When I was twelve my favourite programme on TV was The A-Team. Each episode provided a cocktail of fabulous characters, buddy-movie banter and inanely inconsequential violence.
The A-team was made by Stephen J Cannell Productions. The production logo which played at the end of each episode showed Stephen J Cannell sitting in his office bashing away at an ancient typewriter, then seizing the page and flinging it high into the air. The folio twisted and turned in the air before landing neatly on a stack of other papers, where it curled to form a letter C. Perfect.
When I visit schools, I am often asked what inspired me to become a writer. I think my first inspiration was Stephen J Cannell. I always watched the A-Team credits to the very end because I wanted to see my namesake fling that folio.
The video above shows the evolution of the Cannell production logo through the decades. In the early days, Cannell is shown puffing Hemingwayesque on his pipe as he finishes his masterpiece. Somewhere in the nineteen eighties, the pipe disappears and the office walls are bedecked with certificates and awards — a fine advertisement for kicking the habit.
Somewhere in the nineties, Cannell gets cocky. He chuckles to himself as he writes that final scene, and his fingers dive down onto the typewriter keys from ever loftier heights. I can’t blame him for that. When I know I am writing the final scene of a novel I find myself doing that weird high-typing thing, too. My right thumb bounces off the spacebar and into orbit. My little finger hits Return with such a flourish that both hands startle into claws. Oh dear, I’m doing it now, just thinking about it.
There have been many parodies of the famous Stephen J Cannell logo. As ever, the best parody is the Simpsons one: Itchy and Scratchy Productions! Note Bart and Lisa’s satisfied sigh after watching the logo.
I recognize that sigh, because it’s the sigh of my twelve year old self. All right, my thirty-nine year old self, as well. It’s a sigh that yearns to be Hannibal or Hemingway or both. A sigh that longs for an office, a typewriter, a pipe, a row of trophies and a single crisp sheet of paper twisting and turning in mid air.