Glen A. Larson, Prolific TV Producer of ‘Battlestar Galactica,’ ‘Magnum, P.I., ‘Quincy,’ Dies at 77

Glen A. Larson Dead
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Glen A. Larson, the writer-producer behind such indelible TV dramas as “Battlestar Galactica,” “Magnum, P.I.,” “Knight Rider” and “Quincy M.E.,” has died. He was 77.

Larson died of complications from esophageal cancer on Friday night at UCLA Medical Center.

Larson had a string of TV hits in the 1970s and ’80s, and dozens of writing and producing credits to his name. His shows were rarely favored by critics, but his biggest hits enjoyed long runs in primetime and in syndication.

In reflecting on his long career, Larson credited his success to having a strong sense of the type of shows that would click with Middle America.

Larson said his milieu was defined as shows that were “enjoyable, they had a pretty decent dose of humor and they all struck a chord out there in the mainstream,” Larson told the Archive of American Television in 2009. “What we weren’t going to win … was a shelf full of Emmys. Ours were not the shows that were doing anything more than reaching a core audience. I would like to think that they brought a lot of entertainment into the living room.”

After growing up in Los Angeles, Larson got his start in the biz as a singer and a member of the pop vocal group the Four Preps, and he also worked as an NBC page. (Larson’s earliest mention in Variety is an item from the Aug. 7, 1957, edition of Daily Variety noting that the Four Preps were set for a guest shot on “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.”)

By the mid-1960s he had segued into TV writing and in 1969 he began a long tenure at Universal TV, starting with a spec script that he sold to “It Takes a Thief,” which starred Robert Wagner, whom Larson had known since his days at Hollywood High School. During his early Universal years, Larson was a key producer on “McCloud” with Dennis Weaver.

Larson created his first show, “Alias Smith and Jones,” in 1971, but left the ABC Western right after star Peter Duel committed suicide.

Larson also co-created “Quincy M.E.” with Lou Shaw. The NBC forensic drama starring Jack Klugman had an eight-season run from 1976-83, although Larson was ousted from the series early on.

He created “Battlestar Galactica” a few years later, after “Star Wars” ignited showbiz interest in space operas. Although the original series lasted only one season — ABC cut the cord in 1979 after two dozen episodes partly because of its hefty production cost — it had a “Star Trek”-like rebirth in the mid-2000s on Syfy.

Writers Ronald D. Moore and David Eick steered the Syfy revival that began as a miniseries in 2003 and expanded to a regular series that garnered critical acclaim for stars Edward James Olmos, Mary McConnell, Katie Sackhoff and Tricia Helfer.

“Magnum, P.I.” was a smash hit for CBS that launched Tom Selleck into stardom and ran from 1980-88. Larson created the show with Donald Bellisario, with whom he had already worked with on “Quincy M.E.” and “Battlestar Galactica.” Selleck played a Vietnam vet turned private investigator in Hawaii.

Larson was a key player in the career of TV leading man Lee Majors, who starred in the Larson-created ABC series “The Six Million Dollar Man” (1974-78) and “The Fall Guy” (1981-86).

Larson wrote and exec produced NBC’s “Knight Rider” (1982-86), starring David Hasselhoff as a crime-fighter whose work was aided by a talking car and supercomputer, K.I.T.T., voiced by William Daniels.

Larson earned three Emmy nominations during his long career, all for producing. “McCloud” was nommed for limited series in 1974 and 1975, while “Quincy” grabbed a best drama series bid in 1978.

More recently, Larson reunited with other members of the Four Preps in 2004 for a PBS special.

In addition to his brother, Larson is survived by his wife Jeannie; former wives Carol Gourley and Janet Curtis; and nine children.

Here is an interview with Larson about his long career from the Archive of American Television:

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  1. JOE S HILL says:

    End of a TV Maverick! Glen A. Larson,the last of the Quinn Martins,The Arron Spellings,the Stephen J Cannells,leaves behind an unforgettable legacy,that can NEVER be matched by anything in this business,today! he also had a small string of Turkeys,,but even the Turkeys tasted pretty good,too! the
    biggest one,was NBC’s “MANIMAL” TV series in Fall 1983,which was an enjoyable fantasy! then,after being at Universal Studios,he moved over to Twentieth Century Fox Television,where he created “THE FALL GUY” for ABC,,and years later,one of his BIGGEST Turkeys,”THE HIGHWAYMAN”! but his science fiction series,”BATTLESTAR GALACTICA” and “BUCK RODGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY” were
    highly acceptional,especially since he created these two TV shows with “OUTER LIMITS” creator Leslie
    Stevens,,what a team! to my knowledge,Larson’s last Primetime series,was “NIGHT MAN”,a 1996 syndicated TV series,which actually wasn’t so bad! regretfully,he will be really and seriously missed,because his TV shows were still the best-one in particular,was “SWITCH”,a CBS series from 1975-78 which he did for Universal,with Eddie Albert and Robert Wagner. may this talented man rest in peace!

  2. The Four Preps were the best vocal group of all time.

  3. Gregory Ward says:

    RIP, Mr. Larson. Your imagination inspired so many.

  4. Reblogged this on The Sick Rose Vampires and commented:
    As many of you know, Magnum PI is one of my most favorite television shows, and you have seen the chibi style artwork I’ve done inspired by this fabulous show. I just popped in the third and final DVD of the eighth and final season of Magnum in honor of co-creator Glen A. Larson. It’s a bittersweet moment I’ve been putting off because I’ve almost made it through the whole series (for the first time) and don’t want it to be over even though I know I can always go back and I own the first four seasons on DVD. I’m sentimental.

  5. Lori says:

    Also want to mention that Larson was involved in creating/writing/producing the 1977-79 ABC series “The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries,” which was a factor in launching Shaun Cassidy’s career. Cassidy is now a writer/producer, most recently with the Amazon.com pilot “Hysteria.”

  6. Paully says:

    RIP Sci Fi guy. Even if your stuff was a little cheesy.

  7. Bill A says:

    May you rest in peace forever Mr. Larson and thank you for the many hours of television entertainment I enjoyed in the 1970’s.

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