Television & Film

Glen A. Larson Dies at 77

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Glen A. Larson, creator of shows such as Battlestar Galactica, Knight Rider, and The Six Million Dollar Man, died Friday night at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica. His son, James, confirmed with The Hollywood Reporter. Larson had been battling esophageal cancer.

Born in 1937 in Long Beach, Larson began his entertainment career in 1956 as part of The Four Preps, a popular male quartet who recorded on the Capitol label and appeared in Ozzie and Harriet as back up performers for Ricky Nelson and backing Sandra Dee in Gidget. The group has eight gold singles and three gold albums, and continues to perform today.

Larson moved on to television with a stint working for Quinn Martin on The Fugitive, after which he created Alias Smith and Jones, which started a very prolific and successful career in television. Larson also developed The Six Million Dollar Man based on the novel Cyborg (and which is about to get a reboot).

Perhaps Larson’s most notable creations of the 1970s are Battlestar Galactica, which was reimagined by Ronald D. Moore and David Eick in 2003, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, which re-used many of the cancelled Galactica‘s props and sets.

RELATED: See the Buck Rogers panel at Planet Comicon 2012 by starting here

During the 1980s, Larson produced B.J. and the Bear and its spinoff, The Misadventures of Sherrif Lobo, Manimal, The Fall Guy (again teaming with star Lee Majors), and perhaps his most successful shows, Magnum, P.I. and Knight Rider.

Knight Rider, which spawned both spinoff movies, a second series, and a reboot, starred David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight. Along with the Knight Industries Two Thousand, a high-tech talking car with all sorts of gadgets, Knight roamed the country helping people who found themselves in need of “outside the law” justice. The show ran from 1982 to 1986. The spinoffs and reboot were not so successful.

Magnum, P.I. starred Tom Selleck as a private detective in Hawaii. Running from 1980-1988, the show was supposed to end with the death of Thomas Magnum, which would then have freed up Selleck to play Indiana Jones. But CBS renewed Selleck’s option for an additional year. Magnum was consistently one of the highest-rated shows on television while it aired.

Critcisms

Criticized by some (including Harlan Ellison) as a copycat, Larson was regularly accused of deriving his shows from whatever was popular in movies at the time. Alias Smith and Jones closely resembled Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Galactica was influenced by Star Wars, Automan similar to Tron, B.J. and the Bear based on Every Which Way But Loose, etc.

James Garner, star of The Rockford Files, notes in his autobiography that Larson lifted a number of plots from Rockford (created by Stephen J. Cannell) for use in his own shows, resulting in fines from the Writers Guild.

Awards

Larson was nominated for an Emmy for Quincy, M.E. (Outstanding Drama Series) and a Grammy for the Battlestar Galactica score album (along with Stu Phillips, John Andrew Tartaglia, and Sue Collins.

He won Edgar Awards for Best Episode in a TV Series Teleplay, in 1973 for McCloud‘s “The New Mexico Connection” and in 1981 for Magnum, P.I.‘s “China Doll” with Donald P. Bellasario.

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[photo: EmmyTVLegends.org]

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Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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