Sad news today as word has spread that TV veteran Glen A. Larson has passed away at the age of 77. GFR fans will likely know him best as the creator of the original Battlestar Galactica, but even if you didn’t recognize the name, you almost certainly know his work. In addition to giving us BSG, Larson’s long resume included shows such as Knight Rider, Magnum, P.I., The Fall Guy, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. The sheer volume of entertainment this guy contributed to my childhood is staggering, and I’ll always have fond memories of the BSG/Buck Rogers block that I thought was the greatest thing since Cylon-sliced bread back in the day. Larson passed away Friday night of esophageal cancer at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica. On behalf of both GFR and myself personally, I’ll be raising a cup in his honor.
Larson’s TV career is obviously his most visible legacy, but one interesting tidbit provided by the THR obituary is that Larson’s initial entry into the entertainment world wasn’t as a TV writer, but rather as a member of a singing group called The Four Preps. And none too shabby a group either, as the Preps produced three gold records, and even showed up in one of the Gidget movies. Larson’s musical mojo came in handy later when he co-wrote the insanely catchy Fall Guy theme song, “The Unknown Stuntman,” which was sung by series star Lee Majors. Earworm powers: activate.
Battlestar Galactica began as a science fiction film script called Adam’s Ark, which Larson worked on for years, including under the mentorship of Star Trek veteran Gene L. Coon. After changing course and targeting TV, BSG finally made it to the airwaves — with a then-insane budget of $1 million per episode — just in time to cash in on Star Wars mania. Star Wars opened in May 1977, and BSG arrived in September 1978. It came by those comparisons honestly in at least one respect, as Star Wars maestro John Dykstra supervised BSG’s effects work. In fact, Twentieth Century Fox sued BSG and Universal claiming the show infringed on their Star Wars copyrights, but eventually lost the suit.
Although BSG only lasted one season, it returned in the form of Galactica 1980, but that only lasted 10 episodes. Larson wasn’t done with BSG just because it was off the air, however. He worked to bring BSG to the big screen both before and after Syfy and Ron Moore’s successful reimagining of the series, with which Larson was not creatively involved but did receive a screen credit as a “consulting producer.” The notion of a BSG movie was back in the news earlier this year with the announcement that Universal had hired Transcendence writer Jack Paglen to pen a complete reboot of the franchise.
Love his work or hate it, there’s no question that Larson was ridiculously prolific over the course of his career, with THR noting that his Quincy ME, Magnum, Knight Rider, and The Fall Guy totaled some 513 hours of television between 1976 – 1988. That’s one hell of a Netflix binge.
GFR sends our condolences to Larson’s friends and family. And I can’t think of a better way to play him out than with one of the best science fiction themes ever composed. So say we all.