks to your letter, I’m now consumed with TV detective nostalgia. All the various theme songs, old hair styles, plaid suits, and freeze frame credits are coming back to me. I’ll need to walk this off. The answer to your questions lies somewhere between the episode about the jewel thief or the one about the insurance fraudster. Did Rockford ride a horse, or am I thinking of Maverick?