you may not know his name, but i’m pretty sure if you watched television in the ’80s and the ’90s you’d know his shows, which include “the greatest american hero,” “the a-team” and “21 jump street.” in fact, you may remember his production logo, which features him typing away and then tossing away the sheet of paper that transforms into a C.
today, writer/producer/sometime actor stephen j. cannell died of complications associated with melanoma. i was stunned when i heard the news; i didn’t know he was sick. and i saw him on tv a couple of days ago — he occasionally popped up on the abc show “castle” (starring nathan fillion of “firefly” and “serenity) as one of the titular hero’s poker buddies.
i actually felt like i lost somebody i knew. and in a way, i guess i knew him — through his television shows, which were a huge part of my childhood … a lot of people’s childhoods. there’s one show in particular that really made an impact —”wiseguy,” about an undercover fbi agent who infiltrates the mob. his cover is so deep that even his mother and his brother, who is a priest, didn’t know the truth. they thought he turned dirty and became a criminal. what was different about this show is there’s always a story arc that lasted through the whole season. we’re used to that kind of storytelling these days, but that was a bit unusual in the ’80s. most of the shows during that time neatly tied up the story at the end of the hour.