Sunday, October 3, 2010


Martin Ross runs the 'Columbo' fanfic site "Just One More Paragraph." (You'll find the link there to your left, Toob Believers!) He wrote a comment to an earlier post in tribute to Stephen J. Cannell, which I thought deserved more exposure - double exposure, if you will (or won't).

For 'Rockford Files' and "Double Exposure" [a 'Columbo' episode] alone, Cannell deserved to be in the Hall of Fame. But he did a lot of other great stuff over the past several decades: 'Tenspeed and Brownshoe', a terrific private eye show that showcased Jeff Goldblum and the comedic abilities of Ben Vereen;
'Wiseguy', which introduced Kevin Spacey and foreshadowed 'The Sopranos'; 'Sonny Spoon', a creative effort with Mario Van Peebles as an African-American conman-turned-P.I. (There was a cool ep where he's interviewing for a job and we see a table full of business cards from Rockford and other Cannell sleuths); and 'J.J. Starbuck', with old western star Dale Robertson as a billionnaire detective who solved Columbo-type inverted murders committed by the likes of a pre-Frasier Kelsey Grammar and Soap's Richard Mulligan.

I recently bought a collector DVD set with more than 50 eps from various Cannell shows (including the 'Greatest American Hero', 'Tenspeed', and 'Wiseguy'). I rediscovered 'Unsub', Cannell's '80s version of what 'Criminal Minds' is today; and 'Missing Persons', a multi-plotted cop show that, in my view, was vastly superior to 'Without a Trace'.

What's unbelievable was Cannell was also a fairly passable actor -- he guested in one of the better 'Diagnosis: Murder's, and he appeared as himself as one of 'Castle''s mystery writer/poker pals. And if that ain't enough, the man has written a flock of solid L.A. cop novels featuring Det. Shane Scully. Just as 'Columbo' gave an early push to future greats Spielberg, Bochco, and Demme, our favorite show also launched one of the most versatile writer-director-producers of modern TV. I'll miss him, too, especially every time I howl over an episode of 'Rockford'.

Martin Ross

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