Stephen J. Cannell

I mentioned before that Stephen J. Cannell was comming to the Alamo Drafthouse and we were planning to go. But I haven’t blogged about it. So here goes.

Houston’s Alamo Drafthouse is way the heck out west. But we got there. Stephen was signing books when we got there and we chose not to stand in line at that point. Went in found seats, ordered pizza and potato skins. Prices were about what you would pay at a restaurant, which was ok.

After about an hour of sitting around eating while the A-Team DVD menu played on the screen they came out and told us what was going to happen. The plan was to watch the pilots to both the A-Team and Greatest American Hero, but it turns out they both were at least 1.5 hours long and it would run too long. They decided to run one pilot and one episode and we got to pick. Of course Stephen told us stories about how the A-Team came to be and so we all wanted to watch that pilot.

Someone asked if they could do The Greatest American Hero first, so we watched it first. I had to go the bathroom and didn’t get the whole story, but the episode was about Ralph meeting the Lone Ranger actor when he didn’t want to be a hero anymore. They wanted Clayton Moore, but he didn’t want to do the show because he was afraid they were going to make fun of the Lone Ranger, which they weren’t. That was kind of the point of the episode. So they got John Hart instead.

Episode was a little sappy but that was the point. Thing that kept popping into my head was how much Robert Culp looked like Bruce Campbell.

Next we watched the A-Team pilot. Which had a different guy playing Face. It was a lot of fun. I’d forgotten there was a woman reporter involved with them.

Stephen had a little Q&A. I asked about the fact no one ever got hurt on the A-Team. No matter how bad the wreck they got up and walked around. Was that on purpose?

He said it was. They were running at 8PM on network television and decided no one would get killed. “It was a gentler time.”

He said it got ever funnier. In one episode they bought a helicopter crashing into a cliff from a James Bond movie, like $2000. Then they had the heavies fly around in this helicopter all episode and then Murdock makes them run into this cliff. Copter explodes in a ball of flame, wreckage falls to the ground. They have the two guys in the helicopter get out, covered in soot and one looks at the other and says “Cliff can you believe we lived through that?” 🙂

He talked about a number of different times he was called into network executive’s offices because they wanted him to do a TV series for them. A-Team was one of those.

He said he learned to never say no at the moment he was asked. Once an exec told him they wanted “MTV Cops”. He didn’t even know what MTV was because cable hadn’t gotten out to where he lived, so he said no.

That was Miami Vice.

“Now I wouldn’t have done as well with that show as Michael Bay did. Now I could reproduce it, but I never would have come up with doing it that way.”

Other stories…. He’s a writer of novels now. As part of that he hangs out with LA cops. They have a special office since the OJ trial for trying celebrity cases that only has the best detectives. They also have a division that is counter terrorism. He said he met some of those guys and they told him there was a whole world of espionage going on in LA that only those who were in the business knew about. A guy shows up dead in the LA river with his fingers cut off and the regular cops think its some homeless guy, but the counter terrorism people know it was some Mossad agent that was in town to do a job.

His latest novel, Cold Hit, is about that. And about the evil powers of the Department of Homeland Security and the Patriot Act.

Well that’s what I’ve got off the top of my head. Maybe I’ll come up with more later.

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