‘The Rockford Files’ May Have Ended Because of James Garner’s On-Set Injuries

The Rockford Files grittiness and realism made it popular amidst a landscape of more polished cop and detective shows.

Fans enjoyed seeing a lead character that was frequently down on his luck and couldn’t use violence to solve his problems. However, this doesn’t mean that the show lacked action — in fact, many scenes featured difficult and complicated stunts.

These stunts also added a lot to the show, but even though safety precautions were present, and the stunt performers knew what they were doing, they took a toll on these performers. In fact, it’s theorized that the show only ended because of stunt-based injuries. So how did these stunts end up finishing the show?

‘The Rockford Files’ had an ex-con as its main character

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The Rockford Files started airing in 1974, and it quickly became a TV classic. The show starts James Garner as Jim Rockford, a falsely imprisoned ex-convict who now works as a private investigator, solving cases that the police might not look into.

The main character is a lot less flashy than other protagonists of the time: he eschews violence when possible, he lives in a mobile home, and his clothes are styled to look cheap. Rockford interacts both with police and with figures of the underworld that he met in prison, lending a sense of complexity to the show.

Critics and fans loved The Rockford Files. After it ended, it was resurrected for TV movies and spinoffs about other characters from the show. Additionally, the show and its actors, especially Garner, were nominated for multiple different awards. It’s clear that this show meant a lot to a lot of people.

James Garner had a long acting career

James Garner as Jim Rockford
James Garner as Jim Rockford | NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

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Though The Rockford Files was huge in the 70s, Garner had actually been a massive name since the 1950s. He had a few different film roles and supporting roles on TV shows before he hit his first television lead: Bret Maverick on the western series Maverick. This show ran from 1957 to 1962; in the 60s Garner acted in several big-budget films alongside huge names like Doris Day and Steve McQueen.

The Rockford Files, therefore, came at the middle of a long, established career. In fact, Maverick was a direct inspiration for The Rockford Files, as the producers wanted to recapture the edgier and offbeat aspects of the former. It worked, and Garner enjoyed a second growth in fame that would sustain him for decades.

James Garner’s doctors told him to stop doing stunts

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Garner’s acting was impressive, but just as impressive was the fact that, for years, he did all of his own stunts. Even after two decades in the industry, he continued doing this on The Rockford Files, participating in fist fights, chases, and other difficult and potentially dangerous stunts.

All of these took a massive toll on his back and knees especially, and Garner found himself in pain. According to Wide Open Country, Garner’s doctor told him that he should take a break, which led him to decide that he was done with The Rockford Files.

Of course, NBC couldn’t continue the show without its star. The episodes were expensive to produce, but Garner brought in a lot of fans and tied the show together. What could the show be without him? Perhaps, then, it’s for the best that they didn’t try to continue the show without him, and they didn’t force him to continue dangerous stunts while he was in so much pain.