Prolific TV Producer, Author Stephen J. Cannell Dead at 69

FamilyHealthDiseases and IllnessesSkin CancerCancerStephen J Cannell

LOS ANGELES -- Emmy-award winning television producer Stephen J. Cannell -- who was behind iconic shows like "The A-Team," "21 Jump Street" and "The Rockford Files" -- has died at the age of 69.

Cannell died at his home in Pasadena Thursday night due to complications from melanoma, according to his family.

He was surrounded by friends and family.

"Aside from being a legendary television producer and prolific writer, Stephen was also a devoted husband, loving father and grandfather, and a loyal friend," his family said in a statement to Entertainment Tonight.

"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 the pillar of strength within his family and he touched everyone he met. He will be most deeply missed."

During three decades as an independent producer, hedistinguished himself as a rangy, outgoing chap with a trim beardwho was generally identified with action dramas full of squealingtires and tough guys trading punches.

But his range was greater than for which he was given credit."Tenspeed and Brown Shoe" was a clever detective drama starringBen Vereen and a then-unknown Jeff Goldblum in 1980.

"Profit" was a shocking saga of a psycho businessman that was unforgettable tothe few viewers who saw it: Fox pulled the plug after just fourepisodes in 1996.

With "Wiseguy" (1987-90), Cannell chilledviewers with a film-noir descent into the underworld that predated"The Sopranos" by more than a decade.

"The Rockford Files," of course, became an Emmy-winning TVclassic following the misadventures of its hapless ex-con privateeye played by James Garner.

"People say, 'How can the guy who did "Wiseguy" do "TheA-Team"?' I don't know," said Cannell in an interview with TheAssociated Press in 1993. "But I do know it's easier to think ofme simply as the guy who wrote 'The A-Team.' So they do."

During his TV heyday, Cannell became familiar to viewers fromthe ID that followed each of his shows: He was seen in his officetyping on his Selectric before blithely ripping a sheet of paperfrom the typewriter carriage, whereupon it morphed into theC-shaped logo of Cannell Entertainment Inc.

That was all the idea of his wife, Marcia, he said, and it"appealed to my sense of hooey. ... I'm a ham."

He was also an occasional actor, most recently with a recurringrole on ABC-TV's series, "Castle."

A third-generation Californian, Cannell (rhymes with"channel") got into television writing scripts for "It Takes aThief," "Ironside" and "Adam 12." It was a remarkable careerchoice for someone who had suffered since childhood from severedyslexia (he became an advocate for children and adults withlearning disabilities).

Cannell in recent years had focused his attention on writingbooks. His 16th novel, "The Prostitute's Ball," will be releasedthis month.

"I never thought of myself as being a brilliant writer, andstill don't," he said in the AP interview. "I'm a populist. With'Rockford,' we were never trying to be important. And as thoroughlyhated as it was by critics, I loved 'The A-Team.' I thought it wasreally cool."

He was a producer of the feature film updating "The A-Team,"released earlier this year.

Cannell is survived by Marcia, his wife of 46 years, their threechildren, and three grandchildren.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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