"Hannibal's On The Jazz:" A Stephen J. Cannell Retrospective

Categories: Pop Rocks

If you were born before, say, 1976 (the year of my little sister's birth and hence my arbitrary demarcation line for coolness), you probably spent a healthy chunk of your prime TV-watching years enjoying the programs of the late Stephen J. Cannell. The longtime writer/producer created some of the most iconic shows of the 70s and 80s, many of which linger on in our collective pop culture consciousness.

Being a formally* educated TV journalist, I was of course aware of Cannell's output, but it wasn't until his death last week that I was able to see the breadth of his influence. His creative resume, splayed across each of the man's obituaries, was like the syllabus of my youth: I learned personal finance from Jim Rockford, conflict resolution from B.A. Baracus, and business ethics from Jim Profit. The least I could do is repay the man with a rundown of some favorite (and not so favorite) SJC-created series, while still allowing for the man's tendency to reuse the same themes (like alliterative character names, wrongful imprisonment, and catchy aliases).

Because when you're responsible for creating a couple dozen TV series, you run the risk of repeating yourself.

* I watched all six seasons of The Larry Sanders Show in a row.

Abject Alliterative Abuses Reno Raines
Wrongfully Accused? Framed for the murder of a cop named, wait for it, "Buzzy Burrell."
Nifty Nicknames "Dutch" Dixon

The show about bounty hunter Lorenzo Lamas hunting bad guys ran for an unbelievable five seasons, which should put to rest any lingering doubts about the power of the mullet in law enforcement.

Abject Alliterative Abuses Dee Dee McCall
Wrongfully Accused? One time someone mistakenly referred to Fred Dryer as an "actor."
Nifty Nicknames "Sporty" James

Cannell's answer to the Dirty Harry franchise went through a number of mutations to soften the show's excessive violence (co-star Stepfanie Kramer had to fight to keep her character from being raped again in season 4, for example). And I'll bet not many of you knew Hunter and McCall solved the Black Dahlia murders in 1988.
Fun Fact: This was my college ex-girlfriend's favorite show, and my chances of sex were greatly improved by my watching the nightly syndicated episodes with her.

Men really are idiots.

The Rockford Files
Abject Alliterative Abuses None that I could find.
Wrongfully Accused? Rockford was pardoned after serving five years for armed robbery...a crime he didn't commit.
Nifty Nicknames "Jimmy" and "Rocky" Rockford, "Angel" Martin

James Garner's rumpled, violence-eschewing P.I. was an anomaly among other TV cop shows of the time, and one of the few programs not based on a comic book character that yours truly would make a point of catching every week. It still has one of the best theme songs and the greatest opening title bit of all time.

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