Sometimes a televisionmaker has so many hyphens in his or her title that questions about authorship and creative credit become relatively unambiguous. To be sure, creation in television is a complex organizational process, but in a few cases, a single individual can be clearly identified as the principal force behind a program. Stephen J. Cannell's presence in most of his shows is ubiquitous: In some cases, he has written, produced, and directed an episode in a series he created for a studio he owns.
Cannell has amassed the power needed to achieve some degree of creative autonomy. For most of his career he used this power to serve and protect his writing. In every series in which he has been involved "writer" has been a part of his hyphenated title. He "creates" shows he wants to write for and produces or executive produces them to retain some control over what he writes. He began his career as a writer, and he continues to think of himself as one and of his company as one that is dedicated to supporting its writers. 1 On the animated signatory logo that appears on the screen at the end of each of his episodes, Cannell himself is seen at his typewriter, writing. Of his many roles as producer, executive producer, writer, director, creator, and studio head, he chose to be identified on the 1984 Emmy Awards show 2 as "Stephen J. Cannell, writer." In a medium often hostile to the writer, Cannell's role as producer, executive producer, and studio head has served principally to protect the part of his hyphenated title that he considers most important to him.
Cannell, for most of his career, not only created series and wrote their pilot episodes; he also continued to write frequent installments of those series. Many other hyphenates, such as Aaron Spelling, began their careers as writers but, having made it big as studio heads and executive producers, now no longer