The science-fiction and television world are mourning Glen A. Larson, the popular television producer and writer who died Friday at the age of 77.
Larson created a number of television properties in the 1970s and ’80s that have stood the test of time, including the original “Battlestar Galactica” on ABC and “Knight Rider” on NBC. While he would continue to receive credit for the reboot of the franchise more than a decade ago by the former SciFi Channel, he was never a supporter of the series.
Richard Hatch, who starred in the original series as Apollo and returned to play a new character in the SciFi Channel version, shared his condolences to the Larson family on Facebook.
“He was one of a kind,” Hatch said, adding that Larson at the time was still working on a new “Battlestar Galactica” movie based on the original. He was a “very smart and resourceful producer, who like Quinn Martin, had several shows running at the same time.”
Martin, who died in 1987, was a producer behind such shows as “The Fugitive” and “Barnaby Jones.”
But Larson wasn’t all work, according to Hatch.
“He had a great sense of humor, and loved entertaining, hosting parties, film nights and get-togethers frequently at his home,” Hatch said. “He will be missed, and I hope his dream for Battlestar will be realized and brought to fruition by his remaining family.”
Glen Larson was born Jan. 3, 1937, in Long Beach, California.
Larson got his start in 1966 as a writer on “The Fugitive,” penning “In a Plain Paper Wrapper,” which included a 13-year-old Kurt Russell. He would later join the writing staff of “It Takes a Thief” and “Alias Smith and Jones” before writing the telemovie “The Six Million Dollar Man: Wine, Women and War” in 1973.
But he wanted to get into science-fiction, and “Battlestar Galactica” was created during the hype of the 1977 release of “Star Wars: A New Hope,” and the later hype surrounding “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” Although George Lucas unsuccessfully sued the series for copyright infringement of the Star Wars franchise, the show became popular with fans but struggled with a $1 million per episode budget that made it the most expensive show in history.
ABC would cancel the series, only to bring it back in 1980 as “Galactica 1980,” a grounded show that had a much smaller budget but didn’t have the same soul as the original series.
Larson would stay very busy, however, as the creator of the “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century” series, “Quincy M.E.,” “Automan,” “Knight Rider,” “The Fall Guy” and “Magnum, P.I.” through the 1980s. His television work slowed way down in the 1990s, although he would receive producer credit on reboots and continuations of his possible past shows like “Knight Rider” and “Battlestar Galactica” as well as the Battlestar spinoff “Caprica.”
Larson was well connected in the sci-fi world, even early on, with “Star Trek” producer Gene L. Coon mentoring him on an early project called “Adam’s Ark,” which many say morphed into what would become “Battlestar Galactica.” The series would draw heavily on his Mormon beliefs, right down to the source planet of Kobol, influenced by the celestial body Kolob, which was located close to God, according to scripture from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Hollywood Reporter shared the claims by many, including author Harlan Ellison, that Larson’s projects were derivatives of popular films at the time. However, author John Kenneth Muir discounted a lot of that in his 2005 book “An Analytical Guide to Television’s ‘Battlestar Galactica.'”
“Larson is undeniably a controversial figure in TV history because of his reputation for producing video facsimiles of popular films,” Muir said. “But scholars, fans and critics should also consider that ‘similarity’ is the name of the game in the fast world of TV productions. Shows are frequently purchased, produced and promoted by networks, not for their differences from popular productions, but because of their similarities.”
Larson was nominated for three Emmys in the 1970s — two for “McCloud” and one for “Quincy M.E.” He was nominated for a Grammy in 1979 for his work on the “Battlestar Galactica” soundtrack and earned his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1985.
He is survived by his wife of five years, Jeannie Marie, and nine children.