Prolific dyslexicStephen J. Cannell

As a youngster, Cannell struggled with a dyslexia, and turned to an unlikely career: after getting a journalism degree, he became a writer — and a prolific one at that. He started with a script for “It Takes a Thief” in 1968, and then sold a couple of stories to the classic Ironside TV series. Then, a script he wrote for another cop show, Adam-12, was so good that Jack Webb hired Cannell as a story editor. Cannell went on to write for more shows, including Columbo and Toma, and then he starting creating new shows. He created, or co-created, such iconic series as Baa Baa Black Sheep (aka Black Sheep Squadron), Baretta, The Rockford Files, The Greatest American Hero, Hardcastle and McCormick, Hunter, Riptide, The A-Team, 21 Jump Street, Cobra, The Commish, Renegade, Silk Stalkings, and more — nearly 40 creator credits in all. In 1986, he had six hour-long shows running in prime time. By his own count, he was the producer or executive producer of more than 1,500 episodes of TV shows, writing more than 450 of them himself. When not writing or creating TV shows, he wrote novels — 16 of them. He died at his home on September 30 from melanoma. He was 69.

From This is True for 3 October 2010