The A-Team. The Rockford Files. 21 Jump Street.
Stephen J. Cannell, who produced and wrote those hits and many, many more of the shows you grew up on, died Thursday night at his Los Angeles-area home. He was 69, and had been battling melanoma.
The über-prolific Cannell's other credits included Wiseguy, Hunter, The Commish and The Greatest American Hero, one of the few caped-crusader shows to take successfully flight in the 1980s.
Cannell, who got his start in the 1960s, selling a script to Mission: Impossible, pounded out page after page on a typewriter—as anyone who remembers the production-company logo that closed out his numerous TV series could attest.
"I like hearing that ball hit the page, so I stayed on it," Cannell told PBS last year.
Cannell's small-screen cops, detectives and special-ops experts have long been coveted by the big screen. An A-Team movie, featuring Liam Neeson and others going where George Peppard and Mr. T memorably went in the 1983-87 action series, opened to mixed critical and box-office results this past summer. Per his website, film versions of The Greatest American Hero and 21 Jump Street are currently in development.
The latter show, a teen-cop series, which ran from 1987-1991, helped establish the Fox network, and propelled one of its young unknowns, a scrawny twentysomething named Johnny Depp, to stardom.
Recently, NBC considered reviving The Rockford Files, the acclaimed 1970s James Garner P.I. series that earned Cannell his Emmy. But the network didn't pick up the Dermot Mulroney pilot for the fall.
In addition to his TV work, Cannell was a best-selling novelist. All this, despite having been diagnosed with dyslexia.
"Through the legacy of his body of work…he will always be with us," a spot-on statement on his website said, "living on in our hearts and minds, with fond memories forever."