by Alicia Glass, contributing writer
We at Krypton Radio are grieved to report that over the weekend, the mega-talented Glen Larson died after a battle with esophageal cancer. Larson died on Saturday, November 14, 2014, in Santa Monica, California, at age 77. Larson was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and is survived by three ex-wives and nine children.
Known as one of the most prolific, if misunderstood, producers of Hollywood, Larson was involved in everything from Magnum P.I. to Battlestar Galactica: both the original series and the newer SyFy version. Active in Hollywood since 1968, Larson began as a producer for the It Takes a Thief television series, and went on to produce many well-known television shows, popular still today: Alias Smith and Jones, The Six Million Dollar Man, Quincy, M.E., The Hardy Boys & Nancy Drew Mysteries, Battlestar Galactica (1978), Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Magnum, P.I., The Fall Guy, Knight Rider, Team Knight Rider, Battlestar Galactica (2004) and Caprica. His shows usually sport Larson’s signature style of wholesome family entertainment, revolving around cool technology, usually in a comedic fashion, and generously sprinkled with in-joke references to the movie and television business.
Larson managed to secure an unprecedented (for its day) million-dollar budget per episode for Battlestar Galactica. Larson had been kicking around the concept for the show since 1968, originally intending to call it Adam’s Ark and incorporating many Mormon elements like marriage for “time and eternity,” and the “council of 12,” in the show. Former Star Trek TOS producer Gene L. Coon mentored Larson through the process, convincing him to rename the show and incorporate the word “star” in the title, thus Battlestar Galactica in all its sci-fi glory was born.
The pilot episode of original BSG was edited into a two-hour theatrical film, which was released in North America and Europe, but the show lasted only one entire season on television. Much to-do was made about the controversy surrounding BSG vs. the wildly popular Star Wars, many people accusing Larson of plagiarism, resulting in a lawsuit that went right up to 2011, when Larson ultimately lost the case. A great deal of the entertainment coming from Hollywood today is a copy of an old-timey show or film, or reboot, or remake anyway, so there’s little point in arguing who did it first or even discussions of who did it better.
Much later, Larson went on to shoot a sequel series, Galactica 1980, set 30 years after the original series when the Galactica had finally made it to Earth. The sequel series was even less popular and, sadly, cancelled after only 10 episodes. Larson is credited with the title “consulting producer” for both the newer SyFy Battlestar Galactica and prequel Caprica series, though it appears that his role was limited to that of consultant for both series.
Then, there was the Knight Rider series, which ran from 1982 to 1986, starring the redoubtable David Hasselhoff and a wisecracking crime-fighting AI car. Lead character Michael Knight got a brand new name and face after being wounded in the line of police duty, and with these new things came a new job: primary field agent for a new justice organization, FLAG (Foundation for the Law and Government). His partner was KITT (Knight Industries Two Thousand), a heavily modified Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, like something James Bond would envy, with Artificial Intelligence to aid him, and the voice of William Daniels: it’s handy having a car that can drive itself!
The original show featured a great deal of merchandise for car enthusiasts, popular still today, including a Playstation 2 video game, lunchboxes, remote-control KITT cars, model cars, and Hot Wheels even released a die-cast version of KITT as part of their Elite series in 2013. Glen Larson and Roger Hill are credited with writing a series of fictional books about the Knight Rider series, some only released in the U.K.
The show went on to spawn the 1991 sequel movie, Knight Rider 2000, which was meant to be a starter for a newer version of the show on TV that never actually materialized; then Knight Rider 2010, which veered far away from canon and didn’t do much to aid the series; and finally, in 1997, Team Knight Rider, a spinoff of the original show that was set sometime in the future and featured a fleet of intelligent cars, graced us with 22 episodes before finally disappearing. The cliffhanger at the end of the first season episode was supposed to feature the original Michael Knight, David Hasselhoff (though it wasn’t him who guested in this instance), making a stunning reveal, but since season 2 never happened, we never learned what it was.
Glen Larson led a fulfilling life and had a long and successful career. Fans of Larson’s grand televised storytelling, warm humor, glee for the growing embrace of technology and joy at providing entertainment for the masses are legion, and will never let his memory die.