Stephen J. Cannell has died at the far too young age of 69, and mores the pity as he either created, produced, or wrote for some of the most entertaining, light action TY shows of the 1970s and 1980s.
Cannell’s kind of TV was never high art or had deep meaning. But they were, for the most part, surely fun entertainment. A few of my favorites.
The Black Sheep Squadron
“The Black Sheep Squadron” concerned the real life (perhaps tuned up for TV) exploits of a World War II fighter squadron stationed of a Pacific island called The Black Sheep Squadron, commanded by the mercurial Major Pappy Boyington, played by Robert Conrad. In the TV show, the men of the Black Sheep Squadron are a little rowdy (to say the least) and have to be bailed out of the brig with astonishing frequency by their commanding officer. But they are always up for some air to air combat with the Japanese.
The Rockford Files
“The Rockford Files” stared the incomparable James Garner as a ex con gone straight (sort of) and has become a private eye. Garner, who made the show, was a bit of a coward, lazy, had a tendency to bend a rule here or there, but always was on the side of right. Jim Rockford had a deliberate resemblance to Garner’s other iconic character, Bret Maverick.
The Greatest American Hero
William Katt starred in this comedy/action gem as a nebbish teacher who was called upon to use an alien suit that granted him super powers to fight crime and other evil. Part of the conceit is that Katt’s character is a left winger while his supervisor, an FBI agent played by Robert Culp, was on the right. The real comedy came when Katt’s character had trouble mastering the suit’s powers, often with hilarious results.
The A Team
“The A Team” was certainly the most famous TV series Stephen Cannell ever produced. The premise was that a motley group of crack commandos have been falsely accused of various crimes. They now survive underground, lending their skills to people in need. The series was famous for having the first certifiably insane action hero, Mr. T. catch phrases like “I love it when a plan comes together”, and shooting off enough ordinance in each episode to fight a world war without killing anyone.
“The Commish” starred Michael Chiklis as a small town police commissioner who used creative and often offbeat solutions to the problems of crime. Chiklis would go on to play a particularly scary individual and a “different kind of cop” in “The Shield.”
Sources: Stephen J. Cannell, IMDB
The Black Sheep Squadron, IMDB
The Rockford Files, IMDB
The Greatest American Hero, IMDB
The A Team, IMDB
The Commish, IMDB