Twitter was buzzing a little this weekend about NBC’s plans to relaunch the 1970s hit television series, The Rockford Files. The big question now is who will play the roguish private eye as he tackles cases no one else wants to handle.
The network announced last July that it planned to revive the show with David Shore (House) leading the creative team. NBC will be joined by Universal Media Studios and Steve Carell’s Carousel Television in trying to get the beloved ex-con back into the Firebird seat.
In addition to the first run of the series, Jim Rockford—played by Emmy-winning James Garner—also saw screen time in eight TV movies. The 81-year-old star might be a fit for Rocky, but his wrongfully convicted private investigator son now needs a casting call. At the risk of sacrilege, I offer a few suggestions.
And the nominees are …
1. Bruce Campbell
My first reaction at hearing NBC was going to cast anyone other than Garner as Jim Rockford was scorn. Then I thought of Bruce Campbell, and the remake sounded appealing. There is no actor more universally loved by geeks than the man who showed how a chainsaw can be a fortuitous replacement for a lost hand. He gained some crime-fighting experience as an Old West bounty hunter (The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.) and has fought alongside the world’s greatest warrior (Xena) and its most resourceful spy (Burn Notice). It doesn’t hurt Campbell’s geek cred to have a couple of cameo appearances in the Spider Man movies, too.
We can probably stop right there, as Campbell would be perfect for the role. However, like any good geek list, this one goes to 11.
2. Colin Ferguson
In his portrayal as the sheriff in a town of geniuses, Colin Ferguson captures the beleaguered, intuitive spirit of the original Jim Rockford. On more than one occasion, he’s walked into dangerous situations armed only with acerbic wit and a sense of what’s right.
3. Vince Vaughn
Swinger, wedding crasher, and rival news anchor Vince Vaughn would add a hint of smarmy to the P.I.’s quips in the face of danger. Of all the actors, Vaughn would look the most natural doing a J-Turn in the gold Pontiac Firebird Esprit.
4. Ving Rhames
Although he’d also be great as Gandolph Fitch, Ving Rhames has the combination of swagger and charm to pull off Jim Rockford. He can take a punch like Sonny Liston and still hack a computer on impossible missions. Rhames also has experience remaking ’70s sleuths, although his Kojak only got 10 episodes in 2005.
5. Tom Sizemore
His eyes are soft but his stare is hard. Tom Sizemore‘s Rockford would probably give a few more punches than he’d take, more like DeWitt Albright in Devil in a Blue Dress. He’d fit well if Shore wants to re-imagine TRF with more shades of gray.
6. Paul Blackthorne
As Harry Dresden, Paul Blackthorne was essentially Jim Rockford with something up his sleeve. He’s got the hard luck detective schtick fine tuned. More geek cred: appearances on Burn Notice, Monk and 24.
7. Josh Holloway
The Southern charmer Josh Holloway is finishing up his stint as the lovelorn confidence man Sawyer on Lost. While on the island, he’s been knocked around more than a few times and survived to snark again.
8. James Franco
Sure, James Franco was two years old when the original series was canceled, due to Garner’s health issues. That makes him perhaps better suited to be Richie Brockelman than the lead. However, Franco has the acting chops to range from a spacey drug dealer for Seth Rogen to the New Green Goblin.
9. Nicholas Brendon
Another youngish option for Jimbo is Nicholas Brendon, who has battled demons as Buffy’s loyal sidekick and hackers as a nerdy computer genius (Criminal Minds). He’s also comes with a spare, in case of injury.
10. Enrico Colantoni
No, he doesn’t look anything like James Garner, but that could be a plus for a remake of a series where the previous lead won some awards. Enrico Colantoni gets my vote because of (a) his Geek cred as Mathesar in Galaxy Quest, and (b) his Rockford-like wit as dad of teen detective Veronica Mars. If not Jimmy, then at least make him Police Det. Dennis Becker.
11. Nathan Fillion
Like Bruce Campbell, Nathan Fillion is another geek list fixture. He’s currently unavailable with his own successful television show, Castle, in which he shows off weekly the charm that makes Rockford so appealing. (Heck, Fillion was charming as The First’s plaything when he was killing Buffy’s peers, too.) The space cowboy has proven he can take a punch and still save the day. Maybe he can bring along Felicia Day to play Beth Davenport.
BONUS CASTING, Lest I forget: Balthazar Getty would make a great Angel Martin.