Longtime TV writer-producer Stephen J. Cannell, a man whose name has become synonymous with the modern detective show, has died of complications associated with melanoma, according to the Associated Press. He was 69.
Cannell sold his first script in 1968 to Universal, and soon began writing scripts for shows like Ironside, Columbo, and Adam-12. In 1974, he developed his first original series, The Rockford Files, with Maverick creator Roy Huggins, casting that show’s James Garner as a cautious, decidedly unglamorous private detective. Within the next few years, Cannell also created Baa Baa Black Sheep (a.k.a. Black Sheep Squadron), about a team of World War II fighter pilots, and the Robert Blake-starring detective show Baretta, while also churning out scripts for various TV movies and other series at an incredible pace. In all, Cannell created or co-created nearly 40 original television shows in his career, including The A-Team, The Greatest American Hero, Wiseguy, 21 Jump Street, Silk Stalkings, The Commish, Hardcastle And McCormick, and Renegade, and by his own estimation, wrote around 450 hours of television.
Cannell also dabbled in acting, appearing in several movies and TV shows like Diagnosis: Murder and Pacific Blue, playing the role of Lt. Donald “Dutch” Dixon on his own Renegade, and appearing as himself on ABC’s Castle, turning up as a poker buddy of Nathan Fillion’s mystery novelist character. Cannell wrote 16 books of his own, most notably a series featuring fictional L.A. detective Shane Scully, who appeared in nine of those titles. Although Cannell had more or less refocused his attention away from television in recent years, he served as an executive producer on the big-screen remake of his own The A-Team and was set to do the same on Jonah Hill’s upcoming version of 21 Jump Street.