A 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?