Cannell: Well, to begin with, my studio was a private studio, and as a private studio, it was very important that I kept at least six hours of TV on the air. And as a private studio, I also had to carry all my own deficits, so I couldn't sit down and do what they do today, which is have 13 writers on staff -- I couldn't afford them. So I was always one of the writers. And so I'd have three or four writers on staff... and me. [laughs] It was a choice in one way, because I love to write, but it was also something that I needed to do in order to keep my shows from going $5,000 over budget every week.
TWoP: At the risk of overanalyzing your work, it did seem that most of your programs involved quirky characters who were seeking justice by unconventional means. Did that idea have any personal resonance for you, or did it just happen to fit the kind of stories you wanted to tell or that networks wanted to air at the time?
Cannell: You know what, I never gave it that much thought. I wish I could say that I sat there and tried to figure it all out. I would come up with ideas and I would think, okay, would I go home and watch this? And the other question I would always ask myself is: in the third season, when we don't have a script, would I be able to spend my weekend writing it? [laughs] Those were my two questions. And if the answer was yes, then I'd do the show, or I would attempt to try and sell it.
TWoP: For a large part of your career, your shows were very procedural in structure. But then you eventually worked on serial shows like Wiseguy and Profit. Did you have a personal preference between the two formats, or did just depend on the piece?
Cannell: I think it pretty much depended on the piece. With Wiseguy, I couldn't think of any other way to do that but with six-hour stories because I didn't know how to infiltrate a big organized crime family and bust the Mafia boss in one hour. I just didn't know how to do it.
TWoP: When you look at certain current programs, like Human Target, Justified and some of the USA shows, it seems like there should be that guy typing away at the end - they feel very much like modern-day Stephen Cannell shows. Are you aware of how much influence you must have had over a generation or two of TV writers?
Cannell: Well, you're kind. I really kind of hesitate, always, to take even secondary credit for other peoples' creations. Certainly, we're on a road... and that's what makes Castle so great, it does come back to that whole idea of characters being the most important part of the equation. And we'll move away from it. The darker characters that we're seeing on some of these cable shows are terrific but they're also very narrow-casted. You couldn't do some of those shows on one of the big four [networks] because the storytelling would not be broad enough to carry the audience. You see now with this new universe all different kinds of storytelling. And a show like Breaking Bad, which is really well done, or Sons of Anarchy, might have trouble making a go of it on the major networks.