Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Stephen J. Cannell, RIP

Acclaimed television producer, writer, occasional actor and novelist Stephen J. Cannell passed away yesterday at age 69. Although dyslexic, he was a prolific writer, who started writing scripts for television shows like It Takes A Thief and Adam-12 in the 60s, went on to co-create (with Roy Huggins) The Rockford Files in the 70s, and pretty much ruled the airwaves in the 80s with shows like The A-Team, Greatest American Hero, Hardcastle & McCormick, Riptide, Hunter, Wiseguy, Renegade, 21 Jump Street, Stingray and more. He was also the man behind such fascinating ratings flops like Tenspeed & Brownshoe, Richie Brockleman Private Eye, and City of Angels, all of which were popular with critics if a little ahead of their time for most audiences.

While some snobs may look down their noses at some of his most popular hits (like The A-Team), Cannell was a master of the episodic television format, and his shows always delivered what they promised - and usually to a Mike Post-Pete Carpenter theme.

I don't think you could have grown up as an American male in the 70s and 80s and not be influenced by Cannell. His shows were action-packed, fun, generally smart - and everywhere. I know that my storytelling owes a lot to those countless hours spent in front of the TV watching Jim Rockford and the A-Team. The man understood structure and story, knew what audiences responded to, and insisted on a high level of craftsmanship, no matter what the project. He was a class act.

Rest in Peace, sir.


Charles Gramlich said...

I'm sorry to hear that. I definitely liked a lot of his stuff, although not the A team. ONly 69? wow. that is very young.

Michael May said...

Oh, wow. That's sad news.

In addition to all the cool shows he made that I grew up with, I've also been enjoying his occasional guest-appearances on Castle.

Jay said...

That's shocking news. I watched so many shows he had a hand in--basically all of my formative years!

Rip Jagger said...

A lot of great hours of pure entertainment! Rockford Files is arguably the best "drama" of the era. The characterization on that show is still the sharpest I've come across in a TV crime show.

Some of Cannell's stuff got a bit too formulaic for me, but then you never complain too much if the formula is a successful one I guess.

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