Richie Brockelman was a wonderful character that didn't get the success he deserved. As played by the very likable Dennis Dugan, who was 29 years old at the time, but looked younger, Richie made his debut in a 90-minute TV-movie written by Stephen J. Cannell and Steven Bochco called THE MISSING 24 HOURS. Sixteen months later, Cannell brought the character back for an episode of THE ROCKFORD FILES titled "The House on Willis Avenue," which served as a second pilot for a Brockelman television series. It did the trick, and three weeks later, RICHIE BROCKELMAN, PRIVATE EYE appeared in ROCKFORD's NBC timeslot on Friday night.
RICHIE, despite the participation of TV legends Cannell and Bochco (HILL STREET BLUES), lasted only five weeks, despite positive reviews. Barbara Bosson (Bochco's wife who acted in most of his series) co-starred as Brockelman's secretary Sharon, and Robert Hogan played Sgt. Coopersmith, Richie's "Sgt. Becker." But the Brockelman character, who used his boyish charm and youthful appearance to lure bad guys into a false sense of security, much the way Peter Falk's Columbo did with his sloppy nature, was too good to let die.
"Never Send a Boy King to Do a Man's Job" was a 2-hour episode of THE ROCKFORD FILES that aired almost a year after RICHIE's last episode. Written by Juanita Bartlett and directed by William Wiard, both ROCKFORD veterans, the breezy episode soars because of the amusing plot and the light interplay between Dugan and Garner, who clearly had an affection for his younger co-star. Rockford and Brockelman team up to con a wealthy sports entrepreneur named Harold Jack Coombs, played by Robert Webber in his fourth ROCKFORD appearance.
This case is a personal one for Richie. Coombs wants to build a racetrack on the property owned by Richie's father (Harold Gould, following Norman Fell and John Randolph, who previously played the role). His goon (Pepper Martin) strongarms Mr. Brockelman into selling his printing business with Coombs paying a fraction of what it's worth. To get the business back, Richie guilt-trips Jim Rockford (Garner) into helping him pull an epic con game on the millionaire—an elaborate yarn involving Egyptian antiquities and a second national King Tut tour. The details don't really matter. The joy of the show is watching Rockford, Richie, and their confederates (including Stuart Margolin's Angel) lay down the groundwork and Coombs falling for it.
Trisha Noble, later a regular on ABC's STRIKE FORCE, joins the con as the sultry Odette, an old acquaintance of Rockford. Gary Crosby (ADAM-12) is a crippled racecar mechanic with an axe to grind against Coombs who gives Rockford some hands-on training (Garner enjoyed racing cars off the screen and starred in the 1966 film GRAND PRIX). The great Kim Hunter plays Richie's mother. Mike Post occasionally weaves his BROCKELMAN theme into the score for this episode.
Sadly, this was the last time Brockelman appeared on television. Dugan continued to act in films and on television for several years, including a regular gig on the shortlived SHADOW CHASERS and a memorable recurring role on MOONLIGHTING. Today, he's one of Hollywood's biggest directors of lowbrow comedies, having helmed several Adam Sandler features, such as HAPPY GILMORE and I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU CHUCK AND LARRY.