I am – Hercules In TV, they don’t come better, bigger or more important than Stephen J. Cannell, who passed away Thursday. He created or co-created nearly 40 (!) series, including “The Rockford Files,” “Wise Guy,” “Profit,” “The Greatest American Hero,” “Tenspeed and Brown Shoe” “21 Jump Street,” "Baretta," "The Commish," "Riptide," "Hunter," "Hardcastle & McCormick," "Black Sheep Squadron" and “The A-Team.” He was one of the most prolific screenwriters on the planet, even though he suffered from dyslexia. Cannell gets into the TV Hall Of Fame just on the bona fides of “The Rockford Files,” which is right up there with “Columbo” (which Cannell also once scripted) as one of the greatest crime dramas ever to hit the broadcast airwaves. I’ve been working my way through the “Rockford” season sets. “Sopranos” creator David Chase wrote a ton of great episodes, but the funniest and most entertaining for me were the ones Cannell scripted personally. “Wiseguy” is probably broadcast TV’s best mob drama, and defined the genre long before cable’s “Sopranos” and “Boardwalk Empire” got into the act. “Tenspeed and Brown Shoe” took a bit player named Jeff Goldblum (“Death Wish,” “Annie Hall,” “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”) and gave him his first lead role. “The Greatest American Hero” was smarter, sharper and a hundred times funnier than “No Ordinary Family.” Cannell published his first novel, “The Plan,” in 1996 and wrote at least 16 more before he passed, including two Shane Scully novels published this year: “The Pallbearers” and “The Prostitute’s Ball.” A few weeks ago I was watching the “Lost” six-season set, for which Cannell was interviewed on the topic of ending a series. He said he never wrote an ending for any of his series. And I guess he never will.
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Oct. 1, 2010, 5:57 p.m. CST
Oct. 1, 2010, 5:58 p.m. CST
by Julius Dithers
Cannell, you were the man...R.I.P.
Oct. 1, 2010, 6 p.m. CST
RIP Stephen J. Cannell. That sign off with the guy typing is ingrained into my childhood.
Oct. 1, 2010, 6 p.m. CST
Put the typewriter in the Smithsonian!
Oct. 1, 2010, 6:01 p.m. CST
Oct. 1, 2010, 6:05 p.m. CST
Cannell's influence on my childhood tv viewing was pretty damn immense.
Oct. 1, 2010, 6:07 p.m. CST
by the dolphins are in the jacuzzi
That guy created some of my favorite TV shows of all time, especially Rockford Files. He will be missed.
Oct. 1, 2010, 6:07 p.m. CST
That guy was responsible for much of the tv entertainment during my youth.
Oct. 1, 2010, 6:11 p.m. CST
Thanks for the childhood memories Stephen.
Oct. 1, 2010, 6:12 p.m. CST
Mr Cannell was the bomb. He was involved in some of my most favorite tv shows. A-Team, 21 Jump Street, Stingray, Magnum PI and Profit are legendary. I loved it when Mr Cannell made a cameo in some shows and often played a bad guy. RIP, Mr Cannell. Thanks for everything. There will never be a legend in tv like you.
Oct. 1, 2010, 6:12 p.m. CST
grieves his adolescence thanks SJC
Oct. 1, 2010, 6:17 p.m. CST
by JT Kirk
What a bummer, Cannell always impressed me as a kid as being able to come up with good TV that's not trying to be more than it is, and his name in credits always struck me as something was going to work right. Cannell's offices were right down the street on Hollywood blvd, and it always felt right to have him there. Sad to lose him.
Oct. 1, 2010, 6:20 p.m. CST
by Righteous Brother
What a week its been for deaths in the entertainment industry. RIP Mr Cannell
Oct. 1, 2010, 6:24 p.m. CST
You did what you wanted despite suffering from an ailment where some told you you couldn't. Thank you.
Oct. 1, 2010, 6:31 p.m. CST
everybody is kicking it
Oct. 1, 2010, 6:34 p.m. CST
that Abe Vigoda stops laughing, the way thing are going
Oct. 1, 2010, 6:35 p.m. CST
They made growing up fun. Wasn't that writer typing something and then flinging it aside at the end of his shows actually him? I'm sure I'd read that it was.
Oct. 1, 2010, 6:36 p.m. CST
As THAT__SAID said earlier that typewriter gag at the end of the episodes is STILL ingrained in my brain and probably always will be. Really sad to hear Mr. Cannell passed away :( Watched SO many of his programs as a kid, especially loved the A-Team, Hunter & Wiseguy. he will be missed.
Oct. 1, 2010, 6:38 p.m. CST
Oct. 1, 2010, 6:38 p.m. CST
by Stunt Vocalist 709
As someone said above, the typewriting 'vanity card' was burned into my memory. It was almost a personal goodbye to me and another reminder that I had just seen something special.
Oct. 1, 2010, 6:39 p.m. CST
by Snake Foreskin
I loved watching him sitting there with James Patterson poking fun at Castle for only writing a book a year! Great stuff. Sad to hear of Cannell's passing. He was a great creative mind for television and will truly be missed.
Oct. 1, 2010, 6:41 p.m. CST
Rode down the elevator with him once, when I was working in offices at the Cannell building, down off Hollywood Blvd. Took a second to register it was him, had enough time to say "Hi, Mr. Cannell" and have him ask how I was doing, before the doors opened and he walked out of my life forever. A brush with greatness!
Oct. 1, 2010, 6:42 p.m. CST
this dude and Glen A Larson
Oct. 1, 2010, 6:43 p.m. CST
by Bob Cryptonight
THE ROCKFORD FILES was so clever and so cleanly written. Even THE A-TEAM, as a piece of junk entertainment television, relied on some keen writing. I will miss this guy.
Oct. 1, 2010, 6:44 p.m. CST
Thanks for all of it, sir.
Oct. 1, 2010, 6:49 p.m. CST
by vic twenty
Ths guy really knew how to make TV a 12-yr-old wanted to watch. So many impressions left on my brain from this guy. <p> Thanks for the memories!!!!
Oct. 1, 2010, 6:50 p.m. CST
and family.<p>Man, those shows were awesome.
Oct. 1, 2010, 6:53 p.m. CST
My heart goes out to his family
Oct. 1, 2010, 6:57 p.m. CST
Ah, Stephen J Cannell. One of only two TV writers' names I was actually aware of in childhood. It's not too far a leap to say he was a pivotal part of my childhood, and one of the reasons I wanted to be a writer.<P> For EVERYTHING you created, rest in piece Mr Cannell, and thank you - thank you so much, for all those memories. This is a truly fitting end for all those series you never ended, and I'll always remember you as the man with the pipe, typing and throwing paper as it becomes that legendary logo. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, and from the eight-year old me who will always remember you, for being the man who created THE A-TEAM.<P> Godspeed, Stephen J Cannell...<P> (Now, someone check Glen A Larson...)
Oct. 1, 2010, 7:02 p.m. CST
Spelling & Cannell are gone... All we have left of the old Classy-Class is... Bellisario. Please watch out Donald, you're all we have left. Ha. Yes, I forgive you for NCIS: Los Angeles.
Oct. 1, 2010, 7:03 p.m. CST
It's the first show I can remember with well acted and written story arcs. It's really an overlooked gem.
Oct. 1, 2010, 7:11 p.m. CST
i remember watching the greatest american hero as a kid and when it ended seeing him sitting at his typewriter was the clincher i also remember seeing that in the credits of other shows from that time and thinking thats how all tv shows ended goes to show how prolific he was let angels see thee to thy rest
Oct. 1, 2010, 7:15 p.m. CST
You've been one the most creative souls out there! Maybe THE most creative soul! <p> Thanks for many of the finest hours of TV History!
Oct. 1, 2010, 7:22 p.m. CST
Chill out God
Oct. 1, 2010, 7:25 p.m. CST
by Alice Cooper Stalker
I loved RIPTIDE!! That robot!
Oct. 1, 2010, 7:28 p.m. CST
Oct. 1, 2010, 7:35 p.m. CST
So much entertainment from one man's mind... RIP...
Oct. 1, 2010, 7:37 p.m. CST
unlike these days where it's all crap, if they even have a title sequence that's more than a few seconds anyway.
Oct. 1, 2010, 7:44 p.m. CST
And you miss out the best one: <p> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEPf9BIf_hM
Oct. 1, 2010, 7:55 p.m. CST
I had to break my streak to comment on Cannell's passing. It was this man's creation that shaped my childhood and my desire to write.<br /> <br /> This is a gut-buster right here. Horrible day.
Oct. 1, 2010, 8:02 p.m. CST
...are mostly centered around that Hunter series. I used to watch that an awful lot. Probably enjoyed it, but even at that age, I began to wonder, Does Det. Hunter ever manage to arrest somebody? How many people did he kill?
Oct. 1, 2010, 8:09 p.m. CST
Can't fucking believe it! Damn sad news today!
Oct. 1, 2010, 8:18 p.m. CST
by Media Messiah
Stephen J. Cannell was a genius, yes, one of the most brilliant writers of all time, both in Television and in books, but he was also a severe dyslexic. I'm a dyslexic, and to see this man not let this disability stop him, and go on to write some of the greatest hours of Television, in the entire history of the medium, well, it is inspiring--probably even more impactful to a life, than the center of that inspiration who began it...could ever possibly imagine. I was just discussing Mr. Cannell, last week, with my brother, and his work in creating, and writing, The Rockford Files--one of his master works. <BR><BR>Thank you Stephen for living a good life--you were/are, a good man. May peace be unto you, and your family and friends.
Oct. 1, 2010, 8:25 p.m. CST
When I was a kid, seeing him type at the end of each show, I thought the white collar meant he was a priest or some man of the cloth. (Way better look than that darn pink polo shirt with the popped collar!) I always enjoyed his work, he will be missed.
Oct. 1, 2010, 8:38 p.m. CST
He never thought he could feel so free. Flying away on a wing and a prayer, who could it be? Believe it or not, it's just Steve. R.I.P., Mr. Cannell
Oct. 1, 2010, 8:43 p.m. CST
by Bouncy X
seriously, i think anyone who watched or grew up on his 80s shows will always remember his little logo with him typing and the flying paper. Family Guy even spoofed it once, not many production logos can claim being part of pop culture like that.
Oct. 1, 2010, 8:43 p.m. CST
What the count so far?
Sad to hear this. Cannell's shows made a great impact on my youth TV watching. He was a TV genius, and will be sorely missed. R.I.P.
Oct. 1, 2010, 9:16 p.m. CST
The last bulk of his work made up my childhood. He seemed to be a good writer indeed. I just bought a copy of the greatest american hero and it has interview with him. I'll be watching that pretty soon.
Oct. 1, 2010, 9:17 p.m. CST
by frank cotton
Oct. 1, 2010, 9:34 p.m. CST
Damnit, I loved Cannell's series. This was the guy who DEFINED my formative years. He was the Michael Bay of testosterone fueled television! RIP, man. You entertained the shit out of me.
Oct. 1, 2010, 9:54 p.m. CST
Thanks for that character alone.
Oct. 1, 2010, 9:55 p.m. CST
Maybe not his most famous show but to this day I have the Hardcastle And McCormick theme stuck in my head. Seems like the guy created every TV show around.
Oct. 1, 2010, 9:58 p.m. CST
They didn't miss the logo video. At the very top of the article is a video montage of all the different versions of the logo.
Oct. 1, 2010, 10:07 p.m. CST
Man the Grim Reaper is working overtime. <P> Cannell was incredibly prolific. Much of what he created was iconic, some was shit but, it's hard to point to someone else who had such a profound impact on 80's TV and American Pop culture. <P> Now he belongs to the ages.
Oct. 1, 2010, 10:42 p.m. CST
by Carl's hat
Second season Columbo-Double Exposure with Robert Culp. <p> Wiseguy which was so ahead of its time in the 80s. <p>Tenspeed and Brownshoe and City of Angels were both very prematurely cutdown. <p> The Rockford Files. <p> The list goes on and on.
Oct. 1, 2010, 10:46 p.m. CST
Still one of my favorites. Stephen, you will be missed. So does this mean the end of the film version?
Oct. 1, 2010, 11:42 p.m. CST
The A-Team, The Greatest American Hero, Hunter, and 21 Jump Street were some of my favs growing up.
Oct. 1, 2010, 11:53 p.m. CST
This is a BAD year to be a GREATEST AMERICAN HERO fan. Rest In Peace, Stephen, and thanks for the memories!
Oct. 2, 2010, 12:07 a.m. CST
Sadder than any of the other tragic deaths this week. SJC made so many of my favorite shows as a kid. He will definitely be missed. The typewriter is silent. R.I.P. Mr. Cannell.
Oct. 2, 2010, 12:16 a.m. CST
Cannell, the brainy leader of the team ... Curtis, master of disguise ... Penn, expert marksman and safecracker ... Giraldo, for comic relief always ready with a wisecrack ... Menke, the geeky girl-tech. And the best thing: the series can never be canceled.
Oct. 2, 2010, 1:06 a.m. CST
by Paul T. Ryan
Cannell really was one of the greats. Very sad to hear of his passing.
Oct. 2, 2010, 1:20 a.m. CST
Stephen J. Canell was a class act and a genius. Like many 80's kids here have said he pretty much shaped our child hood. The A-Team alone was awesome. I hope they ad some kind of tribute to him as a special feature on the movie Blu Ray and DVD. Rest in peace.
Oct. 2, 2010, 2:03 a.m. CST
RIP Mr Cannell. Thank you for the many hours of entertainment you gave me.
Oct. 2, 2010, 2:33 a.m. CST
by Mr Nicholas
Oct. 2, 2010, 2:49 a.m. CST
For the final one, I was almost expecting to see the camera passing Cannells corpse propped up in front of his typewriter, and absolutely 'nothing' happening.
Oct. 2, 2010, 3:42 a.m. CST
by Keith Maniac
It may sound a tad silly, but i'm in shock, people die certainly, but Stephen J. Cannell wrote and produced shows that were so full of life and energy, i cant belive he's passed. I just feel totally deflated, condolences to his family, friends and anyone, like me, whoever loved his shows. RIP and thanks for everything.
Oct. 2, 2010, 3:59 a.m. CST
Don't forget that one. I used to love watching it as a kid it as a kid. Kathleen Kinmont was pretty hot on that show, too. It was like The Fugitive + A-Team + Walker Texas Ranger. Not a classic, but still pretty great.
Oct. 2, 2010, 4:29 a.m. CST
by Master Bruce
GREATEST AMERICAN HERO, STINGRAY, & WISEGUY are my faves out of his very prolific works. RIP Stephen, & many thanks for all the hours of entertainment & great memories. My condolences to his family, & friends.
Oct. 2, 2010, 4:52 a.m. CST
encapsulates that Reagan era sunny optimism which punctuated the 80s. I also get the impression his shows inadvertently hinted at the American population shift from the the Rust Belt to the Sun Belt as very few of his series took place in NY but more often in LA or elsewhere in California. Somehow that gives me a huge wave of nostalgia. <P> Speaking of nostalgia, the closing logo to Cannell's production company has a similar effect that the MTM logo has on me... they remind me of staying up past my bedtime as a wee dude back in the day. <P> PS: That Star Wars/A Team mash up is hilarious.
Oct. 2, 2010, 5:20 a.m. CST
was very cool, parodying his own image of an Action obssesed TV writer/director (in the episode he directs a TV series based on Mark Sloan's hospital life, ie Diagnosis Murder and calls it DR DEATH) Like many have said that closing logo was a big part of my childhood. One of a kind :(
Oct. 2, 2010, 6:49 a.m. CST
Truly the greatest writer-producer-creator of American television. His work was always entertaining. Sad, sad news... as so many others have said, his work gave me so many hundreds of hours of happiness during my childhood - and to this day. RIP.
Oct. 2, 2010, 7:09 a.m. CST
...and tossed him aside onto the Holy Manuscript, which kind of curls into a C for some reason - the delivery people from the Heaven Office Depot must have squished and bent the whole ream of heaven paper that God ordered last Tuesday.
Oct. 2, 2010, 7:12 a.m. CST
tsk tsk tsk!
Oct. 2, 2010, 7:28 a.m. CST
As a kid of the 80s basically all the shows that I loved had been written on Stephen J. Cannells typewriter (or at least that is what I used to believe back then). And who knows, if it weren't for shows like The A-Team, Hunter, Riptide, The Rockford Files, 21 Jump Street, Wiseguy etc. maybe I'd have never been hooked to watching TV at all? After all, if those shows hadn't existed, what else whould there have been left to watch? Stephen J. Cannell had a gift for creating the most memorable TV-characters. Characters that were never boring and, more importantly, almost felt like they were your best friends. I am thankful that I had the chance to grow up with them. And it is no surprise that many of his shows have become an integral part of popular culture. <br> And I also loved when Stephen J. Cannell appeared on screen, if it was as a parody of himself on Diagnosis Murder, as corrupt lawyer Roy Conroy on Silk Stalkings or most prominently as Donald "Dutch" Dixon, the main villain in Renegade. When you see him on screen it is obvious how much fun he had playing these asshole characters.<br> I never got around to reading his books. I don't even know if they are published in my country. Maybe I will now. But rewatching his 80s gems today always causes a strong feeling of nostalgia in the truest meaning of the term. A yearning for those good old days with a hint of melancholy, knowing that they will never come back and all we have left, are our memories. That now this feeling also applies their creator Stephen J. Cannell makes me very sad.
Oct. 2, 2010, 7:50 a.m. CST
Why didn't ain't it cool mention anything at all about Sally Menke's passing? if anything he's one of the reason Quentin Tarantino's as successful as he is right now (not saying he wasn't going to be famous without her) For a site who worships almost anything that Quentin makes, your silence is ridiculous
Oct. 2, 2010, 7:55 a.m. CST
They did mentioned Sally Menke. Although probably it went passed you.
Oct. 2, 2010, 7:57 a.m. CST
Man, i'm getting really depressed with every day someone passing away. RIP Stephen. You've made some of my favourite childhood series. Thank you for that.
Oct. 2, 2010, 8:03 a.m. CST
Oh, they did. sorry thought they didn't. I thought her news would be somewhere up there as usually AICN don't post that many obits and only the ones that they consider worthy enough (like this one and Tony Curtis). Not saying that the others don't deserve recognition, but like it or not some people left a lasting imprint on your life whether you like it or not
Oct. 2, 2010, 10:59 a.m. CST
He really was a creative monster when you look at the volume of work he put out.<br> <br> Still remember friday nights watching Richie Brockelman PI and the Rockford Files back-to-back.
Oct. 2, 2010, 11 a.m. CST
Oct. 2, 2010, 11:06 a.m. CST
Not created by Mr Cannell but was on the same year ('77) Rockford was going strong. Just taking a stroll down memory lane is all.
Oct. 2, 2010, noon CST
without mentioning the A-team.
Oct. 2, 2010, 12:25 p.m. CST
and my personal favorite show of all times. I have watched every episode of Rockford multiple times growing up as a kid and I am not a repeat viewing kind of person. The quality of writing has been rarely matched. Like Herc I am working my way through the entire series on DVD and I am up to the final season, Season 6, which sadly was only a partial season. I highly recommend checking out Rockford if you've never seen it particularly if you like the detective/film noir genre. I can recommend individual episodes if anyone is interested. The first season is particularly good and anything with the character Angel Martin in it is must-see.
Oct. 2, 2010, 1:11 p.m. CST
He was an amazing talent.
Oct. 2, 2010, 1:57 p.m. CST
I fucking *LOVED* Wiseguy when it was on, especially that first year with Ray Sharkey and Kevin Spacey. Thanks for that Steve, we'll miss ya man.
Oct. 2, 2010, 2:13 p.m. CST
Just kidding, So many good shows ended with the man on the magic typewriter. Thanks for the memories, Enjoy the next world.
Oct. 2, 2010, 4:02 p.m. CST
I have been enjoying the Shane Scully novels, I know this is not a book site but if you like detective stories these are good. I may be a grumpy middle-aged man but I swear the quality of TV has gone down quite a bit over the years. Few shows today have the kind of watchability that Cannell's shows did.
Oct. 2, 2010, 4:39 p.m. CST
by Dollar Bird
I remember being in 7th grade or so and talking with some classmates about television and one of them mentioning that whenever the show ended with SJC's vanity logo, it was a show he wanted to see. How true. Been watching "Rockford" reruns on and off lately and the show's a gem.
Oct. 2, 2010, 4:51 p.m. CST
My first ever AICN post after almost a year's membership, saved it for something worthy. SJC and that little sign-off at the end of his shows are burned into my mind from all those episodes of The A-Team, Hunter and Hardcastle & McCormick that I grew up watching. When I was on vacation in Hollywood back in 1998, I was SO excited to see his big tower block off in the distance that I pondered going over there to try to meet him. I always wanted to know how Hardcastle & McCormick ended, because a lot of it was never shown here in the UK (this was before the internet and DVD, remember). Tv has changed a lot since his eighties heyday, and some of his shows don't hold up quite so well now, but that doesn't matter - when they were first on and I was watching them, they were the best things on tv, and the highlights of my week. RIP Mr Cannell, you are greatly missed and won't be forgotten. Anyone who can invent the name 'BA Baracus' deserves a knighthood, which, as a subject of the Queen, I now bestow upon you Sir. You'll never be forgotten by a grateful generation.
Oct. 2, 2010, 5:11 p.m. CST
As is "Wiseguy". I was really shocked yesterday when I found out because I hadn't known he was even sick. If they tweeted anything about it, I missed it. I went to an in-store that he'd done in NY sometime in the mid 90s and on top of being really humble and charming he just looked perfect. I tweeted to him once that he should write a movie for us since everything out there sucked. I really wish he had. Again I'm missing what we won't get from him in the future.
Oct. 2, 2010, 5:12 p.m. CST
...has been ripped from the typewriter. If Cannell had just stopped after the Rockford Files he'd still be a legend. The A-Team just cemented it. RIP big guy.
Oct. 2, 2010, 9:28 p.m. CST
by SID 8.0
Hard to beat. RIP Mr. Cannell.
Oct. 2, 2010, 9:56 p.m. CST
Nobody cares about these old dead fuckers, your average AICN talkbacker is about 16. These old dead fucks have Plastic Hips that are older than these new sperms in here. Stop with all this I miss you garbage and talk about "COOL" stuff and avoid the dead/depressing stuff. You should run your tributes/obits once a year in one big mass "grave/tribute" like the academy awards. These Obits are more annoying than Quints pic of the day...............CHOPPED?
Oct. 2, 2010, 11:47 p.m. CST
by PRESIDENT BALTAR
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Oct. 3, 2010, 8:32 a.m. CST
by Motoko Kusanagi
Oct. 3, 2010, 10:11 a.m. CST
It was one of Cannell's lesser-known works and it didn't last long, but I still remember it fondly. It had a great lead (Nick Mancuso) one of the coolest cars on TV, a great theme song, and most of all, an intriguing premise. A guy who helped people in desperate trouble, and the only price was that the client had to promise to do one favor for him someday, no matter what it was. But that favor was always used to help him help someone else in need. I loved that idea.
Oct. 3, 2010, 10:25 a.m. CST
Your observation about nobody caring about "these old dead fuckers" would probably have more credibility if it hadn't been preceded by almost 100 posts stating otherwise. And I think your estimate about the average age of AICN's Talkbackers is off...by a lot. If you're correct, then it means that the average Talkbacker never saw Pulp Fiction in a movie theater. That would be pretty sad.
Oct. 3, 2010, 8:17 p.m. CST
Oct. 4, 2010, 7:57 a.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
owned the networks in the 80s. What more can be said. He's written more TV shows than anyone I can think of, is a novelist, and an actor. They don't make them like him anymore. They never will. Also one of the reasons his shows rocked is that he would always grab Mike Post and/or Pete Carpenter to create an awesome theme.
Oct. 4, 2010, 3:34 p.m. CST
by Cletus Van Damme
...this one stings. RIP, SJC.
Oct. 5, 2010, 6:37 a.m. CST
Fuck I didn't know he had a twitter. So many questions I would have loved to ask him. Damn you death.
June 10, 2011, 10:28 a.m. CST
by Cruizer Dave
And we just found out about it six months into 2011! DAMN!
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