Cannon (1971–1976)


Cannon (TV Series 1971–1976)

The weekly adventures of Frank Cannon, an overweight, balding ex-cop with a deep voice and expensive tastes in culinary pleasures, who becomes a high-priced private investigator. Since Cannon's girth didn't allow for many fist-fights and gun battles (although there were many), the series substituted car chases and high production values in their place.
IMDb   6.7 /10
TheMovieDb    6.9 /10
FilmAffinity   5.9 /10
Creator Edward Hume
Release Date1971-09-14
Runtime1h 0min
GenreAction, Crime, Drama, Mystery
Content RatingTV-PG (TV-PG)
AwardsNominated for 3 Primetime Emmys. Another 2 wins & 4 nominations.
CompanyQuinn Martin Productions (QM)
Frank Cannon 120 episodes, 1971-1976

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.

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 size and 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.


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 stars

Notable guest stars included Willie Aames, Sharon Acker, Claude Akins, Frank Aletter, Lou Antonio, Anne Baxter, Whitney Blake, Whit Bissell, Lloyd Bochner, Sorrell Booke, Antoinette Bower, Brooke Bundy, Ahna Capri, Johnny Cash, Dabney Coleman, Jackie Cooper, Cathy Lee Crosby, William Daniels, Burr DeBenning, Severn Darden, Micky Dolenz, Dennis Dugan, Andrew Duggan, Shelley Duvall, Dana Elcar, Jason Evers, Mike Farrell, Joan Fontaine, Bert Freed, Leif Garrett, Paul Michael Glaser, David Soul, Dabbs Greer Clu Gulager, Peter Haskell, Mark Hamill, Robert Hays, David Hedison, Rodolfo Hoyos Jr., Kim Hunter, Scott Hylands, David Janssen, Claudia Jennings, L. Q. Jones, Kate Keenan, Dan Kemp, Tom Kennedy, Sondra Locke, Robert Loggia, Tina Louise, Barbara Luna, George Maharis, Robert Mandan, Nora Marlowe, Ralph Meeker, Vera Miles, Donna Mills, Diana Muldaur, Leslie Nielsen, Nick Nolte, Sheree North, Lee Paul, Steve Pendleton, Nehemiah Persoff, John M. Pickard, Stefanie Powers, Judson Pratt, Denver Pyle, Eldon Quick, Dack Rambo, Wayne Rogers, John Rubinstein, Roy Scheider, Martin Sheen, Tom Skerritt, Charlotte Stewart, Peter Strauss, Vic Tayback, Malachi Throne, Ronne Troup, Joan Van Ark, Vincent Van Patten, John Vernon, Jessica Walter, Jess Walton, Cindy Williams, William Windom, Dana Wynter, and Anthony Zerbe.


Cannon debuted in a two-hour movie on March 26, 1971 that served as the pilot. In the movie, Cannon's wife and child are killed in a car bomb meant for him, prompting him to resign from the Los Angeles police force and become a private detective. 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. 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, Cannon fell to 39th in season 5 and was cancelled.


In an era long 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 overview

SeriesEpisodesOriginally airedRankRatingTied with
First airedLast aired
Pilot126 March 1971N/AN/AN/A
12414 September 197114 March 19722819.8Room 222
22413 September 197221 March 19731422.4N/A
32512 September 197320 March 1974923.1The Mary Tyler Moore Show
42411 September 19742 April 19752021.6Mannix
52510 September 19753 March 197639N/AHawaii Five-0
TV-movie11 November 1980N/AN/AN/A

Connections to Barnaby Jones

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 media

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

On May 4, 2015, it was announced that Visual Entertainment had acquired the rights to the series in Region 1. 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.

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

DVD nameEp no.Release date
Season 1, Volume 113July 8, 2008
Season 1, Volume 213December 2, 2008
Season 124March 18, 2016
Season 2, Volume 112June 2, 2009
Season 2, Volume 212February 16, 2010
Season 224April 1, 2016
Season 324January 10, 2013
Season 424N/A
Season 525N/A
The Complete Series122September 2, 2015

Awards and nominations

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.

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.

In other media


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.


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 b 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. Cast member Jenny Lee-Wright played the role of Pepper Anderson.