Monday, June 7, 2010

Rockford vs. Magnum

Since this season of television has come to a close, I've been looking for alternatives to fill the void. Thanks to Netflix, I can stream a slew of television programs into my room, so I recently started watching "The Rockford Files." I figured since the show was a forerunner to "Magnum, P.I.," I would like it. I had watched nearly the entire run of "Magnum, P.I." a few months ago and enjoyed it immensely.

While watching the inaugural season of "The Rockford Files," I noticed some striking similarities and differences with the two shows, and thought it would be fun to share them here.

- Both Jim Rockford and Thomas Magnum are extremely likable characters in spite of their foibles.
-Although both are self employed detectives, neither makes much money from their cases. In Rockford's case, I don't recall if I ever saw him get paid his $200 a day plus expenses.
- Both shows have memorable instrumental theme songs.
- Both characters are strongly identified with iconic cars: Rockford with his Pontiac Firebird Esprit, and Magnum with Robin Masters' Ferrari 308 GTS.
- Both rely heavily on help from their friends, arguably to the point where they wouldn't have been able to break a case if it weren't for help.
- Both have somewhat dark backstories: Rockford with his prison time, and Magnum with the Vietnam War.
- The backdrops for each show, Los Angeles for Rockford and Hawaii for Magnum, are characters themselves.
- Both dislike using guns.

- While Magnum enjoys the digs of Robin's Nest, Rockford lives in a mobile home in a Malibu Beach parking lot.
- Both get involved in cases that involve attractive women, but Rockford is far more successful at closing the deal.
- With his Navy background, Magnum is a slightly more effective fighter than Rockford. Rockford seems to get beat up or knocked out in every episode.
- Rockford gets taken for rides, both literally and figuratively far more than Magnum does.
- Jim Rockford is clean-shaven, while Thomas Magnum sports a manly mustache.

It's also interesting to note how different Rockford is in the movie pilot. The movie is the only time I remember him not getting beat up. In fact, he completely outsmarts the muscle-bound bad guy in the men's room. He also shoots down a single-engine plane with a revolver—a magic revolver that shoots more than six shots without reloading. So clearly they had to nerf him. But with Magnum, they countered his weaknesses with one of the manliest mustaches since Sam Elliot. I think that gives him a one-up on Rockford.

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