Stephen Joseph Cannell (; February 5, 1941 – September 30, 2010) was an American television producer, writer, novelist, occasional actor, and founder of Cannell Entertainment (formerly Stephen J. Cannell Productions) and the Cannell Studios.After starting his career as a television screenwriter, Cannell created or co-created several dozen successful TV series from the 1970s to the 1990s, often with his creative partner Frank Lupo. Cannell's creations include The Rockford Files, The A-Team, Renegade, The Greatest American Hero, 21 Jump Street, and The Commish. He also wrote novels, notably the Shane Scully mystery series.
Cannell married his high school sweetheart, Marcia, in 1964. He "asked her to go steady in the eighth grade". Together they had two daughters, Tawnia and Chelsea, and two sons, Cody and Derek. Derek died in 1981 at age 15 when a sand castle he was building at the beach collapsed and suffocated him. This tragedy had occurred during the filming of the "Captain Bellybuster" episode of The Greatest American Hero. Actor William Katt (an expert musician) wrote a song for Cannell, titled, "Cody the Cowboy". Cannell was so touched by this gift that he named his next son Cody in honor of the song.Cannell was dyslexic, and was a spokesman on the subject. According to an episode of Paul Harvey's The Rest of the Story, Cannell frequently had to dictate ideas or even complete scripts with the help of his personal secretary Grace Curcio, an employee of 20 years. Following Grace's retirement in 2003, Kathy Ezso became his editor and executive assistant. He discussed his experiences as a dyslexic in the 2009 documentary Dislecksia: The Movie.Cannell wrote on a typewriter, an IBM Selectric, when not dictating to an assistant, and only used a computer for research purposes.Cannell died on September 30, 2010, from complications of melanoma. He is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles.
Cannell was born in Los Angeles and raised in nearby Pasadena. He was the son of Carolyn (née Baker) and Joseph Knapp Cannell. Joseph owned the highly successful interior decorating company Cannell and Chaffin. Cannell struggled with dyslexia in school, but did graduate from the University of Oregon in 1964 with a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism. At UO, he joined the Sigma Chi fraternity.The 2009 documentary Dislecksia: The Movie features an interview with Cannell, in which he discusses his struggles with dyslexia and how he managed to be such a successful writer despite his difficulties reading. During the interview, he mentions how he used to hire typists to overcome his spelling problem, as he refers to his dyslexia, but also describes how he feels his condition has enriched his life.