Friday, October 01, 2010

So Long, Stephen J. Cannell

One of television's great writer/producers has passed away.

Stephen J. Cannell, a name recognizable to anyone who watched prime-time television in the 1980s, died yesterday at his Pasadena, California home of complications of melanoma at the age of 69.

Some of the series created or co-created by Cannell: THE A-TEAM, HARDCASTLE & MCCORMICK, THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO, HUNTER, BARETTA, 21 JUMP STREET, and THE ROCKFORD FILES. And those are (some of) the hits! I'm leaving out shows that didn't go past a season or two (such as TENSPEED & BROWN SHOE, THE ROUSTERS, UNSUB, and STINGRAY) and earlier shows on which he worked as a staff writer, freelance writer, and/or story editor, like ADAM-12 and TOMA.

In other words, Cannell was damn good at his job, one of the best there has ever been. His work as a screenwriter was particularly strong with a strength for quirky dialogue and distinct characterization. Yes, many of his shows were formula TV, but that's what the networks were (and are) buying, and Cannell was among the best at it.

In tribute, I plan to rerun some old Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot posts I've written about Cannell and some of his shows. Although he had basically retired from television, Cannell was still an active novelist and had appeared occasionally as an actor on ABC's CASTLE.

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