Saturday, October 02, 2010

Stephen J. Cannell

Stephen J. Cannell died on September 30, 2010, due to complications associated with melanoma. He struggled with dyslexia in school, but did graduate from the University of Oregon in 1964 with a Bachelor of Science in journalism. It Takes a Thief in 1968. He was quickly hired by the television production branch of Universal Studios and was soon freelance writing for such other crime shows as Ironside and Columbo. Not long after he received his first full-time gig as the story editor of Jack Webb's police series Adam-12, then in its fourth season (1971–1972). Cannell has created or co-created nearly 40 television series, mostly crime dramas, including The Rockford Files, The Greatest American Hero, The A-Team, Wiseguy, 21 Jump Street, Silk Stalkings, and The Commish. In the process he had, by his own count, scripted more than 450 episodes, and produced or executive produced over 1,500 episodes. For many years, Cannell's office was at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, though his shows (with the exception of Hunter and The Greatest American Hero) were almost always distributed by Universal Studios.
The closing logo of his production company features him typing, before throwing the sheet from his typewriter whereupon it animates to become his company logo against a black screen (the one sheet of paper lands on a stack of paper forming a letter C) It was updated often, the main differences being Cannell's clothes, sometimes new awards were in the background and (rarely) a new office for the live-action part. Early examples are also notable for Cannell smoking a pipe as he types (Cannell continued to write on a typewriter (an IBM Selectric) and only used a computer for research purposes). The logo has become part of American pop culture and has been parodied on both The Simpsons and Family Guy. Cannell has also acted occasionally, including a regular supporting role as "Dutch" Dixon on his series Renegade. He also took a turn in an episode of Silk Stalkings, in which the script called for one character to tell him, "You look just like that writer on TV," to which Cannell's character responds, "I get that all the time." Cannell appeared as himself in the pilot of the ABC show Castle and again in season 2. Along with James Patterson and Michael Connelly, he is one of Castle's poker buddies. In an effort to lower production costs, Cannell opened a studio facility in Vancouver, British Columbia toward the end of the 1980s. One of the first series shot there was 21 Jump Street. Scene of the Crime, a mystery anthology series for CBS's late-night schedule, was also filmed in Vancouver and hosted by Cannell. New World Communications acquired his production company in 1995. Cannell then founded the Cannell Studios. One of the first shows produced by the newly-established Cannell Studios was the short-lived but critically-acclaimed corporate drama Profit. In the 2000s, Cannell has turned his attention to novels. As of 2008, he has written 14, half of which have featured the character of detective Shane Scully of the Los Angeles Police Department. The documentary Dislecksia: The Movie features an interview with Cannell, in which he discusses his struggles with dyslexia and how he manages to be such a successful writer despite his difficulties reading. During the interview, he mentions how he used to hire typists to overcome his "spelling problem", as he refers to his dyslexia, but also describes how he feels his condition has enriched his life. Cannell's hit TV series The A-Team was remade into a 2010 feature length film. Cannell served as a Producer and Creative Consultant for the project.

To quote Stephen J. Cannell, "Whenever something unfortunate happens in my business dealings I never sit there and observe it as a problem... The first thing I do when something goes wrong is say: 'hey, I can use this!...'"

Good Night Mr. Cannell

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa
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