Friday, October 01, 2010

Stephen J. Cannell Passes Away

This is turning out to be a very bad week for Hollywood. Last night we lost prolific writer, director, actor, novelist and producer Stephen J. Cannell to complications of melanoma. He was 69.

If you watched television at all in the last four decades, you knew his work if not his name. He had a hand in, if not his entire creative body, in TV series like "Baretta," "The A-Team," "The Rockford Files," "Toma," "21 Jump Street," "Adam-12," "Hunter," "Wiseguy," "The Commish," "Black Sheep Squadron," "The Greatest American Hero" and "Tenspeed and Brownshoe." His productions were marked by his signature closing of the sheet of paper being ripped from a typewriter and floating into a pile of paper, a familiar image for generations of TV viewers.

Virtually no one remembers "Tenspeed and Brownshoe," that aired very briefly in 1980 on ABC, but I do. It featured Jeff Goldblum as a wannabe private eye and Ben Vereen as a con man who together solved mysteries and crimes. Goldblum's character was constantly reading these terrible pulp/noir detective novels for inspiration. Rumor had it that what he was reading were the rejected works of Cannell's. I loved that stuff, and it made me read his 'real' novels when the producer turned to prose fiction in this last decade. Great stuff.

Cannell also won multiple Emmys and wrote sixteen novels in his lifetime. He was most recently seen on "Castle." Television is a much poorer place today.

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