Glen A. Larson, who produced some of the biggest and highly remembered TV programs of the 1970s and 1980s, including Knight Rider, Magnum P.I., and the original version of Battlestar Galactica among them, died on Friday at the UCLA Medical Center. He was 77. Larson’s son James had reported that his father had suffered from esophageal cancer.
Larson in many senses was like a Norman Lear of his genre, and like Lear at his peak, had several shows running at once on the air. However, unlike Lear, Larson’s programs weren’t critically lauded for the most part, and Emmy awards were non-existent. But what the programs did supply was a kind of wide-eyed fantasy skein which ran as a common thread through most of them. A large and loyal fanbase, mainly young teenage boys, watched and devoured these programs week after week and snatching up all forms of these shows via marketing, whether it be a BSG‘s Cylon Space Craft toy or a replica of a K.I.T.T. car from Knight Rider. It was this rabid cult fanbase that kept these shows flourishing and remaining in the subconscious.
Larson always prided himself on the style he presented in his productions, having protagonists that always were smart and imbued with common sense, juxtaposed with humorous situations. It was that formula that procured the overall success of a Glen A. Larson production.
The producer, who was also behind shows like Quincy, M.E., The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, The Fall Guy, and Magnum, P.I., got his start writing for TV, and was credited on a Fugitive episode from the 1960s. He also sang in the innocuous quartet The Four Preps when he was just out of his teenage years. He slowly rose in the business to become one of television’s moguls, and even though the man has now passed on, his body of work will endure brightly to a generation of geeks who still instantly are thrust into its zeitgeist whenever they hear the majestic theme song of Battlestar Galactica, or the cool bass heavy strains of the Knight Rider theme, or many other instantly familiar Larson imagery and narratives, right down to the end credit logo which intoned “A Glen Larson Production” with the intertwined G and L. The familiarity of these pop cultural images will never wane, just like the memory of the man himself.
RIP Glen A. Larson
January 3, 1937 – November 14, 2014