Lost TV Locations, Part II: Malibu’s Paradise Cove Pier in Harry O, The Rockford Files, and More

by Karen A. Romanko

Paradise Cove in Malibu, CA, a privately-owned beach with a restaurant, pier, and lots of history, has been the setting for hundreds of film and television productions across the decades. The cove made frequent appearances in The Mod Squad (1968-1973) and The A-Team (1983-1987), and more recent productions, such as The Mentalist (2008-2015) still make use of its relative seclusion for location shoots. It is probably best known, however, as the setting for The Rockford Files (1974-1980), since that’s where private investigator Jim Rockford (James Garner) parks his beat-up mobile home, unintentionally bringing gunshots and bad guys into this idyllic enclave.

Paradise Cove once had a 600-foot-long pier, which is shown to stunning effect in the series Harry O (1974-1976), although Harry’s residence is said to be in Santa Monica. (We locals know better.) In the scene below from “Double Jeopardy” (1975), hard-boiled P.I. Harry (David Janssen) is fishing on the beach with the pier and mountains to his left, while a woman will soon be murdered on his right.

Harry Orwell (David Janssen) with Paradise Cove Pier to his left. (Love the cutoffs, Harry!)

Jim Rockford makes use of the Paradise Cove Pier too, although the scene in the opening titles of The Rockford Files, where Jim fishes with his dad Joseph “Rocky” Rockford (Noah Beery, Jr.), actually takes place at Malibu Pier, not Paradise Cove. (Clearly lots of fishing and private-investigating in 70s Malibu!)

The Rockfords (James Garner and Noah Beery, Jr.) at Malibu Pier

Alas, the original 600-foot pier that Harry and Jim had enjoyed at Paradise Cove did not stand the test of time. Devastating El Niño storms split the pier into two pieces in January 1983, as seen in the photo below, and about 400 feet of the pier was eventually lost.

Devastation at the Paradise Cove Pier, 1983. From the University Archives Photograph Collection, Pepperdine University

Today what remains of the pier is once again open to the public, providing panoramic views of the ocean from Palos Verdes to Point Dume, but it is not the magnificent beast it was in the days of Harry Orwell and Jim Rockford.

Paradise Cove Pier, August 2019. © Karen A. Romanko

To visit Paradise Cove, including Paradise Cove Beach Café, the beach, or the pier, find your way to 28128 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu, CA. Parking at the cove is PRICEY, a little less so with validation from the restaurant. Or, you can follow hapless Harry's example and take the bus.

Television's Female Spies and Crimefighters and Women of Science Fiction and Fantasy Television
 On sale now!


  1. Love the Cove! All that television history and a beautiful place to dine.

    1. I will pick out a good cove-centric episode of Harry O for you to enjoy! 💙 🌊

  2. Malibu was one of the "characters" in The Rockford Files. It's a major reason the show was one of the greatest of all time.

  3. I have been to the cove many times over the years but wasn’t aware of Harry-O until the 90’s. Harry’s house was among a small group right on the sand to the east of the pier. By time I realized this, they had all been condemned and some were torn down, including his. I have searched for information about when they were last occupied and also for some later photos. I found them on a Historic Aerials photo from 1983, but that’s about it.

    1. I always think of Harry when I go to the Cove. Imagine being able to have a modest house like that right on the beach in Malibu. There’s been lots of erosion, so there’s not much beach left in front of the few new homes there. It’s hard to tell, but I’m not sure if the road Harry used to reach his house is still there either.


Post a Comment