THE JOURNAL OF THE CAUCUS: ARCHIVE

Impressions of Roy Huggins

by Stephen Cannell


My first impression of Roy Huggins was seeing him walking across the Universal lot in 1971. I was twenty-eight and standing alone watching him trailing assistants like planetary moons, gesturing as he walked. He was heading toward the editing building where, I later came to learn, he was the maestro extraordinaire. "Who was this man?" I thought. "Who are these people?" At the time, I was working for Jack Webb as the Story Editor on Adam-12. When I walked across the lot, dry leaves and old newspapers followed me if the wind was gusting.

A year later it became my good fortune to actually work for Roy Huggins. During the two-and-a-half years that I sat in his office, or in screening rooms, or at lunch discussing script problems with him I learned more about the process of writing and producing television than I have in the entire twenty years since. You see, Roy Huggins is my Godfather in this business. He was the one who showed me how to do it. He was the one who taught me how to fix a bad piece of film or plot a script so that each scene is more interesting than the one before it (Roy used to say that a good screenplay is a series of the next-most-interesting-scene you can think of).

By then, I was 29 years old and almost smart enough to figure out what was going on around me and I had the great opportunity to sit at the feet of one of the great innovators in television, to learn from a master. I have never been as good at a lot of the craft as Roy . . . a fact I demonstrated fifteen years later after a shaky first year on Hunter. I had a renewal and I needed to get the show 'grooved.' I thought, could I get Roy to help me on this. I asked him and he said "Stever," (that's what he called me when I wasn't screwing up) "let me take a look at your best episode and I'll let you know." I showed him one that Frank Lupo (the show's creator) had written. He liked it and agreed to come aboard for a year. Frank and I were elated and well we should have been because his steady hand guided Hunter into the Top Ten . . . not an easy feat when you're in a low-HUT-level, Saturday-at-ten-o'clock time period. He had strong opinions, as always:

ROY

Get rid of that piece of junk car you have him driving. Only an idiot would drive a car like that.

FRANK/STEVE

Come on, Roy, that's funny. See, his Captain thinks he's a jerk and makes him drive it.

ROY

I hate that part too. He's either a good cop or he's not. If he's a good cop and his Captain doesn't know it, then the Captain is a fool. I don't want to have a fool in the show.

STEVE

But Roy, we like that.

FRANK

It's funny.

ROY

What's funny is he never goes to Bel Air. People don't want to look at trash cans, they want to look at--swimming pools.

STEVE

But Roy. . .

Well, you get the drift. Roy was in the driver's seat where he belonged, running the show. Nobody does it better or with more style. He has created and produced some of the best shows ever to air on television. I have the honor of sharing Creator Credit with him on two shows: The Rockford Files and City of Angels. Roy Huggins is my Godfather, my Hero and my Friend. They don't come any better.

Caucus member Stephen J. Cannell is a writer-producer.