Friday, October 01, 2010

Stephen J. Cannell, RIP

It's been an especially rough few days for Hollywood losses, with Gloria Stuart, Greg Giraldo, Arthur Penn, and Tony Curtis all leaving us in the last week. But this one hits especially close to home for me, and likely anyone else who spent time watching television in the 1970s and '80s. Prolific writer, producer, novelist and sometime-actor Stephen J. Cannell, creator of The Rockford Files, The Greatest American Hero, and The A-Team, among many, many others, passed away yesterday at age 69 following a lengthy illness.

Even as a kid, Cannell's name was instantly familiar to me based on the sheer volume of his output (as well as the distinctive production logo that capped each of his shows), and literally two days ago I was having a conversation with my brother about how so many of his series have thrived and survived thanks to their continual syndication (and availability online). While unabashedly-'80s productions such as Hunter and Riptide haven't necessarily aged well, the '87-'90 Ken Wahl-starrer Wiseguy was ahead of its time, with its arc-based narrative and reams of moral ambiguity anticipating the modern move towards serialization.  It remains remarkably fresh even twenty years removed from its original airing.

Cannell continued to be productive throughout the '90s, with his 21 Jump Street and The Commish launching the careers of Johnny Depp and Michael Chiklis respectively, and into the aughts even as his output thinned, making regular appearances as himself on ABC's Castle, and offering assistance to director Joe Carnahan in shaping the (underrated) feature adaptation of The A-Team that hit theaters this past summer. Even now the Cannell catalogue continues to be mined, with both Jump Street and Greatest American Hero in the feature pipeline, and NBC still hoping to give a series reboot to The Rockford Files.  All of this ensures that while the man is gone, his legacy will continue to resonate for years to come.

Me, I think I'm going to pop in an episode of Wiseguy.

1 comment:

mr.boy said...

In his honor, I say we all sit at our desks and yank a page out of our typewriters.

A Stephen J Cannell 21-gun salute if you will.

Something tells me his body of work will live on well after WE'RE gone too.