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Stephen Cannell, dead at 69

Huge news in the world of TV: Stephen J. Cannell has died.

Here's the brief  AP obit; obvioulsy much more to come...

Stephen J. Cannell, the prolific writer-producer of dozens of TV series that included "The Rockford Files" and "The A-Team," has died at age 69. Cannell passed away at his home in Pasadena, Calif., on Thursday night from complications associated with melanoma, his publicist said on Friday.

Outside of Aaron Spelling, I can't - off-hand - think of any single production figure who contributed as much to U.S. TV and hence U.S. culture of the '70s - than Cannell. He was a truly amazing guy - he'd write dozens of TV scripts and still have time to bang out best-selling novels. He was esteemed by a whole crop of new producers who came after - Bochco, for example - even though the new young and talented kids on the block went in different directions (as young turks tend to do, and are entitled.) A lot of critics back in the day treated him like a pinata for shows like "The A Team" or "Silk Stalkings" - remember "Silk Stalkings?" What a name!! - but he was the father of modern cop dramas. Period. 

Plus this: You could make a strong argument that Cannell made Johnny Depp into one of the world's biggest stars. Or at least you can make an irrefutable argument that he launched this career. And, by the way, Fox.

In a phrase, "21 Jump Street."

  And "A-Team?" In NBC's darkest days, when people on Madison  Avenue were actually speculating that the network would go belly-up, along came Grant Tinker who kept "The A-Team" on the air. Critics scoffed. Viewers loved it. Mr. T became a cultural icon. And The Great NBC Turnaround was under way. Tinker knew and appreciated true talent, and Cannell was true talent; he knew how to write TV for TV.  He was incredibly facile.

  Cannell was - largely for the better - a very important part of TV's history.



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