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TV Producer /AuthorStephen J. Cannell Dies of Melanoma...


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So many entertaining shows, and considering he only wrote one genre, they were surprisingly different from each other.

I love Wiseguy. The show went way off the rails and could sometimes be heavy-handed but I just loved the charisma of Ken Wahl, the humor, the relationships between Frank and Vinnie, Vinnie and Roger. I loved the whole "arc" format, which no other show has ever done as well. The way guest stars were utilized. The brilliance and insanity of some of those arcs, covering everything from music to fashion to their own version of Twin Peaks. The whole thing was often like a cocaine nightmare but you just couldn't not enjoy yourself.

The Profitt arc is some of the most insane and most brilliant television ever produced. The slow, anguished breaking down of Roger, superbly portrayed by William Russ. The scene which got me every time, when Vinnie is at his most defeated and sees Roger (who was presumed dead) on the other side of the street, smiling at him, waving. Vinnie smiles back, then a truck goes by. Roger's gone. But Vinnie continues walking, a spring in his step.

What I liked most about Wiseguy, and Cannell's writing there, was the unabashed love which men felt for each other. Sometimes this was homoerotic (especially with Roger/Vinnie and Sonny/Vinnie) but it was also just friendship, devotion, without any of the sneering "that's so gay" cowardice which makes up most of the insecure men who write and produce television and film. Then there was the love between Vinnie and Sonny Steelgrave, a mobster, a man Vinnie should have loathed, but who instead became something so deep within him that Sonny's death haunted Vinnie for years.

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Cannell's shows, to me, go hand in hand with the Spelling-produced crime/mystery shows of the 70s and 80s. I'm sure many would disagree, but they both have this very escapist quality about them...you just get sucked into the story, you grow to know and love the characters, and you know, no matter what, you're in for a good hour of television whenever you watch. Cannell and Spelling (along with Quinn Martin, Jack Webb, some others) are prime examples of why I still believe in self-contained shows.

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I heard that around the time NBC was getting ready to launch their third soap that Stephen J. Cannell pitched a bible about lawyers in Chicago to NBC. They were choosing between this project, Claire Labine's Union Place, and Aaron Spelling's Sunset Beach. That would have been great if Cannell's project had come to daytime.

OTOH, I loved watching Hunter reruns when I was a little boy. Used to come on everyday at about 3PM or something.

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I just read his obitary in the New York Times. RIP Stephen. I was a fan of most of his series which were different from each other. My favorites were Wiseguy, Rockford Files, A-Team, and Silk Stalkings which was cheesy and fun.

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