RICHIE BROCKELMAN, PRIVATE EYE was a very good crime drama that came and went with barely a peep in the spring of 1978. It could be quickly described as YOUNG JIM ROCKFORD, and it was created by ROCKFORD FILES executive producer Stephen J. Cannell and wunderkind Steven Bochco, who had already created and written for several dramas, but had not yet become "The Steven Bochco" of HILL STREET BLUES, L.A. LAW, and NYPD BLUE.
Brockelman first appeared in a 1976 TV-movie, THE MISSING TWENTY-FOUR HOURS, which was written by Cannell and Bochco and directed by Hy Averback (F TROOP). He was played by Dennis Dugan (NIGHT CALL NURSES), who was thirty years old, but looked 23. And that was the basic idea of the show--Brockelman was a private investigator whom nobody took seriously because he was so young.
Cannell liked the idea and the character (the ratings were okay, not great), so he brought Richie back for a two-hour ROCKFORD FILES called "The House on Willis Avenue." Cannell wrote it, and Averback again directed. Since Brockelman was written like a younger Jim Rockford--glib, quick-thinking, eager to avoid violence is possible--the character was a perfect fit in the Rockford universe, and Dugan and James Garner shared terrific chemistry.
"The House on Willis Avenue" also served as a second pilot of sorts, because RICHIE BROCKELMAN, PRIVATE EYE premiered on NBC just three weeks later as a spring replacement for THE ROCKFORD FILES. Ratings were pretty good in the ROCKFORD slot and also later during summer reruns, but apparently not quite good enough for NBC to bring RICHIE back for a second season.
Here's the opening from the fifth and final BROCKELMAN episode, "Escape from Caine Abel." It begins with a small bit of Brockelman welcoming Rockford back from his vacation, and you can see the chemistry between the two actors. Mike Post, Pete Carpenter, Stephen Geyer, and Herb Pederson wrote the Beach Boys-esque theme.
Although RICHIE BROCKELMAN, PRIVATE EYE was canceled after five episodes, Richie Brockelman appeared one more time. About a year after his series went off the air, Dugan guest-starred in another two-hour ROCKFORD FILES, "Never Send a Boy King to Do a Man's Job," about which I wrote here.
Dugan's ROCKFORD episodes are available on DVD, but the BROCKELMAN series, sadly, is not, nor is the original TV-movie.