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

By Robert J. Thompson | Go to book overview

7 The Further Adventures of Stephen Cannell

In April 1986, Stephen J. Cannell Productions had six series on the air. Less than a year later, that number was down to two, Hunter and Stingray, the last of which would be canceled soon. Cannell's slate was cleaner then than it had been in quite some time, even though his staff, at about 1,500, was larger than ever.

Stephen J. Cannell Productions introduced some shows in the traditional style after 1986-- J. J. Starbuck ( NBC, 1987-88), Sonny Spoon ( NBC, 1988-89), and UNSUB ( NBC, 1989)--but all of them earned very low ratings. Several other pilots failed to be picked up as series. The company was clearly in a transitional period, and the automatic successes to which Cannell was so accustomed were no longer guaranteed.

But Cannell began to cultivate many new markets in the late 1980s. The Fox Broadcasting Company, the unofficial "fourth network," began airing a Cannell series in April 1987. 21 Jump Street, an action-adventure concerning a group of juvenile-looking adults who act as undercover cops in a tough urban high school, resurrected a premise we had not seen on TV since The Mod Squad. 21 Jump Street has been one of the Fox network's most successful shows, and its ratings have climbed steadily since its debut. The show received a good deal of publicity when it edged CBS's 60 Minutes in the ratings in some cities. Stephen J. Cannell Productions also began efforts to enter the cable market in 1987 with a half-hour pilot for HBO called Byte the Bullet, which deals with two young people in the computer business.

The latest projects coming out of Cannell's studios are unique not only because they are being sold to new buyers but also because they are in new genres. A concerted effort is being made by the studio to diversify its output

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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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