Adventures on Prime Time: The Television Programs of Stephen J. Cannell

By Robert J. Thompson | Go to book overview

themes that exist comfortably within traditional genre structures. His episodes depict characters, relationships, and processes that are very much like those involved in the making of a television program. Within this overall theme, Cannell's shows are filled with several consistent and identifiable signatory motifs. He uses a recurring repertoire of themes, phrases, motifs, and metaphors to create television episodes that tell us something about the medium of television itself. If Cannell's programs show the limitations of a commercially supported mass medium like American television, they are also in many ways about those limitations. In a way, all Cannell's shows themselves explain why they are as "bad" as they are.


NOTES
1.
Stephen J. Cannell in an unpublished interview with Juliet Dee, January 1979.
2.
This is described at length in Todd Gitlin, Inside Prime Time ( New York: Pantheon Books, 1983). See especially the chapter entitled "The Triumph of the Synthetic: Spinoffs, Copies, Recombinant Culture," pp. 63-85. Mimi White has also dealt extensively with the concept of recombinance in "Television Genres: Intertextuality", Journal of Film and Video 37, no. 5 (Summer 1985): 41-47; and idem, "Crossing Wavelengths: The Diegetic and Referential Imaginary of American Commercial Television", Cinema Journal 25, no. 2 (Winter 1986): 51-64.
3.
As implied in the title of Horace Newcomb, TV: The Most Popular Art ( Garden City, NY: Anchor Press, 1974).
4.
This only refers to the public's perception of television. The production industry itself has long been charged with too much recognition of the individuals responsible for a show. New and aspiring artists complain that they cannot work in television without a proven track record but that they cannot get a track record without working.
5.
Horace Newcomb and Robert S. Alley, The Producer's Medium ( New York: Oxford University Press, 1983), p. xi.
6.
David Marc, "TV Auteurism", American Film, November 1981, p. 52.
7.
Stephen J. Cannell in Harry F. Waters with Janet Huck, "The Merchant of Mayhem", Newsweek, March 12, 1984, p. 91.
8.
On Top All Over The World, syndicated, April 21, 1985.
9.
1984 Emmy Awards Presentation, broadcast live on CBS, September 23, 1984.
10.
Two other logos should be mentioned in this context. Unlike Cannell, most other hyphenates seem to flaunt their anonymity by showing only their backs. The logo for Jay Bernstein Productions features a man seen only from the back as he gets off his director's chair and walks away. The chair is labeled "Jay Bernstein," suggesting that the faceless man was, in fact, the head of the production company. John Charles Walters Productions ( Taxi, The Associates) features another man from the back, this one as he walks down a hallway and hears, "Good night, Mr. Walters" from an off-camera voice. "John Charles Walters" is not a real individual, however, and it is hard to tell who that is walking down the hall.
11.
Waters with Huck, "The Merchant of Mayhem," p. 91.
12.
Richard Turner, "Sit, Ubu, Sit," TV Guide, March 1, 1986, p. 39.
13.
Stephen J. Cannell interviewed in "Roundtable: Stephen J. Cannell", View 6, no. 4 ( March 1985): 51.

-47-

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Adventures on Prime Time: The Television Programs of Stephen J. Cannell
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Media and Society Series ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgment iv
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction xi
  • 1 - The Television Auteur 1
  • Notes 18
  • 2 - A Television Auteur 23
  • Notes 30
  • 3 - Adventures About Prime Time 33
  • Notes 47
  • 4 - Cannell's Adventures at Universal: An Apprentice in a Sausage Factory 51
  • Notes 82
  • 5 - Autobiographical Adventures: The Early Days of Stephen J. Cannell Productions 87
  • Notes 106
  • 6 - Beyond Autobiography: Manufacturing Television 109
  • Notes 129
  • 7 - The Further Adventures of Stephen Cannell 131
  • Notes 134
  • Selected Bibliography 135
  • Index 137
  • About the Author 145
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