Saturday, October 2, 2010

Remembering Stephen J. Cannell, a Real TV Pro

What more appropriate way to celebrate the life and legacy of prolific television producer and writer Stephen J. Cannell, who passed away Thursday at the age of 69, than by sharing sequences from some of his wonderful series?

Cannell virtually defined TV drama and adventure in the 1970s and 1980s, setting an action-packed and often jaunty tone on an impressive number of legendary series he worked on during those years and later, including The Rockford Files, 21 Jump Street, Silk Stalkings, The A-Team, Hardcastle & McCormick, The Commish, Hunter, Wiseguy, The Greatest American Hero, Black Sheep Squadron, Toma, Tenspeed and Brownshoe and many others. He cut his TV writing teeth on Universal's Ironside and Adam 12; there was no looking back after that.

Here's Fred Dwyer and Stepfanie Kramer in Hunter, which ran from 1984 - 1991!

How about the classy Ben Vereen and the always wonderfully idiosyncratic Jeff Goldblum in the short-lived (14 episodes) but cult favorite Tenspeed and Brownshoe, from 1980?

Here's the feel-good reluctant superhero adventure series The Greatest American Hero, starring William Katt and the superb Robert Culp. TGAH ran from 1981 - 1983.

How about the ultra-macho Robert Conrad starring in WW II adventure The Black Sheep Squadron, from 1976?

Do you remember the sexy Silk Stalkings, starring Rob Estes and Mitzi Kapture, that ran on CBS Late Night for over 100 episodes starting in 1991? It was fun, with great chemistry between the leads.

How about the immensely popular pop culture icon The A-Team, one of NBC's stalwarts from 1983 - 1986?

1983 - 1986 also saw the success of Hardcastle and McCormick, starring the TV veterans Brian Keith and Daniel Hugh Kelly.

Can you believe that the actual opening credits from The Rockford Files aren't anywhere on YouTube? Now that's a real oversight! It's important to remember that part of the tremendous appeal of many of these series were the dynamic theme songs often composted by Mike Post and Pete Carpenter. A good opening song goes a long way!

Also interesting is this compilation of the signature end logos placed at the close of Stephen J. Cannell shows, with Cannell typing, pulling the sheet from the typewriter, and tossing it into the air with a flourish. YouTube user JohnnyL80 compiled most of the different versions of the logo and put them together in this video. Thanks to him for doing this, as it's a great historical document and shows Cannell, the man, throughout the years.

One other nice Stephen J. Cannell footage to see is his acceptance speech when he won the 2007 NATPE (National Association of Television Program Executives) Brandon Tartikoff Award. It's a warm and humble couple of minutes in which you see what a genuine TV professional he was.

Great TV, just like great literature, art, movies and music, will live on, and Stephen J. Cannell's television legacy is a solid one. We wish his family, friends and colleagues many lasting pleasant memories of this true TV giant. Stephen J. Cannell will be missed.

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