The writer-producer also was behind 'Knight Rider,' 'Fall Guy' and 'Six Million Dollar Man'
Glen A. Larson, the wildly successful television writer-producer whose enviable track record includes Quincy M.E., Magnum, P.I., Battlestar Galactica, Knight Rider and The Fall Guy, has died. He was 77.
Larson, a singer in the 1950s clean-cut pop group The Four Preps who went on to compose many of the theme songs for his TV shows, died Friday night of esophageal cancer at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, his son, James, told The Hollywood Reporter.
Larson also wrote and produced for such noteworthy series as ABC’s It Takes a Thief, starring his fellow Hollywood High School alum Robert Wagner as a burglar now stealing for the U.S. government, and NBC’s McCloud, with Dennis Weaver as a sheriff from Taos, N.M., who moves to Manhattan to help the big-city cops there.
After ABC spurned the original pilot for The Six Million Dollar Man (based on the 1972 novel Cyborg), Larson rewrote it, then penned a pair of 90-minute telefilms that convinced then-network executive Barry Diller to greenlight the action series, which starred Lee Majors as a former astronaut supercharged with bionic implants.
Other shows Larson created included Alias Smith & Jones, B.J. and The Bear, Switch (another series with Wagner), Manimal and The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo. He spent his early career at Universal Studios, inventing new shows and reworking others, before moving to 20th Century Fox in 1980 with a multiseries, multimillion-dollar deal.
With Lou Shaw, Larson conceived Quincy M.E., which starred Jack Klugman — coming off his stint on The Odd Couple — as a murder-solving Los Angeles medical examiner. A forerunner to such “forensic” dramas as CSI, the series ran for 148 episodes over eight seasons on NBC from 1976-83.
CBS’ Magnum, P.I., toplined by Tom Selleck as a charismatic Ferrari-driving private instigator based in Oahu, Hawaii, also aired eight seasons, running from 1980-88 with 162 installments. Larson created the ratings hit with Donald Bellisario, with whom he had worked on Quincy and Battlestar.
NBC’s Knight Rider, starring David Hasselhoff as a crime fighter aided by a Pontiac Trans-Am with artificial intelligence (K.I.T.T., drolly voiced by William Daniels), lasted four seasons and 90 episodes from 1982-86. And ABC’s Fall Guy, with Majors as a stuntman who moonlights as a bounty hunter, prevailed for five seasons and 113 episodes spanning 1981-86.
If you’re counting, Quincy, Magnum, Knight Rider and Fall Guy accounted for 513 hours of television and 21 combined seasons from 1976-88.