The Rockford Files

TV review by
Matt Springer, Common Sense Media
The Rockford Files TV Poster Image
Classic 1970s detective series offers humor, mild violence.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The series takes place in a world of low-end criminals and shabby private investigators; while the morality of these characters is often questionable on both sides, it is usually clear who is good, and what the show's protagonists stand for.

Positive Role Models & Representations

A large part of the series' charm is in the lead character's eagerness to avoid trouble and use deception to further his own goals. However, he usually does the right thing and takes risks to help those who are in need, even if he complains about it the entire time.


Produced in the 1970s, the show falls safely in line with network television content of the era. There is no blood or gore, but nearly every episode builds to a climax involving gun play, fisticuffs, or a combination of both. There are occasional on-screen deaths but again, these are extremely non-graphic in nature.


Occasional mild flirtation and kissing, but tame in comparison to today's network television dramas.


Characters occasionally use terms such as "idiot" to describe each other.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

As befits a series that aired nearly 40 years ago, the show takes a more liberal attitude toward alcohol and smoking. Main characters indulge freely in social settings.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this 1970s detective series features frequent violence, though it will appear tame by today's broadcast television standards. The show's characters frequently occupy grey areas of morality, but only for the sake of clever dialogue and plotting. The show's tone is relaxed and easy, in spite of the fact that it's set in a typically intense genre.

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What's the story?

Jim Rockford (James Garner) is hardly the kind of glamorous private investigator typically found on television. On THE ROCKFORD FILES, he works out of a ramshackle trailer parked near a beach in Malibu, taking second-rate jobs that enable him to do as little work as possible while still maintaining his slacker lifestyle. He always seems to owe somebody money and he never turns down a free meal. Inevitably, he's called upon to take risks and crack a few skulls to make sure that he gets paid and can return to his beach bum ways.

Is it any good?

It may be hard to appreciate from the perspective of today's highly evolved TV dramas, but The Rockford Files was a groundbreaking and critically significant series for the 1970s. Until Jim Rockford ambled onto the screen, TV detectives were hard-nosed, chisel-jawed champions of justice, as bland as the black-and-white shows they used to star in.

Jim Rockford represented a more complex, humorous take on the PI genre. His character made an indelible impression on the history of television, and the playful dialogue and plotting freed TV creators to explore more interesting territory on such notable 1980s series as St. ElseWhere and Hill Street Blues. Perhaps most importantly, the show remains immensely watchable, full of humor and unforgettable supporting players.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the show's occasional violence. How does it compare to today's television shows?

  • What kind of a "hero" is Jim Rockford? Is he a role model?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama

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