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Legendary TV Show Creator Stephen J. Cannell Has Died at 69

IMAGEA prolific and legendary TV show producer, writer, and creator has died. Stephen J. Cannell passed away in Los Angeles last night from complications associated with melanoma. He was just 69 years old.

Cannell grew up in Pasadena, California, and was raised by parents who owned a chain of furniture stores. Despite struggling with dyslexia, he graduated from the University of Oregon in 1964 with a degree in journalism. He worked in the family business for four years after college, until he sold a script to Universal Studios for the It Takes a Thief series. It was the beginning of a very long association with the studio.

Soonafter, he was writing for shows like Ironside and Columbo and became a story editor Adam-12 in its fourth season. He went on to create or co-create more than 30 TV series, script more than 450 episodes, and produce or executive produce more than 1,500 hours of television.

His most popular shows include The Rockford Files, The Greatest American Hero, The A-Team, Wiseguy, 21 Jump Street, Silk Stalkings, and The Commish. He also sometimes appeared on-screen, most recently on ABC’s Castle.

By the turn of the century, Cannell turned his attention to writing novels and authored sixteen of them. Many people recognized Cannell because of the familiar tag at the end of his shows which showed him typing, grabbing the page, and throwing it in the air. He continued to use an IBM typewriter throughout his career and would use his computer for research.

Cannell married his high school sweetheart, Marcia, and they had four children together. Their eldest son passed away tragically in 1981. Cannell won many awards over his career and was an advocate for those with dyslexia and other learning challenges.

The family released a statement that says, “Aside from being a legendary television producer and prolific writer, Stephen was also a devoted husband, loving father and grandfather, and a loyal friend. Mr. Cannell is survived by his high school sweetheart and wife of 46 years, Marcia, their three children, Tawnia, Chelsea and Cody and three grandchildren. Stephen was the pillar of strength within his family and he touched everyone he met. He will be most deeply missed.”

“The family asks that in lieu of flowers donations be made to the American Cancer Society or The International Dyslexia Association. Details regarding his memorial service will be released.”

What do you think? What do you remember best about the work of Stephen J. Cannell?


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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark schmidt May 8, 2011 at 5:50 pm

He signed a book for me to my 16year old son, after just one meeting, you would see him on tv and feel as if You knew him. People such as these are far too rare and too often taken from us, they are surely missed…….


H. Charlie Miller December 22, 2010 at 9:36 pm

I was very disheartened when I was told me the news. I’ve always considered Mr. Cannell as one of the few writers/ producers who I wanted to meet in person and thank him for getting me interested in writing and for me wanting to be a writer when he created “Sonny Spoon.”

Unlike Mr. Cannell who had to battled dyslexia every day but was still a huge success, I have to battle with epilepsy, a brain seizure disorder on a daily basis. Mr. Cannell never knew me but it was because of Mr. Cannell and many of his great TV shows, “Hardcastle and McCormick”, “Sonny Spoon”, “Hunter”, “Stingray”, “Wiseguy” , “The A-Team”, “The Greatest American Hero” and “Riptide” just to name a few. I never had the opportunity to “Thank Mr. Cannell” in person or have him as a mentor .

I believe Mr. Cannell was one who saw his illness not as a something bad but instead as strength. In his memory, the best way I know how to thank him is to write a movie script for “Hunter” and “Sonny Spoon” and “Hardcastle and McCormick”.


Tony October 16, 2010 at 8:49 pm

loved his TV shows. The Rockford Files, A-team and The Commish. very sad.


Luda October 4, 2010 at 12:52 am

A memorial site was created for Stephen J. Cannell! Honor his memory by contributing to his memorial site


Kathy October 2, 2010 at 3:12 pm

He will definately be missed. If he was associated with a project you knew it would be well written, I always loved the humor he showed us the public who enjoyed his work. I loved all of his shows and books. My prayers go out to his family.


Uilleam October 2, 2010 at 12:21 am

He will be missed. I grew up watching his programming. It would be nice if Castle would do some kind of tribute to him. I imagine they will in some way.


Anonymous October 1, 2010 at 10:41 pm

I watched many of the shows that he produced. He will be missed and I know that his family will miss him. A great talent gone too soon.


Jeff October 1, 2010 at 9:25 pm

I worked on both The A-Team and 21 Jump Street. In fact, he made the final decision to hire me for both. It was so exciting the first time I saw him because I did, indeed, recognize him from his shows’ closing credits. What a great pleasure it was being in his presence.


james bonnen October 1, 2010 at 1:30 pm

He loved baseball , he ahd two baseball episodes one on Hardcastle and Mcormack and one on the GA HERO, and the used the same song for both scenes


Stefan October 1, 2010 at 12:41 pm

How sad. Mr. Cannell was very talented. I’ve read a number of his books, but I’ll remember him best for The Rockford Files.


Suzanne October 1, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Very, very sad. He was way too young.


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