I was very saddened to learn of Stephen J. Cannell’s passing on September 30th, 2010. Throughout the years, he’s been involved in many of the shows that I enjoyed the most, and he’s helped to shape television as we know it today. During his lifetime, Cannell wrote or co-wrote over 300 different television scripts and was involved in the creation of over two dozen television series. Additionally, he had several novels published, formed a very successful production company and had even done some acting throughout the years.
While this is an impressive list in its own right, it’s even more amazing when one learns that Cannell suffered from dyslexia and was either flunked or held back several of his school years. Despite all of this, he was determined to become a writer and, overcoming the odds, he became just that. Winner of an Emmy Award, Writer’s Guild Awards and with his very own star on the Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame, he will be sadly missed.
10 Great Stephen J. Cannell Shows to Watch
1. “Adam-12” : One of Cannell’s first writing gigs, “Adam-12” paved the way for many of the on-the-job reality shows that we view today. Running from 968-1975, it was a realistic police drama that followed the day-to-day lives of two police officers working for the LAPD, filmed in a sort of documentary type of format. It may not have all the rednecks and domestic violence cases that “Cops” has, but there are some good police chases.
2. “The Rockford Files” : If you enjoy those bad-guy-turns-good-guy shows, Jim Rockford is a guy you’re going to love. An ex-con who turns private investigator, Jim Rockford is an easy-going character that’s really hard not to like. He prefers to just kick back and relax, yet he always manages to get the job done. Despite being more than 30 years old, this is still a show that you can watch and enjoy.
3. “Baretta” : One of my favorite characters from the ’70s was New York’s undercover detective Tony Baretta. He was a sort of cool “Columbo” type character that always managed to get the job done and he did so, wearing some of the weirdest and most outrageous costumes. The real star of this show wasn’t Baretta though – it was definitely Fred, the cockatoo.
4. “Black Sheep Squadron” : Baa Baa Blacksheep, otherwise known as the Black Sheep Squadron, was a crazy show that was filled with some rather blatant historical inaccuracies and quite a few bimbo actresses, but it was still a great series. While the acting wasn’t always up to snuff, it was a good show for the time and was filled with lots of fun and excitement. If nothing else, the flight scenes were definitely worth watching.
5. “The Greatest American Hero” : This remains one of my favorite comedy series of all times – William Katt plays Ralph Hinkley, a school teacher who is given a bright red superhero suit (by little green men, no less). Action, adventure and problems abound when Ralph dons the suit and eventually loses his instruction manual on the suit’s powers. Uh-oh! Flying by the seat of his pants – err..spandex – Ralph Hinkley helps set the world right, albeit a bit awkwardly.
6. “The A-Team” : Col. John “Hannibal” Smith and his team are framed and sent to a US military prison for a crime that they were ordered to commit. Escaping from prison, they now live on the run, constantly on the move and working as vigilante heroes for hire. Comprised of Hannibal – mastermind and master of disguises, Face – the con man and resident charmer, BA (short for Bad Attitude) – the mechanic and strong arm, and “Howling Mad” Murdock – their insane pilot, the A-Team delivered 4 years worth of unforgettable comedy and adventure.
7. “Hardcastle and McCormick” : Who didn’t love the gristly Milton C. Hardcastle? A retired judge teams up with the guy from his last case and, together, the two do follow-ups and inspect cases that were never closed or dismissed during Hardcastle’s term. A little comedy, a little drama and some great action scenes made this show a 3-year hit.
8. “Wiseguy” : If you enjoy cop shows, this is another great one to take in. Vinnie Terranova does time, preparing his undercover role for an agent of the United States’ OCB (Organized Crime Bureau). Deep and thought-provoking, this drama touched on a wide variety of subjects from white supremacists to international arms dealing. One of the more serious works that Cannell created, it ran from 1987-1990.
9. “Silk Stockings” : Considered to be more of a fluff show by many, “Silk Stalkings” was the tale of 2 police officers who share an on-again, off-again romance while trying to track down the killers of Palm Beach, Florida. Running for 8 years, from ’91-99, there are some good stories hidden in this show, if you can ignore some of the more plastic parts and the age-old sparks flying.
10. “21 Jump Street” : Considered to be the show that jump started popular actor Johnny Depp’s career, “21 Jump Street” was a show about young undercover cops, specially chosen and trained for their ability to fit in with the younger crowd, handling cases and situations where older police officers couldn’t do the job. Running from 1987-1991, it was a favorite show of many teenagers in the ’80s.
Stephen J. Cannell’s death was the result of complications arising from melanoma. He was 69 years old, but leaves us with a legacy of great television shows and wonderful stories that will continue to live on.
http://www.imdb.com – Internet Movie Database
http://tv.yahoo.com/news/article/tv-news.en.ap.org/tv-news.en.ap.org-20101001-us_obit_stephen_j_cannell – Breaking news of Cannell’s death