RARA-AVIS: Harry O & Rockford: Literary Influences Coming and Going

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 22 Aug 2003

>>"Still, Garner got the last laugh. THE ROCKFORD FILES, arguably the best
>>and most influential TV eye ever, came along a few years later."


>Most influential maybe, and certainly great, but I'd argue the best was
>Harry O.

Which is why I say "arguably." HARRY O or ROCKFORD, that is the question. Amazing, really, that that both series made their debut the same week, September 12 and 13, 1974, respectively. Both were incredibly well-written and acted, had compelling plots, and introduced amazing characters. It's a coin toss -- Rockford was maybe a bit more clever, Harry O maybe a little darker, more melodramatic, but both are sadly missed.

Too bad HARRY O, as far as I know, has never been released in syndication. That's what the MYSTERY channel should be running instead of that cheesy MIKE HAMMER series ("I, the Fromage") tape loop. You can't even find Harry O stuff on video or DVD, whereas I'm sure it's only a matter of time before you can buy a Rockford Box Set.

I'd love to see them both again. Unfortunately, even the Rockfords they broadcast these days have been truncated, to allow for more commercials. As though the plots weren't complicated enough.

And so, before bill comes to tell me to get back to books, I'm going to ask:

How much influence did both series had on private eye literature? And vice versa?

It seems to me both shows reacted against what had gone before, particularly on television, and attempted, in their own way, to get back to the genre's literary roots. But in the process, I do believe they also changed much of not just television but the literature. Certainly, the creators -- Roy Huggins, Stephen Cannell and Howard Rodman all knew their P.I. stuff. Hell, Huggins' own THE DOUBLE TAKE is something of a classic (even if 77 SUNSET STRIP became a bloated gimmicky mess).

Oh, and Merio asked:

>Many channels also seem to have some kind of aversion to
>female breasts and to nudity in general, as if there were
>something unhealthy about the human body. So they butcher
>the films they show. I am talking about US television.
>Things are different in Europe (how are they in Canada?).

Yes, women have breasts in Canada. Even on television. Unless they show the American edits of the films. But, hey, they've aired THE SOPRANOS in Canada in prime time. On the networks, not cable.

Once again, Canadians are somewhere between Americans and Europeans. Generally speaking, Canada's a bit more liberal than the States, and Quebec even more so, when it comes to what they show on television
(and often in theatres). European and American edits are not the same.

The Europeans are even more open to nudity and sexuality. They're more troubled by violence, I think. Take the Tit Test. If there's a female breast in a mainstream movie, and it gets lopped off, it's an American film. If it's kissed, it's European.


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