×

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

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:

More TV

  • Daniel Sandu Cristian Mungiu

    HBO Europe Greenlights Crime Caper 'Tuff Money' From Cristian Mungiu’s Mobra Films

    HBO Europe has greenlit original series “Tuff Money” (“Bani Negri”), a six-part crime caper from Cristian Mungiu’s Mobra Films, the company behind Mungiu’s Palme d’Or winner “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” and HBO Europe’s “Hackerville.” “Tuff Money” has been written and will be directed by Daniel Sandu, the writer and director of the [...]

  • INVISIBLE HEROES

    Sanfic Adds Drama Series Strand as Chilean TV Builds (EXCLUSIVE)

    Adding to the momentum of Chile’s energetic push into upscale TV production, the Santiago Intl. Film Festival (Sanfic) is adding a TV strand, Sanfic Series. Focusing on drama series and part of the Sanfic Industry forum – after Ventana Sur now one of the biggest of any festival in South America – the section will [...]

  • AMC’s Streamer Acorn TV Hires Kerensa

    AMC-Owned Streamer Acorn TV Hires Former Filmstruck Exec as International Boss

    Former Filmstruck International general manager Kerensa Samanidis has been appointed Acorn TV’s first international chief. As general manager, international, she will spearhead the growth of the AMC Networks-owned streamer outside of North America and Latin America. Last year, Acorn TV expanded into Australia, and New Zealand, Argentina, Mexico, Spain, and Scandinavia. In the newly-created international [...]

  • miptv-conference-room

    MipTV Organizers Unveil Transformation Plan for 2020

    MipTV is moving inside the Palais des Festivals in Cannes as market organizers attempt to ensure that the April vent remains relevant in the face of falling attendance, increased competition and wider industry changes. Reed Midem organizes MipTV and its better-attended sibling, Mipcom, in October. After this year’s MipTV, it reached out to distributors, many [...]

  • LEONOR-WATLING-AND-JAIME-LORENTE

    Amazon Prime Video Reveals Three Spanish Originals, Drops Sergio Ramos Doc Trailer

    MADRID — Amazon Prime Video has announced a slate of three new Spanish original series set for 2020, which will strengthen the streamer’s domestic catalog in the country. It also shared the first trailer for its second Spanish soccer docu-series “El corazón de Sergio Ramos” (The Heart of Sergio Ramos). In “El Cid,” popular Spanish [...]

  • Maya Hawke'Once Upon a Time in

    Maya Hawke Reflects on Robin's 'Stranger Things' Coming Out Story

    Robin Buckley shocked viewers everywhere when she came out as a lesbian to Steve Harrington on the floor of a bathroom stall, but actress Maya Hawke says the twist wasn’t always set in stone. Hawke tells Variety that it wasn’t until episode four or five that she and the Duffer Brothers came to a final decision [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content