Glen A. Larson, Born January 3, 1937 and passed away on November 15, 2014.
Glen Albert Larson was an American television producer and writer best known as the creator of the television series Battlestar Galactica, Quincy, M.E., The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, B. J. and the Bear, The Fall Guy, Magnum, P.I. and Knight Rider.
Larson began his career in the entertainment industry in 1956 as a member of the vocal group The Four Preps, with whom he appeared in one of the Gidget films. The Four Preps ultimately produced three gold records for Capitol, all of which Larson himself wrote and/or composed: “26 Miles (Santa Catalina)”, “Big Man”, and “Down By The Station.” A later member of the Four Preps, David Somerville, and a session singer he knew, Gail Jensen, later collaborated with Larson to write and compose “The Unknown Stuntman,” the theme from The Fall Guy; series lead Lee Majors performed this song over the opening titles.
After working for Quinn Martin Sr. on productions including The Fugitive, Larson signed a production deal with Universal Studios. His first hit series was Alias Smith and Jones, a Western which described the activities of Hannibal Heyes and Jedediah “Kid” Curry, concentrating on their efforts to go straight. (George Roy Hill’s film, scripted by William Goldman, about Butch Cassidy and the “Sundance Kid” is commonly believed to have been the inspiration for the series.)
Larson was involved in the development for television of The Six Million Dollar Man, based on Martin Caidin’s novel Cyborg, into the successful series, and was one of the program’s early executive producers.
Larson later secured a then-unprecedented $1 million per episode budget for Battlestar Galactica. Originally, the series was intended to be called Adama’s Ark, and the show incorporated many themes from Mormon theology, such as marriage for “time and eternity” and a “council of twelve.” Larson, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in real life, had been working on the concept since 1968, and Gene L. Coon had been providing guidance and mentoring to him through the writing of its earliest incarnations. Larson initially renamed the series Galactica but was then convinced to include the word “star” in the title in some way, in order to capitalize on the popularity of the recently released mega-hit, Star Wars, eventually deciding on Battlestar Galactica.
Even with its generous budget, the series often recycled effects shots; it was canceled after one season. The pilot episode of Galactica, entitled “Saga of a Star World” in the program continuity, was edited into a two-hour theatrical film released in North America and Europe (a second theatrical release, titled Mission Galactica: The Cylon Attack, was compiled by re-editing other episodes of the series). After the series was canceled, Larson went on to create a relatively low-budget sequel to the series, titled Galactica 1980, which was set many years later, when the Galactica had reached Earth. This series was less successful than the original and was canceled after 10 episodes.
Larson re-used some of the sets, props, costumes, and effects work from Galactica for the light-hearted sci-fi series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century in 1979. Based on the famous comic-book character created in 1928 by Philip Francis Nowlan, Larson co-developed the series with Leslie Stevens. The feature-length pilot episode was released as a theatrical film in March 1979 and grossed $21 million at the North American box office. The weekly television series began in September 1979, running for two seasons until April 1981.
In the 1980s, Larson garnered further success as one of the creators of Magnum, P.I., which ran from 1980-88. Additionally, Larson created The Fall Guy, which ran from 1981-86. Larson’s next prominent series was Knight Rider, which featured science-fiction elements with a light-hearted action-adventure scenario and limited violence. These basic elements characterized much of Larson’s output throughout the 1980s with Automan, Manimal and The Highwayman, though all of these series were unsuccessful and none lasted more than a single season. Larson’s popularity declined, though he made a brief comeback in the 1990s with an adaptation of the Ultraverse comic Night Man, which lasted two seasons.
In 2003, Battlestar Galactica was remade for the Sci-Fi Channel as a miniseries; it was followed by a 2004 series, that, unlike the original, lasted multiple seasons and followed the Galacticans all the way to Earth. Larson was not involved in any capacity with the new series, which Ronald D. Moore had developed, though he did receive a screen credit as “Consulting Producer.” Much was different in the new series, which was now aimed at mature audiences rather than being family fare like the original. The Cylons were now created by humans, and some of them now even looked human; there was more moral duality, complexity, and nuance in both humans and Cylons; the social commentary was more explicit; and the resolution of the “Earth” problem was different. After the series ended in 2009, a short-lived prequel series, Caprica, followed in 2010. Larson was not involved with this series either, though he was given a screen credit for the creation of certain characters. In February 2009, media sources reported that Larson was in talks with Universal Pictures to bring Battlestar Galactica to the big screen, though any potential feature film would not be based on the recent Sci-Fi Channel series remake, but would possibly be based on the original series. Although Bryan Singer was listed to direct and co-produce, the project stalled for some time before being reannounced in 2011 by Singer himself. The film version was now no longer a continuation of the original series but rather a complete remake.
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