Glen Larson (1937-2014)

Glen Larson. Photo by Judd Gunderson (LAT).

Glen Larson. Photo by Judd Gunderson (LAT).

Glen A. Larson, producer of Battlestar Galactica, Knight Rider, and Six Million Dollar Man, passed away November 14 of cancer.

He also had many non-genre hits: Quincy, M.E., Magnum, P.I. and The Fall Guy, plus a few that weren’t hits – Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, The Adventures of Sheriff Lobo and Manimal.

Although he was not well-regarded by sf fans during his heyday, who demanded better writing and effects for his shows, by now most fans have developed a nostalgic appreciation for all the sf icons he brought to TV.

He spent his early career at Universal Studios before moving to 20th Century Fox in 1980 with a multiseries, multimillion-dollar deal.

Six Million Dollar Man was based on Martin Caidin’s 1972 novel Cyborg.

Harlan Ellison, in a 1996 book about his Star Trek episode “City on the Edge of Forever,” infamously called him “Glen Larceny” and accused him of using others’ movie concepts for his TV shows.

However, Fox in 1978 sued Battlestar studio Universal for infringing on Star Wars copyrights but eventually lost the suit, providing a degree of vindication.

[Via Andrew Porter and Paul Di Filippo.]

Discover more from File 770

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

6 thoughts on “Glen Larson (1937-2014)

  1. I sometimes wonder what would have happened late that Autumn night, around two in the mornIng, had I wandered deep into the woods at Universal City, that moonlit forest just beyond the sound stage streets…

    But first, I have to apologize, for the first-person nature of some of these posts. My ego isn’t actually that vast, particularly nowadays. But as I tell these tales from the past, I know of no other way to frame them.

    (Besides, the good graces of our head honcho here, have encouraged them. 😉

    In the spring or summer of 1978, I conducted an interview with Glen Larson, by phone, for one of the first major preview pieces on BATTLESTAR: GALACTICA, which also included material with co-producer, and special effects artist, John Dykstra.

    (The article was for the short-lived SCIENCE FANTASY FILM CLASSICS, out of Chicago. It was featured along with an article by Dorothy (D.C.) Fontana, STAR TREK’s former story editor, and long-time television scribe. I was surprised, and honored, to be sharing some pages with the lady whom I knew, from a lengthy hob-nob at a Lunacon a year or so earlier, was thoroughly gracious.

    You can read both pieces, here:

    Larson and I hit it off, and he invited me to both visit GALACTICA’s Universal sets, and pitch story ideas (although, he said, the series was pretty well taken care of, story-wise, for its first season).

    That October, I made it out from Long Island for a late night shoot on Universal’s “Mexico Street,” for tbe episode with the p
    ig-like aliens (and guest-starring the distinctly non-bovine Barry Nelson and Brett Somers). The evening was memorable for many reasons, including hearing the roar of a camel giving birth, as well as meeting some of her less busy, by far, relatives..

    A few days later, I returned to Universal, for the installment with the orphaned kids. (And I’m still delighted by the memory of a young and vibrant Audrey Landers!)

    There was an added bonus, that day. THE MIKE DOUGLAS SHOW (a long time talk show of the era), was taping a series of interviews with the cast and crew on the GALACTICA sets. (The core GALACTICA team was busy shooting in another building.)

    The grips gave me permission to explore the bridge, and unexpectedly–

    All the computer terminals WORKED.

    I sat there, at one of the consoles, playing one of the computer games — or attempting to, anyway!–that someone had decided could enable the actors manning the stations to look like they were actually doing something…

    Intriguingly, that bridge set was NEVER lit or shot properly. In person, it was HUGE, and impressive–and to me, anyway, never really came across that way, on screen.

    (I met THE MIKE DOUGLAS SHOW producer, and he was stunned that I was only 16; I looked, and I guess, seemed much older than I was, and he was impressed that I had been writing professionally for “so long.” THE MIKE DOUGLAS SHOW still usually taped in Philadelphia back then; and I had already guested on one or two New York takk shows. He broached the idea of booking me for one of their segments featuring “young people doing interesting things.” For whatever reason, as with too many opportunities in those days, I procrastinated, and never made the phone call, when I returned home.)

    I had the run of the Universal lot. It was fascinating to be walking around, and not far from one of the parking lots, suddenly be passing the bungalow/office belonging to ALFRED HITCHCOCK. (I ponder, occasionally, what would have happened had I knocked on Mr. HITCHCOCK’s door, but that’s a story for another day…)

    (Years later, at a convention bar in 1999, I astonished John Hart, TV’s second Lone Ranger, and a long-time actor (CAPTAIN AFRICA, HAWKEYE AND THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS), who by the late ’70s was a post-production sound supervisor at Universal. We bonded, oddly, when he learned that I knew that at least one or two of the Universal technicians of the era had the hobby of collecting SCORPIONS, which they would dig out from Universal’s sandy climes. A life-time New Yorker had no idea that such creatures could lurk just beneath Southern California’s sunny surface.

    (Perhaps more humorously, when I took out my silver cigarette case, Hart asked if he could see it. As he admired it, Hart quietly intoned, maybe not realizing what he was saying, “Ah, silver.” I said, “John, shouldn’t that be, ‘Hi-yo, Silver?'” Hart looked at me, and said, “I think I’ve said that quite enough, Jim!”)

    I also dropped off a premise/treatment for a GALACTICA episode at Larson’s office. His secretary told me no more script assignments were being given out for that season. …But had the there been a second year, who knows? (I had a few other story possibilities set to go, taking advantage of Larson’s initial idea that, like STAR TREK, the Galactica fleet could encounter all sorts of situations, and cultures, in space, and that stories could also be generated by the MULTITUDE of people inhabiting the armada. …One day, it would be fun to publish, or do something, with that 4000 words-or-so treatment, somewhere…)

    “I hope they don’t just steal the story from you,” Harry Friedberger, Nichelle Nichols’ business manager, and a friend, said to me. (Curiously, Gary Burghoff echoed those same sentiments, when we happened to run into each other, later that week, at a Hamburger Hamlet.)

    By 1978, Glen Larson’s reputatiion was already known in full. But without ignorance of or excusing any of his exigencies, today I’d like to note that he was awfully nice to me, and I suspect, to others.

    James H. Burns

  2. Allow me to join the head honcho in encouraging such behind the scenes memories. I enjoy them immensely. (And they don’t come across as egotistical at all!)


  3. Thanks for the kind words, Steve!

    By the way, a quick check tells me that the two episodes were, “The Magnificent Warriors,” and “The Young Lords.” Remarkably, these were aired just a few weeks after being filmed–which might go a long way to explaining why GALACTICA seemed to reuse so many effects shots… Even today, that might be a quick turnaround for such a program.

    Best, Jim

  4. Wikipedia repeats James Garner’s story about how he came to punch out Glen Larson. While it mentions that Larson had been fined for stealing stories from The Rockford Files for his show The Fall Guy, the story behind how he was exposed is interesting. An actress had been hired for an episode of The Fall Guy and upon reading the script she realized that it was stolen from The Rockford Files, which she knew because she had not only appeared in that episode but had been hired to play the same part again in the Fall Guy episode.

  5. I never watched BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, but it was fixed in my mind because some young teenaged fan killed himself because the show’s run was cancelled. The parents attempted to sue, but the case was dismissed.

Comments are closed.