Posts Tagged ‘21 Jump Street’

When Emmy-winner Stephen J. Cannell died in 2010 his IMDB credits were extensive. I can’t image many others who wrote 450 TV episodes or produced more than 1,500 episodes. But there’s really no secret to how he did it—it’s basic math. He began his days at 3:30 AM:

“You know, when you say, ‘He created 42 primetime television series—how’d he do that?’ Well, you’d be surprised at what you can do if you get up and write for five hours a day everyday for 35 years.”
Stephen J. Cannell
Script magazine interview with Ray Morton

How did he get into that position where he was getting paid well to write for five hours? Again no secret—more basic math.

After Cannell graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Oregon he worked for his father. After work he went home and wrote for five hours every night. And he did that for more than five years without seeing anything he wrote get produced.

“I was like a machine. I swear I had a stack of material you could sit on.”
Stephen J. Cannell

That’s a great image to leave you with today. I’m not sure how big that stack of paper was, but if you measure the height of a 100 page stack of paper and multiple it by the height of an average chair you’ll come up with a pretty accurate number. Basic math.

P.S. And Cannell’s IMDB credit list continues to grow after his death. Most recently he was credited for the 2012 movie version of 21 Jump Street and the 2014 sequel 22 Jump Street because he was co-creator of the original TV series starring Johnny Depp.

Scott W. Smith 

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Stephen J. Cannell, who died just a few days ago, overcame severe learning disabilities (and flunking three grades) to become one of modern televisions most prolific writers. He wrote more than 400 episodes including some of the most popular TV shows of their day; Adam-12, Baretta, The Rockford Files, 21 Jump Street, and The A Team.

Dennis McLellan in the Los Angeles Times wrote that “in the spring of 1986, (Cannell) had six hourlong shows on in primetime.” The LA Times also quoted writer David Chase (The Sopranos), who worked with Cannell back in the 70s,  as saying that Cannell’s characters displayed “weaknesses — they were fallible human beings. That was the beginning of viewers seeing a TV protagonist as someone like themselves.”

Cannell, who did not even know he was dyslexic until he was in his 30s, also wrote 15 novels.

“When I was 13-years-old (my father) said to me, ‘you’re going to work,’ and I said, ‘Dad, it’s summer all my friends are going to the tennis club and the golf club and down at the beach’—and he said, ‘No, no you’re going to work.’ So I had to get a work permit—because at 13 you had to have a work permit to work—and I went to work at his wallpaper company. It was about four acres under a roof in Burbank and I was down there working on a screenprinting machine…and I used to come home and think, ‘What am I doing this for?’…(My father) said, ‘This is what people do to feed their family. You’re going to see what this is all about.’ And I was really angry about that, but you know what, he instilled in me a work ethic…and one of the reasons I’ve been so successful is that work ethic.”
Stephen J. Cannell
Interview on TV Legends

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