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R.I.P. Stephen J. Cannell
October 1, 2010 2:24 PM   Subscribe

A last sheet flutters onto the pile: Stephen J. Cannell, the mystery novelist and television deity responsible for 21 Jump Street, The A-Team, Baa Baa Black Sheep (or Black Sheep Squadron), Baretta, Booker, Broken Badges, Chase, Cobra, The Commish, The D.A., The Duke, The Greatest American Hero, Hardcastle and McCormick, The Hat Squad, Hawkeye, Hunter, J.J. Starbuck, The Last Precinct, The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage, Palace Guard, Profit, The Quest, Renegade, Richie Brockelman: Private Eye, Riptide, The Rockford Files, The Rousters, Silk Stalkings, Sonny Spoon, Stingray, Stone, Street Justice, Tenspeed and Brown Shoe, Toma, Top of the Hill, Unsub, and Wiseguy, has passed away. He was 69.

Previously.
posted by Iridic (56 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Note Roy Huggins was the lead named producer on Rockford Files.

Still a titanic loss.

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posted by Ironmouth at 2:27 PM on October 1, 2010


And he did it with dyslexia.

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posted by Joe Beese at 2:38 PM on October 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


I was a huge fan of much of his work, even so far as to faithfully record the late-night re-runs of "Stingray" on VHS (in SP mode, even!) back in the 80s. Unlike "Stingray", some of his work stands up to repeated viewings -- just a month ago, my husband and I watched 'Wiseguy" (the Mel Profitt story arc) again.

RIP.
posted by parilous at 2:44 PM on October 1, 2010


i will click all of those links then cuss someone out then snort a line.

real Toma

Spacey as Mel Profitt was good.
posted by clavdivs at 2:45 PM on October 1, 2010


Between Cannell, Bellisarius and Spelling, I was practically raised on Saturday evening TV.

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posted by benzo8 at 2:46 PM on October 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


No!

The unsung hero of my childhood has passed away. My only memory of him, specifically, was the little throwing-the-finished-page-away-from-the-typewriter animation his eponymous production company had.

He taught me english, for better or worse.
posted by flippant at 2:51 PM on October 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think Rockford Files was his last Producing/Writing gig before he got his own production company, so no matter how much he contributed to all things Rockford, Roy Huggins got top billing.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:58 PM on October 1, 2010


Why are there no shows like Hunter or Hardcastle and McCormick. They helped to make me who I am for fuck's sake...

Oh, right. Yeah, I guess that is a pretty good reason, actually.

And Riptide? To this day I still want a pink helicopter I can call the Screaming Mimi! This man has a lot of my childhood to answer for (and I mean that in the best possible way.)

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posted by quin at 3:01 PM on October 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


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posted by OmieWise at 3:06 PM on October 1, 2010


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posted by evilcolonel at 3:07 PM on October 1, 2010


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posted by buzzman at 3:07 PM on October 1, 2010


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posted by keli at 3:10 PM on October 1, 2010


"Silk Stalkings", while not his best show, was the BEST. TITLE. EVER.

(To his credit, he wasn't the main force behind the semi-awful "Street Justice"; I heard he mostly gave it his name to help the producers, who used to work for him, get it sold)
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:17 PM on October 1, 2010


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I remember I loved Hunter when I was a kid. Dubbed into Mandarin and on every night on CCTV in Beijing. I must have been 5 or 6 then.

His guest spots as himself on Castle were pretty damn fun too.
posted by kmz at 3:21 PM on October 1, 2010


"Silk Stalkings", while not his best show, was the BEST. TITLE. EVER.

That was a guilty pleasure in my younger days. Ben Vereen was on How I Met Your Mother this week and I was trying to remember where I remembered him from until I browsed through his Wikipedia entry and realized he was Chris and Rita's captain!
posted by kmz at 3:23 PM on October 1, 2010


Had he given us only Rockford, it would have been a life well spent.

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posted by Thorzdad at 3:23 PM on October 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


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posted by tommasz at 3:27 PM on October 1, 2010


This dude practically defined an entire decade for television.

Also: Sonny Spoon! Holy shit! I remember watching that!
posted by PenDevil at 3:29 PM on October 1, 2010


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posted by jquinby at 3:35 PM on October 1, 2010


It seems like he actually typed his manuscripts as fast as he did in that video clip.
posted by GuyZero at 3:35 PM on October 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


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posted by synecdoche at 3:35 PM on October 1, 2010


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posted by lapolla at 3:45 PM on October 1, 2010


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posted by sciatica at 3:50 PM on October 1, 2010


Whew...a life of well-compensated mediocrity. I had nearly forgotten all of those shows, except for The Rockford Files, which was the best of the bunch, but still was mostly a watered-down version of Mannix, which I adored.

I watched quite a few episodes of Silk Stalkings, I think because it was on about the time I'd get home in the evening. It would be a great source for a Popular Culture of the '80s class.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 4:01 PM on October 1, 2010


Wow. He entertained me for most of my formative years. Nearly every one of my favorite shows as a child ended with that piece of paper floating onto the pile. I guess, when I was younger, I couldn't comprehend that one guy was responsible for nearly everything I watched, and sort of imagined that stinger as, I don't know, the production logo for some massive company responsible for making all that was good on TV.

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posted by Ghidorah at 4:12 PM on October 1, 2010


It's as if a million vacuum-tube style television sets had to warm up first before they could cry out in agony.

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posted by localroger at 4:47 PM on October 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is Mike Post going to play at the funeral?
posted by Rangeboy at 4:49 PM on October 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


The toes knows.

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posted by hal9k at 4:49 PM on October 1, 2010


I am so sad about this. I never got to work with him, but did work with people he'd trained, and am so grateful for that: they mentored me the same way he did them, and I got an unbelievable education in how to run a show in an atmosphere of creativity and, damn it, FUN, rather than ego and snark. I wish more showrunners were as kind and supportive and just all-around cool as he was.

Damn. He'll be missed.
posted by OolooKitty at 4:50 PM on October 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


I had horrible bouts of long term insomnia throughout much of high school, and his work that had been relinquished to late night cable television, either in reruns (Stingray) or first run (Silk Stalkings) were a strange form of comfort for my teenage anxieties. I've always said that he was a man I'd never meet who had a lasting formative impact on my teen years, and it saddens me to hear of his passing. A thank you to him for his prolific career.
posted by librarianamy at 5:04 PM on October 1, 2010


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posted by bartleby at 5:06 PM on October 1, 2010


The page-out-of-the-typewriter clip always brought a smile to my face when I was a kid.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:14 PM on October 1, 2010


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posted by LobsterMitten at 5:15 PM on October 1, 2010


The evolution of the Steven J Cannell logo video, from early '80s to late '90s
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:18 PM on October 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


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posted by usonian at 5:53 PM on October 1, 2010


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(if you want a good laugh, get the first season DVD set of Castle -- he makes an extended appearance on a DVD-only special where he's "training" Nathan Fillion to be a writer, it's VERY funny).

This man pretty much formed my childhood. We played A-Team on the playground, for heaven's sake. I wore camouflage ALL THE TIME until about 5th grade or so when I switched schools and got thrown in the deep end with a bunch of girly girls.

RIP, Mr. Cannell.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 5:54 PM on October 1, 2010


LobsterMitten: Nice link! It's pretty funny to see the evolution of fashion from such silly thing. Windbreaker with pinstripes to popped-collar to dignified black jacket...
posted by parilous at 5:54 PM on October 1, 2010


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posted by grouse at 6:15 PM on October 1, 2010


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posted by Snyder at 6:25 PM on October 1, 2010


I may not have known his name at the times, but over half of these shows were on every week on at least one television in our house. There goes the 80s.

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posted by Mael Oui at 6:35 PM on October 1, 2010


Spacey as Mel Profitt was good.

Yes, the Mel Profitt arc of Wiseguy was almost too good for broadcast TV. A show like that on cable would kill now.

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posted by fuse theorem at 6:57 PM on October 1, 2010


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My thoughts are with his family. I met his son a few times, and he was the most down-to-earth millionaire's kid I've ever known. For the first few months at college his friends didn't know anything about who his father was, until one day someone looked on IMDB and said "Holy, shit, your dad created The A-Team?" So despite all his massive success on television and his numerous novels, I most respect Stephen Cannell (and his wife) for raising a child who wasn't a self-absorbed, over-entitled prick despite the massive stacks of cash his father earned.
posted by kyleg at 7:11 PM on October 1, 2010


oneswellfoop: "Silk Stalkings", while not his best show, was the BEST. TITLE. EVER.
That show, and the tepid tease that was USA Network, got me through puberty (at least until I got the handful of treasured porno mags to hide under my mattress).

Goddamn punk kids have it too easy these days with bittorrent and flash porn sites, grumble, stop jacking off on my lawn...

. for a man who had as much impact as anyone on the collective consciousness of America through the ubiquitous medium of television.
posted by hincandenza at 7:19 PM on October 1, 2010


Also, 69 is *young*. That's hard to believe, given it means that he was basically my age or younger when he started owning the television landscape.
posted by hincandenza at 7:22 PM on October 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by djeo at 7:43 PM on October 1, 2010


Unlike "Stingray", some of his work stands up to repeated viewings

I got through 20 episodes a few months ago. He did things his own way, and I found some sequences fascinating, once or twice an episode or so. I loved The Rockford Files, but they weren't as weird.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 8:30 PM on October 1, 2010


it wasn't as weird.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 8:31 PM on October 1, 2010


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Another of the people who made my childhood and teen years is gone. I knew he'd done a lot of the shows I grew up watching, but hadn't realized how many.
posted by immlass at 9:03 PM on October 1, 2010


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posted by New England Cultist at 9:23 PM on October 1, 2010


I really enjoyed Stingray and Wiseguy...I remember a television newspaper columnist's article complimenting Wiseguy and explaining the novel notion of a TV "story arc."

Homage to the Cannell credit at 2:55 of this video (warning: French electropop).
posted by JDC8 at 10:41 PM on October 1, 2010


That Riptide intro plays like the perfect parody of an 80's show...

Man, I loved that show when I was a kid.
posted by Huck500 at 1:43 AM on October 2, 2010


*turns up collar*

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posted by fungible at 7:11 AM on October 2, 2010


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posted by edmcbride at 7:38 AM on October 2, 2010


(Cue Rockford Files opening music...)


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posted by Skygazer at 10:38 AM on October 2, 2010


When I worked for a bookshop, he came in for a book signing. He was nice to everyone he dealt with and ended up in a friendly conversation with the guy that made the movie "Coven." It sounded like he was one of the good ones.

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posted by drezdn at 10:41 AM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was a diehard Hunter fan when I was a teenager... I even went as Detective Sgt. DeeDee McCall for Halloween one year. RIP Mr. Cannell.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:47 PM on October 2, 2010


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