When I was a little kid, the barber called me “Hoppy.” I often went to see Sam and his collection of long, skinny combs in soaking in a jar filled with a green, smelly solution. He called me Hoppy because I had white hair and often wore a two-gun holster and a Fanner 50 in each. I was an avid watcher of TV westerns. In those early days, that consisted of my namesake, Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. Hoppy was my favorite, I think, because he didn’t sing. Even then, though, I wasn’t able to completely suspend disbelief. So much of the action was improbable. Just as I had avoided the impossible feats of the comic book super heroes, many of the TV cowboys seemed able to dodge bullets and could single-handedly beat up a room full of unshaven thugs — the Jack Reachers of their day.
Then along came “Maverick.” Absolutely perfect. He was a card shark who didn’t cheat and a con artist who used his skill for good. He was decent, but not perfect guy who would rather talk himself out of a jam than fight his way out of it, who occasionally got the worse end of the deal, who could be fooled, but who, in the end figured out a clever way to deal with the problem. When Bret Maverick morphed into Jim Rockford, I followed happily. My interest was moving from westerns to private eyes as well. It wasn’t too long ago that I watched every episode of the “Rockford Files” in binge mode. It held up for me. Rockford was an ex-con who was pardoned, but never quite forgiven. He was human, led by his heart into all sorts of trouble. I doubt very much I would have been drawn to writing about private eyes if it weren’t for the “Rockford Files. And, though I liked Jack Kelly and Roger Moore, there would be no “Rockford Files” without Garner. And I might not have understood it was possible to make a very human guy a series hero.
Because Garner made it (acting) seem so easy some might dismiss his skill. For those who would like an interesting glimpse into his range, rent Twilight, coincidentally a P.I. film, where he, along with his peers, Paul Newman, Gene Hackman and Susan Sarandon, created a modern noir classic.