Stephen Joseph Cannell is an American television producer, writer, novelist and occasional actor who is also the founder of Stephen J. Cannell Productions.
Cannell was born in Los Angeles, California, and raised in a mansion in nearby Pasadena. His parents, Carolyn and Joseph Knapp Cannell, owned a chain of furniture stores. Cannell struggled with dyslexia in school, but did graduate from the University of Oregon in 1964 with a Bachelor of Science in journalism. At UO, he joined the Sigma Chi fraternity.
After college, Cannell spent four years working with the family business before selling his first script to the Universal series It Takes a Thief in 1968. He was quickly hired by the television production branch of Universal Studios and was soon freelance writing for such other crime shows as Ironside and Columbo. Not long after he received his first full-time gig as the story editor of Jack Webb's police series Adam-12, then in its fourth season. Cannell has created or co-created nearly 40 television series, mostly crime dramas, including The Rockford Files, The Greatest American Hero, The A-Team, Wiseguy, 21 Jump Street, Silk Stalkings, and The Commish. In the process he has, by his own count, scripted more than 450 episodes, and produced or executive produced over 1,500 episodes.