Cannon (TV series)

Cannon is an American detective television series produced by Quinn Martin that aired from 1971 to 1976 on CBS. William Conrad played the title character, private detective Frank Cannon. The series was the first Quinn Martin production to run on a network other than ABC.

Cannon Title Screen.jpg
Developed byEdward Hume
StarringWilliam Conrad
Theme music composerJohn Parker
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons5
No. of episodes122 (list of episodes)
Executive producerQuinn Martin
Running time60 minutes
Production companiesQM Productions
CBS Productions
DistributorViacom Enterprises
Original networkCBS
Original releaseSeptember 14, 1971 (1971-09-14) –
March 3, 1976 (1976-03-03)
RelatedBarnaby Jones

In total, there were 122 episodes, plus the series' two-hour pilot and a 1980 "revival" television film, The Return of Frank Cannon.


Cannon was portrayed in the series as a veteran of the Korean War and a former member of the Los Angeles Police Department. He was street smart but also appeared to have an unusually high level of education outside the law enforcement field. Besides his familiarity with several languages, he showed extensive knowledge of such diverse subjects as science, art and history. Cannon was a widower, having lost his wife and son in a bomb attack while he was on the police force, as revealed in the two-hour pilot.

Conrad was an overweight actor, and the series, especially in its early episodes, made frequent mention of Cannon's weight. Other characters would often remark critically about it, while he himself would joke self-deprecatingly about his girth and great love of food. In fact, Cannon was a gourmet cook who enjoyed preparing food for his friends. Despite his large size, he was a man of action. While he preferred to use his wits to escape a difficult situation, he could engage successfully in fistfights and shoot-outs with bad guys.

The plots, as in other detective series, revolved around Cannon solving crimes for a variety of clients. In a number of early episodes, he was hired by insurance companies to investigate losses. Other episodes involved him working for former police colleagues or other people from his past. In some cases, he was forced into action to clear himself of falsified charges. Many episode plot lines involved Cannon traveling and having to deal with various and sundry incompetent and/or corrupt law enforcement agencies and officials.

Throughout the series' run, Cannon drove Lincoln Continentals. In the pilot movie, he drove a 1970 model year 53A four-door hardtop sedan, which later crashed.[1] In the series, he switched to the two-door personal luxury cars, driving a new model year every season - in Season 1, he drove a 1971 Mark III,[2] before switching to Mark IVs for later seasons.[3][4][5][6] In the 1980 TV movie, however, he instead drove a 1978 Cadillac Coupe de Ville.[7]


Conrad as Frank Cannon.

Series star William Conrad was the only main cast member. Conrad was nominated for an Emmy Award in both 1973 and 1974 (Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series), but Richard Thomas won for The Waltons in 1973 and Telly Savalas won for Kojak in 1974.

There were very few recurring characters. In the first season, Martin Sheen appeared twice as ex-policeman Jerry Warton, but the character did not extend beyond the first year. In fact, Sheen guest-starred in the third season as a completely different character: a lawyer who murdered Cannon's client. The only other actors to appear in multiple episodes as the same character were Charles Bateman (five episodes as Lieutenant Paul Tarcher) and Arthur Adams (three episodes as Officer Bill Murray).

Guest starsEdit

Notable guest stars included Anne Baxter, Johnny Cash, Cathy Lee Crosby, Joan Fontaine, Mark Hamill, Sondra Locke, Leslie Nielsen, Nick Nolte, Susan Oliver, Stefanie Powers, Denver Pyle, Roy Scheider, and Martin Sheen.


Cannon debuted in a two-hour movie on March 26, 1971 that served as the pilot. In the movie, Cannon returns from an extensive overseas assignment and investigates the murder of a close friend. A later episode would reveal that his wife and child were killed in a car bomb meant for him, prompting him to resign from the Los Angeles police force and become a private detective.[8] The pilot was picked up to series for the 1971–72 television season, and the first one-hour episode aired September 14, 1971. The first season aired on Tuesday nights at 9:30 PM Eastern, following the popular Hawaii Five-0.[9] It moved to 10:00 PM Wednesday nights in season 2, then moved up to 9:00 PM Wednesdays for season 3 where it remained for the rest of the series run. Following three consecutive seasons in the Top 20 Nielsen ratings, plot violence and controversial themes increased in season 5 and Cannon fell to 39th and was cancelled.[10]


In an era before cell phone use, Cannon was frequently shown using a "mobile phone" in his signature Lincoln Continental, which was very rare at the time. Cannon would first ask the mobile operator to dial a call for him. Phones of this type were precursors to modern cell phones. The phone prop itself was a Motorola brand MTS mobile phone.


Series overviewEdit

SeasonEpisodesOriginally airedRankRating
First airedLast aired
PilotMarch 26, 1971 (1971-03-26)
124September 14, 1971 (1971-09-14)March 14, 1972 (1972-03-14)28[citation needed]19.8[citation needed][a]
224September 13, 1972 (1972-09-13)March 21, 1973 (1973-03-21)14[citation needed]22.4[citation needed]
325September 12, 1973 (1973-09-12)March 20, 1974 (1974-03-20)9[citation needed]23.1[citation needed][b]
424September 11, 1974 (1974-09-11)April 2, 1975 (1975-04-02)20[citation needed]21.6[citation needed][c]
525September 10, 1975 (1975-09-10)March 3, 1976 (1976-03-03)39[11][d]
Television filmNovember 1, 1980 (1980-11-01)

Connections to Barnaby JonesEdit

Frank Cannon met Barnaby Jones (Buddy Ebsen), an aging veteran private investigator who had retired and turned over his agency to his son, Hal, when Hal is killed. With the aid of Cannon and Hal's widow, Betty Jones (Lee Meriwether), he hunts down Hal's killer. Afterwards, Jones decides to come out of retirement. The premiere episode of Barnaby Jones, "Requiem for a Son" was planned as a second-season Cannon episode, but when Barnaby Jones was sold as a separate series the script was reworked into the premiere of that series. William Conrad appeared as a special guest star.

There was a second "crossover" between the series. The first part of the two-part episode, "The Deadly Conspiracy", was aired as the second episode of the fifth season of Cannon on September 17, 1975; the second part aired two nights later as the fourth-season premiere of Barnaby Jones.

Home mediaEdit

CBS DVD (distributed by Paramount) has released the first two seasons of Cannon on DVD in Region 1. Season 3 was released on January 10, 2013, via's CreateSpace program. This is a manufacture-on-demand (MOD) release, available exclusively through[12]

On May 4, 2015, it was announced that Visual Entertainment had acquired the rights to the series in Region 1.[13] They subsequently released Cannon - The Complete Collection on September 2, 2015.

On March 18, 2016, VEI re-released the first season on DVD and on April 1, 2016, they re-released the second season.[14]

In Region 4, Shock Entertainment has released the first two seasons on DVD in Australia.

DVD name Ep no. Release date
Season 1, Volume 1 13 July 8, 2008
Season 1, Volume 2 13 December 2, 2008
Season 1 24 March 18, 2016
Season 2, Volume 1 12 June 2, 2009
Season 2, Volume 2 12 February 16, 2010
Season 2 24 April 1, 2016
Season 3 24 January 10, 2013
Season 4 24 N/A
Season 5 25 N/A
The Complete Series 122 September 2, 2015

Awards and nominationsEdit

Cannon received three Emmy Award nominations, for Outstanding Drama Series in 1973 and for William Conrad as Lead Actor in a Drama Series in 1973 and 1974.[15]

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association nominated Cannon for three Golden Globe Awards, for Best Television Series - Drama in 1974 and for William Conrad in 1972 and 1973 as Best Actor in a Drama Television Series.[16]

In other mediaEdit


A series of nine tie-in novels were published in the 1970s by Lancer/Magnum in the United States and Triphammer/Corgi in the United Kingdom.[17]

  1. Murder by Gemini by Richard Gallagher
  2. The Stewardess Strangler by Richard Gallagher
  3. The Golden Bullet by Paul Denver (pseudonym of Douglas Enefer)
  4. The Deadly Chance by Paul Denver
  5. I've Got You Covered by Paul Denver
  6. The Falling Blonde by Paul Denver
  7. It's Lonely on the Sidewalk by Paul Denver
  8. Farewell, Little Sister by Douglas Enefer
  9. Shoot-Out! by Douglas Enefer

UK ParodyEdit

In an episode of his Thames Television series, British comedian Benny Hill parodied 1970s American detective series. In the skit, Hill played several staple characters of the genre: Frank Cannon, Robert Ironside, Theo Kojak, Sam McCloud (ironically, all but the latter were airing on BBC1 at the time rather than on Hill's home of ITV) and, although he was not a part of the genre, Agatha Christie's Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot.


  1. ^ Tied with Room 222
  2. ^ Tied with The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  3. ^ Tied with Mannix
  4. ^ Tied with Hawaii Five-0


  1. ^ "Lincoln Continental in "Cannon"". Retrieved 2021-07-06.
  2. ^ "Lincoln Continental Mark III in "Cannon"". Retrieved 2021-07-06.
  3. ^ "Lincoln Continental Mark IV in "Cannon"". Retrieved 2021-07-06.
  4. ^ "Lincoln Continental Mark IV in "Cannon"". Retrieved 2021-07-06.
  5. ^ "Lincoln Continental Mark IV in "Cannon"". Retrieved 2021-07-06.
  6. ^ "Lincoln Continental Mark IV in "Cannon"". Retrieved 2021-07-06.
  7. ^ "Cadillac Coupe DeVille Convertible in "The Return of Frank Cannon"". Retrieved 2021-07-06.
  8. ^ "MeTV Shows - Cannon". Retrieved August 21, 2020.
  9. ^ "Prime-time network TV listings for Tuesday December 21, 1971". Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  10. ^ "1975-76 Ratings History". Retrieved August 21, 2020.
  11. ^ "1975-76 Ratings History". Retrieved 21 August 2020.
  12. ^ "Cannon DVD news: Street Date for Cannon - Season 3 -". Archived from the original on March 31, 2016. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  13. ^ "Cannon DVD news: DVD Plans for Cannon -". Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  14. ^ "Cannon DVD news: Re-Release for Season 1 and Season 2 -". Archived from the original on April 19, 2016. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  15. ^ "Nominations Search". Television Academy. Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  16. ^ "Cannon". Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  17. ^ "Cannon Novel Covers". Not The Baseball Pitcher. Retrieved 2 May 2016.

External linksEdit