Stephen J. Cannell

Producer, Executive, TV series creator
For anyone who grew up watching television in the 1970s and 1980s, the name Stephen J. Cannell - not to mention his instantly recognizable company logo - became synonymous with high-octane, crowd-pleasing entertainment ... Read more »
Born: 02/04/1942 in Los Angeles, California, USA

Filmography

Producer (78)

22 Jump Street 2014 (Movie)

(Executive Producer)

Demon Hunter 2014 (Movie)

(Producer)

It Waits 2014 (Movie)

(Producer)

21 Jump Street 2012 (Movie)

(Producer)

The A-Team 2010 (Movie)

(Producer)

The Poker House 2009 (Movie)

(Producer)

The Tooth Fairy 2005 (Movie)

(Producer)

Broken Badges 1968 - 1980, 1990 - 1999 (Tv Show)

Co-Executive Producer

Silk Stalkings 1991 - 1999 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

The Commish 1968 - 1980, 1990 - 1999 (Tv Show)

Executive Producer

Them 1996 - 1997 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Profit 1995 - 1996 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

The Commish: Father Image 1995 - 1996 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

The Commish: In the Shadow of the Gallows 1995 - 1996 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

The Commish: Redemption 1995 - 1996 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

The Surrogate 1995 - 1996 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Wiseguy 1995 - 1996 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

The Return of Hunter 1994 - 1995 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

The Rockford Files: I Still Love L.A. 1994 - 1995 (TV Show)

Producer

Traps 1993 - 1994 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

The Hat Squad 1992 - 1993 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Palace Guard 1991 - 1992 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

21 Jump Street 1986 - 1991 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Disney Presents the 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage 1990 - 1991 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Hunter 1984 - 1991 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

The Great Pretender 1990 - 1991 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Sonny Spoon 1987 - 1989 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Unsub 1988 - 1989 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

J.J. Starbuck 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Sirens 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Destination: America 1986 - 1987 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

The A-Team 1982 - 1987 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Hardcastle and McCormick 1983 - 1986 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Riptide 1983 - 1986 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

The Last Precinct 1985 - 1986 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Brothers-in-Law 1984 - 1985 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Stingray 1984 - 1985 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

The Greatest American Hero 1980 - 1983 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

The Quest 1982 - 1983 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Hawaii Five-O 1968 - 1980 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Nightside 1979 - 1980 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Boston and Kilbride 1978 - 1979 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Stone 1978 - 1979 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

The Duke 1978 - 1979 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Richie Brockelman, Private Eye 1977 - 1978 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

The Rockford Files 1973 - 1974 (TV Show)

Producer

Toma 1973 - 1974 (TV Show)

Producer

Chase 1972 - 1973 (TV Show)

Associate Producer

A Child Is Missing (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Baa Baa Black Sheep (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Dr. Scorpion (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Greyhounds (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Hawkeye (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Hunter (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Hunter: Back in Force (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Hunter: Return to Justice (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Jake Lassiter: Justice on the Bayou (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Marker (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Midnight Offerings (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Missing Persons (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Richie Brockelman: Missing 24 Hours (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Scott Free (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Stingray (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Tenspeed and Brown Shoe (TV Show)

Executive Producer

The Gypsy Warriors (TV Show)

Executive Producer

The Last Precinct (TV Show)

Executive Producer

The Night Rider (TV Show)

Executive Producer

The Rockford Files: Friends and Foul Play (TV Show)

Supervising Producer

The Rockford Files: Murder and Misdemeanors (TV Show)

Supervising Producer

The Rousters (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Thunder Boat Row (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Top of the Hill (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Two (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Wiseguy (TV Show)

Executive Producer
Actor (26)

Disleksia: The Movie 2013 (Movie)

Himself (Actor)

Pioneers of Television 2011, 2013 (Tv Show)

Interviewee

Castle 2009 - 2010 (Tv Show)

Actor

Army Wives 2008 (Tv Show)

Actor

TV Land Moguls 2004 (Tv Show)

Actor

Hunter 2003 (Tv Show)

Actor

Threshold 2002 - 2003 (TV Show)

Actor

VH1 The Greatest 2002 - 2003 (TV Show)

Actor

Half Past Dead 2002 (Movie)

Hubbard (Actor)

Jack Webb 2000 - 2001 (TV Show)

Actor

James Garner: A Maverick Spirit 2000 - 2001 (TV Show)

Actor

Robert Blake: Dark Passage 2000 - 2001 (TV Show)

Actor

The 70s: The Decade That Changed Television 2000 - 2001 (TV Show)

Actor

Pacific Blue 1995 - 2000 (TV Show)

Actor

Diagnosis Murder 1992 - 1999 (Tv Show)

Actor

Love & War 1992 - 1997 (Tv Show)

Actor

Renegade 1992 - 1997 (Tv Show)

Actor

U.S. Customs: Classified 1995 - 1996 (TV Show)

Actor

Scene of the Crime 1990 - 1994 (TV Show)

Actor

Posse 1993 (Movie)

Jimmy Love (Actor)

Identity Crisis 1990 (Movie)

(Actor)

Today at Night, Volume II 1986 - 1987 (TV Show)

Actor

On Top All Over the World 1984 - 1985 (TV Show)

Actor

CHiPs '99 (TV Show)

Actor

Charley Hannah (TV Show)

Actor

Ice Spiders (TV Show)

Actor
Writer (12)

22 Jump Street 2014 (Movie)

(from television series: "21 Jump Street") (Source Material)

21 Jump Street 2012 (Movie)

(from television series) (Source Material)

The A-Team 2010 (Movie)

Source Material (from television series: "The A-Team") (Source Material)

The Tooth Fairy 2005 (Movie)

(Screenplay)

Cobra 1993 - 1994 (TV Show)

Writer

Baretta 1974 - 1978 (TV Show)

Writer

Columbo 1971 - 1978 (TV Show)

Writer

The November Plan 1975 (Movie)

screenplay consultant (Other Writer)

The November Plan 1975 (Movie)

(Screenplay)

Booker (TV Show)

Writer

The Jordan Chance (TV Show)

Screenplay
Director (5)

Adam-12 1968 - 1980, 1992 - 1999 (Tv Show)

Director

Chase 1973 - 1980, 1992 - 1999 (Tv Show)

Director

Jigsaw 1972 - 1980, 1992 - 1999 (Tv Show)

Director

Stone 1973 - 1980, 1992 - 1999 (Tv Show)

Director

The Rockford Files 1973 - 1980, 1992 - 1999 (Tv Show)

Director

Biography

For anyone who grew up watching television in the 1970s and 1980s, the name Stephen J. Cannell - not to mention his instantly recognizable company logo - became synonymous with high-octane, crowd-pleasing entertainment. Creator of hits like "The Rockford Files," "The Greatest American Hero," "The A-Team" and "21 Jumpstreet," the extremely prolific Cannell wrote over 450 television episodes and served as creator or executive producer on dozens of shows and thousands of episodes in his particular TV niche. Though most of his over 40-year output was considered less than high brow by some, no one - especially Generation X audiences - could deny that the TV mogul created episodic cultural touchstones for millions who grew up on his particular brand of small screen magic.

Born Feb. 5, 1941 in Los Angeles, Stephen Joseph Cannell was raised in nearby Pasadena. Thanks to a case of undiagnosed dyslexia, he struggled in school - to the point where teachers would throw pencils at his nose, insisting it would help him focus. The troubled teen flunked several grades and barely learned to read. Even so, his favorite subject was English, and Cannell soon knew he wanted to be a writer - going so far as to list "author" as his ambition in the school yearbook. After high school, he attended the University of Oregon, where he earned a degree in journalism. Upon graduation in 1964, he worked days at his father's interior design firm, but devoted his spare time at night to writing stories and television scripts.

A young Cannell sold his first story to "Mission: Impossible" (CBS, 1966-1973) and his first teleplay to "It Takes a Thief," (ABC, 1968-1970), but it was not until producer Jack Webb took notice of his talent, that his star began to rise. In 1968, Webb hired Cannell as head writer and story editor on the hit police show, "Adam 12" (NBC, 1968-1975), and contributed scripts to "Ironside" (NBC, 1967-1975) around the same time. This new burst of confidence gave the young writer the impetus to create his own shows. At age 29, he became one of the youngest executive producers on the Universal lot, working with his mentor, producer Roy Huggins ("Maverick;" "77 Sunset Strip;" "The Fugitive"), for whom he became a top pilot writer. The typical Cannell series quickly emerged: a police, detective or action genre that targeted a lower-middle brow male audience. A number of his heroes, when not partnered by others with similarly eclectic talents, were offbeat; sometimes hardened but usually amiable loners whose cynicism only thinly masked their essential earnestness.

While working on the short-lived series "Toma," (ABC, 1973) Cannell created the character of private eye Jim Rockford, and even though the idea was rejected by the network, he tweaked and reworked the concept, which he sold to NBC as "The Rockford Files" (1974-1980). The show was a monster hit, winning an Emmy and spawning scores of imitators for decades. A witty lead performance by James Garner, an engaging collection of regular and recurring characters, and a casual narrative style which mimicked its hero's involvement with crime each week, "Rockford" was Cannell's most acclaimed and fondly-remembered contribution to TV. The success of "Rockford" jump-started Cannell's career, and it took off like a rocket. He created several series in quick succession, with most firmly rooted in the detective format he knew best - including "Baretta," (ABC, 1975-1978) with Robert Blake and "City of Angels" (NBC, 1976), as well as the series adaptation of the feature film "Baa Baa Black Sheep" (NBC, 1976-78).

In 1979, Cannell left Universal Television to open his own company, Stephen J. Cannell Productions, where he would step up his already impressive slate of productions into the new decade. As befitting his style of cantankerous, old-fashioned gumshoes who are all but out of step with the modern world, Cannell - who did not use a computer - fashioned one of the most recognizable company logos that closed each episode: Cannell, himself, ripping a completed page from a typewriter as it flutters toward the screen. The company's first offering was an early buddy cop show, "Tenspeed and Brown Shoe" (ABC, 1980). Although the show lasted only one season, it helped propel series lead Jeff Goldblum to later stardom. Two years after its formation, the new company was buoyed by the success of its first major hit - "The Greatest American Hero" (NBC, 1981-83), starring William Katt as an unlikely and unwilling superhero, and Robert Culp as the FBI agent who keeps an eye on him. As Cannell's first foray into the superhero genre, "Greatest" was equal parts comedic and dark. The show lasted just three seasons but sparked a longtime cult following, as well as leaving a small but memorable musical legacy with its hit theme song, "Believe It or Not," performed by Joey Scarbury and written by composer and long-time Cannell collaborator, Mike Post. Sadly, the success of "Hero" was marred by the sudden death of Cannell's 15-year-old son, Derek, who was killed when a sand fort he was building collapsed on him.

On a role with his new production firm, Cannell followed "Greatest American Hero" with an even bigger hit - "The A-Team" (NBC, 1983-87). In part a showcase for the bulldog that was Mr. T, the show - while hardly a critical hit - did well in the ratings, especially among younger viewers. The show followed the explosive goings-on of a fictional group of ex-United States Army Special Forces on the run from the military, while working as soldiers of fortune. Despite being thought of as mercenaries, the A-Team almost always acted on the side of the good guys by helping the oppressed. The similarly themed "Riptide" (NBC, 1984-86) followed, as well as other high-concept investigator shows such as the very popular "Hunter" (NBC, 1984-1991) starring former football legend Fred Dryer, "Hardcastle and McCormick," (ABC, 1983-86), "Stingray" (NBC, 1986-87) and "Wiseguy" (CBS, 1987-90), which he co-created with Frank Lupo.

Continuing his hot streak, Cannell's took his demo a bit younger with his cult hit "21 Jump Street" (Fox, 1987-1991). With its decidedly hip feel - due in large part to the casting of its lead, a young actor named Johnny Depp - the show followed a group of cops going undercover at a high school. The program was a perfect fit for then fledgling fourth network that was Fox at that time. Entering the 1990s, Cannell created a small hit in "The Commish" (ABC, 1991-95) making a star out of character actor Michael Chiklis in the process. However, after "Commish" was cancelled, Cannell sold his company in 1995 for $30 million, choosing instead to shift his focus to novels. He would write 16 of them altogether; many of them featuring the character of Shane Scully, a tough, hardnosed LAPD detective who appeared in nine novels, including The Pallbearers, Cold Hit and Vertical Coffin. Capitalizing on nostalgia for 1970s shows, Cannell revisited his former hits with three new "Rockford Files" CBS TV movies - "A Blessing in Disguise" (1995), "Friends and Foul Play" (1996), and "If it Bleeds it Leads" (1999).

While trying his hand at acting with small guest parts on various projects like "Diagnosis Murder" (CBS, 1993-2001), "CHiPs '99" (TNT, 1998) and "Threshold" (Syfy, 2007), Cannell went back to the well for made-for-television movies like "Hunter: Return to Justice" (NBC, 2002) and "Hunter: Back in Force" (NBC, 2003). Two decades after the fact, Cannell reunited with Fred Dryer for the short-lived continuation of "Hunter" (NBC, 2003), which also had Stephanie Kramer reprising her role of Dee Dee McCall. But lack of interest from the viewing audience led to the show's early demise after only three aired episodes.

Moving away from television to focus on features for the first time in his long career, Cannell served as a producer on the direct-to-video horror flick "The Tooth Fairy" (2006) and the little-seen coming-of-age drama "The Poker House" (2008). Stepping into blockbuster territory, he was the executive producer and a creative consultant on the big screen treatment of "The A-Team" (2010), which failed to crack the $100 million mark in domestic box office amidst middling reviews. While actively developing a movie version of "21 Jump Street" among other projects - including an recurring role as himself, a poker-playing crony of writer Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) on "Castle" (ABC, 2009- ) - Cannell succumbed to complications brought on by a battle with melanoma while surrounded by family. He was 69.

Relationships

Carolyn Cannell

Mother

Chelsea Cannell

Daughter

Tawnia Cannell

Daughter

Cody Cannell

Son

Joseph Cannell

Father
Cannell named Jim Rockford's father (on "The Rockford Files") Joseph after him

Derek Cannell

Son
deceased

Marcia Finch

Wife
married on August 8, 1964 met in junior high school

EDUCATION

graduated at the bottom of his high school class in Flintridge, California due to undiagnosed dyslexia

University of Oregon

Eugene , Oregon 1964
admitted on an atheletic scholarship which he lost due to low grades

Milestones

2012

Produced the big screen reboot of "21 Jump Street," based on the Fox police drama; starred Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill

2010

Served as a producer and creative consultant for feature film adaptation of "The A-Team," starring Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper

2009

Featured in the documentary about dyslexia "Dislecksia: The Movie"

2002

Produced the romantic comedy "Bad Boy," starring Denis Leary and Elizabeth Hurley

1997

Co-wrote and produced "Hawaii Five-O" TV movie

1996

Co-executive produced Fox series "Profit"

1995

Published first novel, political thriller "The Plan

1995

Hosted "U.S. Customs Classified," a syndicated reality-based series

1995

Sold Stephen J. Cannell Productions. and Cannell Films to New World Communications for $30 million; Canadian operation renamed Cannell Production Services

1992

Created and executive produced "Renegade," a popular syndicated series with a large international audience; also marked TV series acting debut, played recurring role of villainous cop Lt. Donald "Dutch" Dixon

1992

Created and produced "The Hat Squad" (CBS)

1991

Executive produced primetime series "The Commish" (ABC), starring Michael Chiklis, and "Palace Guard" (the latter ran only in the fall of 1991)

1991

Produced late night game show "Personals"

1991

Premiered "Scene of the Crime," a late night mystery anthology series on CBS which he created, produced and hosted

1990

Established Cannell Distribution Co.

1989

Cannell Communications began acquiring TV stations in Ohio, South Carolina and Washington state

1989

Made film acting debut in Melvin Van Peebles' "Identity Crisis" (unreleased in the U.S.)

1989

Opened the North Shore Studios in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; purchased a 65 percent interest (35 percent owned by Toronto-based Comweg Corp.)

1987

Co-created and served as executive producer of popular Fox teen undercover detective series "21 Jump Street"

1987

Co-created, executive produced and wrote premiere episode for serial detective drama "Wiseguy" (CBS)

1987

Cannell banded with producers Witt-Thomas and Tri-Star distribution

1986

Appeared on episode of "Today at Night, Volume II," a prime time backstage look at how television series are produced

1986

Began producing his series in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada through Cannell Films Ltd., a subsidiary of Stephen J. Cannell Productions.

1986

TV movie acting debut with a supporting role in "Charley Hannah" (ABC), a crime drama starring Robert Conrad

1986

Several episodes of his crime series "Stingray" (NBC) filmed in Calgary, Canada

1984

Executive produced and wrote for detective series "Hunter" (NBC), starring Fred Dryer and Stepfanie Kramer

1984

Executive produced and wrote for detective series "Riptide" (NBC)

1983

Executive produced and wrote for popular action series "The A-Team" (NBC) with George Peppard and Mr. T

1983

Executive produced and wrote for action series "Hardcastle and McCormick" (ABC), starring Brian Keith and Daniel Hugh Kelly

1981

Created and wrote for comedy/action series "The Greatest American Hero" (ABC)

1980

First project for Steven J. Cannell Productions, executive produced and directed the quirky detective series "Tenspeed and Brownshoe" (ABC)

1979

Left Universal Television

1979

Founded independent production company Stephen J. Cannell Productions; served as Chief Executive Officer

1977

Wrote screenplay and served as writing consultant in "The November Plan"

1976

Created and executive produced the WWII adventure series "Baa Baa Black Sheep" (NBC), later renamed "Black Sheep Squadron"

1975

Created successful police drama "Baretta" (ABC), starring Robert Blake

1974

Created, produced and wrote popular NBC drama series "The Rockford Files"

1973

Produced and wrote for ABC police drama "Toma"

1973

Wrote for various television series such as "Columbo" (NBC)

1973

Created and directed NBC police drama "Chase"

1968

Sold a script to the crime drama series "It Takes A Thief" (ABC); quit working for his father

1968

Career breakthrough, sold a teleplay for the police drama "Adam 12" (NBC); hired as head writer

1966

First entertainment work, sold several story ideas to "Mission Impossible" (CBS); deemed too young and inexperienced to write the actual teleplays (date approximate)

1964

Worked in father's interior design firm after graduating college; devoted nights to scriptwriting

Flunked three times before completing high school due to undiagnosed dyslexia

Met his mentor, TV producer-creator Roy Huggins while working on the Universal lot; became Huggins' foremost writer of pilots

Disbanded Cannell Distribution Co.

Bonus Trivia

.

Cannell wrote the TV-movie pilot that became "The Rockford Files" (NBC, 1974-80) in just five days.

.

The Fox Broadcasting Corporation and Stephen J. Cannell Productions received a Presidential Citation for Private Sector Initiative in recognition of their commitment to plots involving youth issues on their series "21 Jump Street."

.

Cannell and his programs received numerous awards and citations from a wide array of organizations. These include the Distinguished Service Award (1990-93) as Director of the Hollywood Radio Television Society; an award for "21 Jump Street" (1990) from the International Film and Television Festival of New York; a Silver Award for "Wiseguy" (1989) from the Houston International Film Festival; a People's Choice Award for Favorite Overall New Television Program for "Baa Baa Black Sheep" (1977) and again for "The A-Team" (1984); a Golden Halo Award for "The Greatest American Hero" (1982) from the Southern California Motion Picture Council; and an Award of Merit for Best Television Show for "The Greatest American Hero" (1981) from the Academy of Family Films & Family Television.

.

A member of the Writers Guild America, Cannell had won their annual award four times as of 1995.

.

A dyslexic himself, Cannell served as the National Chairman to the Orton Dyslexia Society.

.

Aside from awards for his work on specific episodes/programs, Cannell received the Lifetime Career Saturn Award in 2004, the Marlowe Lifetime Achievement Award from the Mystery Writers of America in 2005, and the Writers Guild of America Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement in 2005.

.

During and years after his television heyday, he continued to rise before dawn each day to churn out an act a day (about 15 pages of script).

.

Cannell received several Emmy nominations (sometimes with several collaborators), including Outstanding Drama Series (as a producer) and Outstanding Writing include "The Rockford Files" (1978/79; 1979/80 – Drama Series); "Tenspeed and Brown Shoe" (1979/80 – Writing in a Drama Series); "The Greatest American Hero" (1980/81– Writing in a Comedy Series); and "Wiseguy" (1988/89 – Drama Series).

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