Closing Credits: Stephen J. Cannell
Stephen J. Cannell died on Thursday 30th of September aged 69. He was a huge force in American television, television that travelled the world and became some of the most iconic television series. He is credited with creating over twenty television shows, series like The Rockford Files, The A-Team, 21 Jump Street, Wiseguy, and The Greatest American Hero.
He wasn't just a television writer either; he wrote some sixteen books and his production company was involved in all of these shows and more, and at their peak they had a mammoth five series on three networks.
He was quick to start writing and after two episodes of Ironside, and writing for The D.A., he wrote fifteen episodes of a series called Adam-12 and in 1973, just a few years into his career, wrote a television movie called Chase and followed that by turning it into a television show, he was powering forward with his writing career.
A quick episode with Columbo and he took to a series called Toma for five episodes, and according to the story in N.Y. Times Cannell had an idea for a character called Jim Rockford, an ex-convict that turned into a private detective, but not one of the characters you would see on the television at the time, but a flawed, very real character. The Rockford Files were born.
More than that though Cannell managed to change the direction of the television hero, his characters became known as the flawed characters trying to make good and do right the way they knew how, with style and a wisecrack. That was The Rockford Files, 21 Jump Street, The Greatest American Hero, The A-Team and more.
Cannell once said:
"Culture changed, and as that happened, so did our need for a hero...That square-jawed good guy began to look like an idiot to us."
He was instrumental in turning the iconic television hero around and his hero soon became the standard.
Some of his shows also gave actors a good start in their careers, Johnny Depp in 21 Jump Street, Jeff Goldblum in Tenspeed and Brown Shoe and Kevin Spacey in Wiseguy, a more complex crime drama that was a sharp contrast to his more successful shows such as The A-Team.
For me some of the greatest television series I watched when I was young were from the typewriter of Cannell and amazingly Hollywood is still looking to some of these very same series for their film ideas - The A-Team (Filmstalker review), 21 Jump Street, and who knows, perhaps The Greatest American Hero.
Stephen J. Cannell