One of my favorites of television is “The Rockford Files”. It has a rather libertarian view of the state and should be on some sort of list of car guy TV shows. For those that are unfamiliar with the show, Jim Rockford (played by James Garner) is a private investigator who served time for a crime he may or may not have committed and was pardoned. The show is never 100% clear about what got him put away, but it is implied that it was either something he didn’t do or was what amounted to something the state calls a crime but nobody else does.
In a typical episode Jim gets a new client without resources to pay him and then finds himself the target of corrupt government employees and/or office holders (if not private sector criminals). Somewhere along the way we get to see James Garner show off his driving skills in a car chase or two. He often did his own stunt driving as I understand it. Rockford racking up frequent flyer miles at the body shop with his Pontiac was a running gag.
Episodes showcased corruption from speed-trap town cops all the way up to federal agents looking for a career bump regardless if it ruined someone’s life. Not only did Rockford come against corrupt people in government, but in corporations and just criminals in general. He found a few friends within the system as well. Viewers got what I think is a fair view of government, that it consists of people who are as or more corruptible as any other and usually proportional to the power they had.
I’ll admit that I don’t watch the big three or four networks on any regular, but when I hear of or see anything they’ve produced in the last 20 years or so there is nothing even remotely close to “The Rockford Files” with themes of corrupt government. The idea that there are people in government who are not benevolent or very misguided in their outlook has seemingly fallen into the realm of science fiction. Science fiction, where untouchable themes have gone through most of television’s history.
“The Twilight Zone”, “Star Trek”, and others introduced ideas to the medium that were prohibited by the censors under normal circumstances. In recent years shows such as the multiple “Stargate” programs have been where rouge government groups and government corruption/criminality is part of the plot.
I have heard “The Rockford Files” is going to be relaunched as a new series. I don’t think it will do well once stripped of plot twists too complicated for modern viewers and topics we aren’t supposed to discuss. But I can hope to be wrong. I just don’t think we’ll be seeing an episode with a side plot or opening where Rockford is in some minor trouble for not having purchased health insurance.