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July 25, 2014

Remembering Stephen J. Cannell: His Best Shows

by Bob Sassone, posted Oct 1st 2010 5:30PM
The Rockford FilesBy now you've heard the terrible news that prolific producer/writer Stephen J. Cannell has died at the age of 69 of melanoma.

Not all TV producers/writers/creators are well-known, but Cannell was. That will happen when you are involved so many shows (in his case, more than 40). Even casual TV fans know the guy who rips the paper out of the typewriter and throws it up in the air at the end of his shows.

Since the 1960s, Cannell did many shows, either as a writer, creator, producer, or director (and sometimes all of those). He even acted, and had a recurring role on ABC's 'Castle.'

Here's my list of the great Cannell shows. Feel free to add yours in the comments below.

1. 'The Rockford Files.' Not just a great Cannell show, it's one of the best private eye shows of all time. They even tried to remake it last year with Dermot Mulroney, but the pilot didn't fly at NBC (they're retooling it). It will be hard to duplicate what James Garner brought to the role though, a private eye who didn't really want to get involved but did anyway -- and then got beat up and shot at. Truly a classic.



2. 'Stingray.' There have been 900 "mysterious loner helps people" shows over the years, but rarely have they been as stylish and enjoyable as this '80s series starring Nick Mancuso. One of the great things about it was the fact that even though the hero drove a Corvette Stingray, this show wasn't about the car at all. The complete series is out on DVD and if you've never seen it, buy or rent it.



3. 'Riptide.' Yes, I'm choosing 'Riptide' as my third pick. It was the '80s and the show has a faint air of cheesiness to it (girls in bikinis, things blowing up, one of the characters makes a robot that helps with cases, etc.), but it's massive fun. Perry King, Joe Penny and Thom Bray live on a boat and fight crime. It's as simple as that. One of George Clooney's first acting jobs was on this show. It's on DVD too.



4. 'Wiseguy.' Long before 'The Sopranos,' this mob show starred Ken Wahl as an agent who went undercover with various criminal families. This is the show that put Kevin Spacey on everyone's radar, and it also featured Jonathan Banks and Jim Byrnes.



5. 'Profit.' This was just your typical drama about a guy whose parents made him sleep in a box when he was a kid and the only thing he watched from the hole in the box was TV. He grows up to sleep in a box too. Oh, and to also become a very ambitious corporate exec who will do anything to get to the top.

Gee, I wonder why this only lasted four episodes?

It's really one of the great, weird, short-lived shows, sick and unpredictable. It starred a pre-'Heroes' Adrian Pasdar as Jim Profit and Lisa Zane as the woman on to him. Too bad the show didn't premiere now. It would be on cable and we'd all be raving about it. (The DVD set has all of the unaired episodes too.)



6. 'Sonny Spoon.' Another short-lived show, but a good one. Mario Van Peebles played a con man who helped people with the help of his friends (other cons).



7. 'The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage.' You're thinking, "whaaa?" This was a short-lived show that aired on NBC in 1991. The plot? A corporate exec (Daniel Hugh-Kelly) is charged with fraud. He escapes to an island and meets Black Jack Savage (Steven Williams), the ghost of a pirate who must save 100 lives before he can save his soul. This is going to happen to Hugh-Kelly too so the two team up to help people.

Crazy, sure, but it was Disney and it was fun. Each episode was introduced by Michael Eisner!





So here's to you, Stephen J. Cannell. Thanks for so many years of fun television.




[Follow Bob on Twitter.]

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13 Comments

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dono

Well said, everybody. I was a big fan of "Renegade":
Reno Raines/Vince Black, Cheyenne, and Bobby Sixkiller. Should be on video. So long, SJC

October 17 2010 at 5:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
The Deej

Greatest American Hero

October 05 2010 at 4:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
cv

Glad to see you mentioning Stingray (which is why most tv is shot in Canada now - Mancuso wanted to shoot in his native Canada and SJC saw how great it was to shoot there)(also the first Emmy winner for best title sequence) and Riptide!

Now you need to see UNSUB.

October 02 2010 at 7:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
saul snitkin

the most obviously missing program is Ten Speed and
Brownshoe. The cast was the once in a lifetime pairing of Jeff Goldblum and Ben Vereen. Maybe to some a little more fannish, but a favorite short kived series.

October 02 2010 at 10:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John F.C. Taylor

When I saw Stingray, I thought of the old puppet show. Never heard of the series mentioned in the article. I see someone already mentioned Black Sheep Squadron. Remember, it was originally tittle Baa Baa, Black Sheep and was loosely based on Gregory Boyington's biography. Loved seeing the Corsairs. Question, were they all the older F4U's built here in CT or were some of them the end of the war FG-1D's made by Goodyear?

October 02 2010 at 2:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chris Muir

I was always partial to Hardcastle and McCormick

October 02 2010 at 1:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Diana

I loved Silk Stalkings. :)

October 01 2010 at 11:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Diana's comment
Gina

I do too!! I just rented the first 5 seasons from netflix. Once Chris and Rita left I stopped watching.

October 02 2010 at 9:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rich Keller

I also believe the late Ron Silver was also part of the 'Wiseguy' episode run.

October 01 2010 at 8:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
brk

RIP SJC. Silk Stalkings was sexy fun and Profit was creepy TV. He was one of the creative few.

October 01 2010 at 8:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Europa

Steve Flack, you crack me up. :D

October 01 2010 at 7:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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