Today’s news took me by surprise and saddened me. What can be said about Stephen J. Cannell that every other obit out there hasn’t already said? Probably nothing. Like almost all children of the 80s, some of his characters and creations formed the foundation of my own nerdom.
Longtime followers of this blog know of my love of The A-Team. In watching through the entire series a couple years back, I quickly noticed that a Stephen J. Cannell episode was always easy to spot almost right away. His writing was true to the characters and the scenarios he put them in were more interesting than the norm. It takes more than one man to make a TV series. Nothing can take away from what the cast and other crew contributed to that series, but it did have to start from somewhere, and that person was Stephen J. Cannell.
I told the other guys that I would take the writing duties of this tribute, but in looking at all he’s done on IMDb, I can’t claim to have seen a large percentage of his work. The A-Team, The Rockford Files, The Greatest American Hero, The Commish, and random episodes of some of his other work. He’s done so much, that I doubt there are many who have seen all of his work. And so much of what he did bucked the trends of the day and changed the face of television forever. He is a great influence to today’s top writers.
Regardless of how much of his work I’ve seen, I do hold him in high regard. As someone who used to be an aspiring writer, I admired his work ethic and drive. He didn’t take shortcuts. He got to where he was the right way, by working hard and producing quality entertainment. He overcame his shortcomings and lived a dream he had. He wrote about heroes and people that I could look up to. He himself was a person that could be looked up to. He reached out to his fans by giving them tips on how to write and encouraging them to strive to reach their goals to the same methods he used.
At age 69, I’ve seen some say that he died too young. I don’t disagree, but he lived 69 good years doing the thing he loved most—writing. Good for him. Rest in peace, Mr. Cannell.