Sunday, November 16, 2014

Obit: Glen A. Larson, R.I.P.

Television producer Glen A. Larson, who created the original Battlestar Galactica and developed Buck Rogers for the small screen, passed away Friday night of esophageal cancer at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica. Larson was 77.

An extremely successful producer - although not always a respected one - Larson was responsible for a ton of Seventies and Eighties television, including such hits as Knight Rider, Magnum P.I., B.J. And The Bear, The Fall Guy, Switch, The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, Alias Smith And Jones, Manimal, Quincy M.E., and more. He produced the second and third Six Million Dollar Man telefilms, and brought the 90's comic book hero NightMan to television.

But for Star Kids, it was Galactica that stands as his shining achievement, an epic-scaled space opera with groundbreaking, theatrical-quality special effects and production design, and themes inspired by Larson's Mormon faith. It debuted in the Fall of 1978 as a Top Ten show, and finished the season as the 25th most popular show on television, only failing to get renewed because of its extravagant million dollar (plus) weekly budget. Despite its abbreviated run, it lived on in novels, comic books and a brief 1980 revival series, eventually being retooled and resurrected in 2004 for the Sci-Fi Channel.

He also worked with Leslie Stevens (The Outer Limits) to update the classic comic strip hero Buck Rogers for Universal and NBC in 1979. The pilot film so pleased the studio that it received a theatrical release in the Summer of 1979, before going on to a two-season run on television.

Although Larson was notorious for ripping off popular movies with his shows (he was even sued by 20th Century Fox and George Lucas over Galactica's similarities to Star Wars), his programs were undeniably entertaining, filled with action, humor and glamor, aimed solidly at family audiences.

I count more than a few of Larson's shows (Magnum P.I., The Fall Guy, Knight Rider) among my all-time favorites, and would rather watch most of them even now than much of what currently airs on TV. If Glen Larson was a hack (as his detractors insist), he was a successful one, and he'll  be missed.

9 comments:

  1. Larson's work will live on (in fandom, reruns and remakes) for many years to come. He wasn't always a great producer but he always delivered the goods. He will be much mourned.

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  2. A nice obit, excellent last line.

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  3. As nice as it has been to see you resume frequent posting again, this is a sad post. All of the shows that he worked on I loved as a child. I still enjoy them now... even Manimal :)

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  4. I'd like to think that Mr. Larson is now surrounded by angelic beings on that ship of lights where everybody's clothes turn white.

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  5. One man's hack is another man's goldmine. He just took ideas and turned them into cash crops--that's intelligent to me, and it's still being done by those savvy enough to recognize the idea and breathe fresh air into the concept. If you are successful, I'm pretty sure it's easy to overlook the naysayers.

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  6. Glen A Larson was one of the first names emblazoned in my head when I started paying attention to who made the TV shows I loved as a kid. In addition to the list of shows above he also wrote for the very good "It takes a Thief" with Robert Wagner.
    One of my best Christmas presents was Glen's paperback tie-in to the Battlestar Galactica TV movie pilot. I read it and couldn't wait to see it. I also remember going with my best friend to see Buck Rogers in the theater. Great memory. Glen made shows that kids could relate to that were not kiddie shows. I missed his kind of shows when my kids were small. All they had was reality tv and Disney shows. I still feel they missed out. RIP Glen.

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  7. Glen Larson was to the '70s what Irwin Allen was to the '60s ... a cynical purveyor of a lot of schlock, a guy with few aspirations above keeping eyeballs glued to the next set of commercials. James Garner once punched him out for copying Rockford Files scripts for his shows.

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  8. Next to the late jerry anderson he gave me a great childhood sci/fi memories of which you don't see much of the like these days , mores the pity. R.I.P. MR. LARSON.

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