The A-Team writer Stephen J. Cannell would only write what he liked watching

The A-Team writer followed no formula but his own. His writing method was quite simple: write what you watch.

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Give Stephen J. Cannell an A for effort for his writing on the hit '80s series, The A-Team. Cannell is the writer and producer behind The A-Team, Riptide and Hardcastle and McCormick, among others. All three of these hit series topped Nielsen ratings in the '80s.

Although you may have never realized that Cannell was behind some of your favorite series, the success of the trio fits Cannell to a T. The A-Team would be one of his biggest successes of the '80s.

"I don't work on the premise of hits and non-hits," he said in a 1984 interview with The Press Journal. "Nothing ever clicks in my mind and says 'Hit!' I simply create shows that I would want to watch at home. I create to entertain and the only uplifting thing I do is make a viewer smile."

Cannell said that if he liked watching a show, he would hope the audience did too. Some writers would only write what they knew, others would write using a formula. Cannell only wrote what he liked.

"Everyone thinks I have a secret formula for hits, but I never know when I'm onto something hot," he said. "I haven't got a clue if a show will work. When I began A-Team, I realized it was going to either be a hit or a big mess, and that's because of how unusual its format was."

Despite all of his success, Cannell did have a few flops during his long writing career. Some of these included: Tenspeed and Brown Shoe, Richie Brockelman, Private Eye and The Duke.

But with more successes than flops, Cannell created or co-created nearly 40 television series, and scripted more than 450 episodes. He was also responsible for writing 18 hours of primetime TV programming in 1983.

"I'm like a fireman," he said. "I run from show to show, helping out whoever needs me."

According to the interview, Cannell would write 15-18 pages a day. He said it took him about four days to write a full script for The A-Team.

Even with all of Cannell's success across his series, and specfically with The A-Team, many critics would still target his writing. Cannell wasn't bothered by them. In fact, he defended The A-Team. 

"I don't listen to them because they insist that The A-Team is violent," he said. "We are a fantasty show; a cartoon. The A-Team is not meant to be taken seriously. We once dropped watermelons and heads of lettuce on the heavies. Now I ask you?: Is that an act of violence?"

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28 Comments

Deleted 11 months ago
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DanDolgin 11 months ago
METV and METV+ are the only stations that show the entire opening and closing themes as the shows originally appeared. These other stations don't show the entire credits, many just show the words much quicker than you can read them with the instrumental themes for the closing credits.
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11 months ago
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11 months ago
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LoveMETV22 11 months ago
Love METV 22 Said that I always
DREAM A out Happy Days and
Gomer Pyle USMC
-------------------------------
What you choose to think or dream about is your choosing. I'm not saying what you do always or otherwise. If you remove "You can always dream", from my reply to you, it spells out the likelihood
of the dedicated programming ideas your hoping for.
Coldnorth 11 months ago
You have the patience of a saint. Figurativey not literally. Don’t know any other way to say it.
Leslye 11 months ago
Yes, Tenspeed & Brownshoe was a good show. I wrote a letter to Stephen J. Cannell productions at the time and got a letter back. I also liked Richie Brockelman ( spin off of the Rockford Files). They would both make a great Summer of Me!
Leslye 11 months ago
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LoveMETV22 wallyandbagfan 11 months ago
You can always dream. A specific character @ best will be featured during a R.I.P. program block (when a MeTV celebrity passes), for 2 hours (sometimes 5). You may see a Sunday Block of
Leave it to Beaver or Happy Days (once). By "WEEK" If you mean (M-F) or 7 days of programming dedicated to one character or one series that's not realistically likely to happen on MeTV or any of their related networks. The best scenario but again not realistic would be Pluto TV that has a Happy Days Channel- even there it's not dedicated to just HD as they show Laverne and Shirley as well, and they don't run "Best Of's" they usually run by episode order. But again
"You can always dream."
Moverfan Leslye 11 months ago
I loved Richie Brockleman...so of course it played out its thirteen weeks and went bye-bye...
moonwork Leslye 1 month ago
I liked Private Eye with Josh Brolin and have been streaming Renegade where Stephen played a crooked cop. It is cool to be able to stream all seasons and watch all episodes in a row. 21 Jump Street and much of Stephen’s work is available on Tubi.
greasedaily 11 months ago
i just want to know when ANYBODY will run Hardcastle & McCormick again !........I have been searching for years already! (am i the only one who ever watched that show?), but i did just finish a binge-watch of The Fall Guy! that too is rather silly.
LoveMETV22 greasedaily 11 months ago
Hardcastle& McCormick is on Crackle ( a free streaming platform). Not aware of any broadcast networks though.
Dennis_L greasedaily 11 months ago
It's on MeTV+
Moverfan LoveMETV22 11 months ago
On the subject of what's streaming where, I have a question and a request. Does anybody know where or if The Mentalist is streaming (Lifetime has run it a couple of times, but never all episodes/all the way through). And if you say something's running on Amazon, could you please specify Amazon Prime or the Amazon Freevee app? I will invariably look in the wtong place otherwise....
LoveMETV22 Moverfan 11 months ago
You should find it on the Roku Channel. On Amazon it is "Prime".
LoveMETV22 11 months ago
What a talented Writer/Producer/Novelist or author/ He even had a few acting roles.
" Give Stephen J. Cannell an A for effort." Heck, give him an A+ for all his work(s). Well deserved.
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LoveMETV22 11 months ago
Mmmm. Don't see them moving The A- Team out of it's current time slot. Perhaps because you are so intent on HD, a late night time slot, but then again there are a number of specific genre of programs in that late night block. What a conundrum.
Andybandit 11 months ago
Stephen was a good writer, he also wrote Hunter TV show which was out when the A-Team was around. I guess he wrote more than one show back then.
BrittReid Andybandit 11 months ago
And Baretta and Black Sheep Squadron.
JeffPaul76 Andybandit 11 months ago
He also wrote for "Dragnet" back in the 1960's Before any of those other shows. Stephen J. Cannell, I mean.
cperrynaples 11 months ago
Maybe not lettuce but definitely watermelons! Why do you think people wore raincoats at Galligher shows? "It's just that easy"...LOL!
Moverfan cperrynaples 11 months ago
Yeah, the watermelons were dropped from a helicopter in West Coast Turnaround. Anybody remember where the lettuce was used?
cperrynaples Moverfan 11 months ago
Proably to make Quarter Pounders...LOL!
LoveMETV22 Moverfan 11 months ago
LOL! Speaking of dropping from a helicopter, can't forget WKRP'S " Turkeys Away."
cperrynaples LoveMETV22 11 months ago
"I thought Turkeys could fly"...LOL!
thegov2k2 Moverfan 11 months ago
Season 2 Episode 8, Labor Pains. They launch all sorts of produce at the villains trying to prevent formation of a union.
JeffPaul76 Moverfan 11 months ago
It wasn't lettuce, it was cabbages instead!
Moverfan JeffPaul76 11 months ago
I suppose either one would work in that situation...
Runeshaper 11 months ago
Tenspeed and Brown Shoe was a pretty good show. Cannell also wrote 21 Jump Street and I love that series!
Karellen Runeshaper 11 months ago
Tenspeed and Brown Shoe was an excellent show that didn't find its audience. It starred very young Jeff Goldblum and Ben Vereen. This show would be a good "Summer of Me" program.
Runeshaper Karellen 11 months ago
Agreed! (-:
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