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Stephen J. Cannell, prolific TV producer, dies


Stephen J. Cannell, bestselling novelist and Emmy-winning TV producer of hits like "The Rockford Files" and "21 Jump Street," died at his Pasadena home of complications of melanoma on Thursday. He was 69.

Cannell's family released the following statement about the producer who wrote for iconic series including "Adam-12," "Mission: Impossible" and "It Takes a Thief" before founding a company that churned out classic action adventure series "The A-Team," "The Greatest American Hero" and a string of other franchises:

"Aside from being a legendary television producer and prolific writer, Stephen was also a devoted husband, loving father and grandfather, and a loyal friend. Mr. Cannell is survived by his high school sweetheart and wife of 46 years, Marcia, their three children, Tawnia, Chelsea and Cody and three grandchildren. Stephen was a pillar of strength within his family and he touched everyone he met. He will be most deeply missed."

Cannell, who famously wrote scripts on an old IBM Selectric typewriter, told Success magazine recently that he'd been getting up at 4 a.m. for 40 years to write and that he never tired of the process, even though he'd battled dyslexia as a youngster. (He employed what he called "a mop and pail crew" to clean up his prose.)

"One of my work ethic traits comes from the fact that I absolutely love what I do. I've never felt that writing was work," he told the publication. "I get up every morning, and I'm not going to work, I'm going to play. I get to play cops and robbers."

His latest novel, "The Prostitutes' Ball," the 10th in the Shane Scully series, is set for publication Oct. 12.

There's already a fan outpouring of affection and condolences on Cannell's Facebook page, with one commenter writing, "your creativity and imagination helped mold my childhood and influenced me as a burgeoning writer."

Donations may be made to the American Cancer Society or the International Dyslexia Assn., the family said, with details about a memorial service still to come.

-- T.L. Stanley

 Photo: Stephen J. Cannell in 2000. Credit: Los Angeles Times.


David Chase, Steven Bochco and other Hollywood folks remember Stephen J. Cannell

Comments () | Archives (30)

This is tragic news...I must have done 5 of his shows during my career and he always sent a note complimenting my work and thanking me...I always thanked him!!!He was a wonderful man and a great writer/producer. From one dyslexic to another, i will sorely miss him. RIP.

Sad. "The Rockford Files" was truly perfect, about as good as television gets.

He was an active SIGMA CHI as well

Man, a good chunk of the TV shows I watched growing up ended with that iconic shot of him whipping a piece of paper out of his typewriter, and it turning into the "C" Stephen J. Cannell logo. I also remember some of his cameos on several shows. Man he will be missed.

I was fortunate enough to work with Stephen and his daughter Tawnia back in the 90's before he went on to become a successful author.

He and his family were the nicest people you'd ever want to meet. He probably had more money than Fort Knox, but he still treated everybody with kindness and respect.

This is an enormous loss for the entertainment community and for anyone whose life he touched. God Bless, Stephen.

I'm sorry to read this...my condolesenses to his family and friends!

I've always enjoyed his work and it is sorely missed!

RIP Mr. Cannell

He was prolific and imaginative and was able to oversee shows of different genres.

He, along with Steven Bochco and David E. Kelley, redefined the structure used for intelligent hour long dramas, and whose productions - when one worked for them - always had the aura of a small Hollywood studio.

Kudos for his contribution to mass appeal narrative. R.I.P. Sympathy to the family.

Oh No! I am sorry to hear this. My condolescences. May God keep him. I was just this morning standing in line at the DMV reading one of his Shane Scully novels and laughing my head off at his snide descriptions of Hollywood prototypes. Judging from his novels, this was a man who had a ton of fun and did not take himself too seriously.

Loved seeing him as himself on "Castle" this past year. Decent, creative and honorable with a vivid imagination.

Condolences to his family and legions of fans. He will be missed.

There was never anything better on TV than "The Rockford Files."

Thank you Mr. Cannell for all you gave us. May you rest in peace. And may your family be comforted by the outpouring of respect so many of us have for you. My sympathies for their loss of a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, and friend.

I'm sorry to read this We did not know Untill earlier..... Our condolescences.to his family and friends! He will be Missed.

I am so very sad to see this news. I only met Mr. Cannell once, a couple of years ago at a luncheon where he was the speaker (and a most engaging one). Since I sat at his table for the luncheon, we got to chat a little bit, and he asked me to tell him about the novel I'm writing. His kindness and encouragement did a great deal to boost my confidence. I'll never forget what a down-to-earth, funny and generous man he was. My condolences to his family, and may he rest in peace.

no more. stop the deaths. is anyone keeping track of how many deaths have occurred recently? especially in show biz. i need show biz to remind me we are not all slaves in a sewer

A great man and a real joy to be around. Steven was one of a kind, and as gentle and talented as they get. A ground-breaker, he started so many people on such long careers within this industry yet he always made time for you. It's a great loss, and he will truly be missed. Absolutely fearless, there wasn't anything Steven couldn't do. My sincerest thoughts and heartfelt prayers are with Marcia and their children during this very difficult time. Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him. Thank you Steven, for everything.

some of my fondest childhood TV memories were watching the shows he created. RIP.

I had the pleasure of meeting Stephen at lax one time. I asked him if we was the guy at the beginning of the A team. We then discussed the show and he was so happy to field questions and comments from a fan .Just a regular normal down to earth guy. Although it lasted 1/2 an hour , I will always remember my encounter- thanks

Mr. Cannell's creation of iconic TV character Jim Rockford tops a brilliant career that awarded lucky viewers of THE ROCKFORD FILES (the best TV show of the 70's) with hours of funny, witty, dramatic entertainment. Along with TENSPEED AND BROWNSHOE and RICHIE BROCKELMANN: PRIVATE EYE, Cannell's character-driven shows fused with clever plots and hilariously-written lines raised the bar for what quality TV shows were capable of. James Garner's brilliant portrayal of luck-challenged Rockford (He hardly ever got paid and his car was always getting wrecked!)all started with Cannell's excellent writing; and Garner would be the first to point that out. RIP Mr. Cannell, your body of work is impressive and appreciated by myself and countless other viewers/fans.

I grew up watching his shows and I cannot thank him enough for enriching the life of a socially awkward nerd who had no budget to hang out with his friends outside the school. I developed such appreciation and respect for TV because of his genius. My thoughts go to his family.

Thanks for all the great entertainment, Stephen. Good job. You will be missed.

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