Glen Larson, Creator of ‘Knight Rider’ and ‘Magnum P.I.’, Was Everything Good About the Eighties

It was never clear whether the TV producer who unleashed Hasselhoff on the world was kidding or not.
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It was never clear whether the TV producer who unleashed Hasselhoff on the world was kidding or not.
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Legendary TV producer Glen A. Larson was the creative mastermind behind some of the most awesomely eighties shows of all time. Larson, who died Friday after a battle with cancer, dreamed up “Knight Rider,” starring a young David Hasselhoff and his talking Trans Am; “Magnum P.I.”, which cast Tom Selleck as a Ferrari-driving investigator with a crime-fighting mustache; Lee Major’s stunt-man-turned-bounty hunter vehicle “The Fall Guy”; the time-traveling astronaut series “Buck Rogers in the 25thCentury”; and, of course, “BJ and the Bear,” about a trucker and his chimpanzee sidekick.

Larson basically owned early Reagan-era primetime with his borderline silly, but wildly successful action series, most of which featured a charismatic male lead and a bonkers premise. Even his most epic failures are still being obsessed over. Larson was responsible for “Manimal,” the short-lived flop about a shape-shifting college professor who helps the NYPD solve crimes that lasted only eight episodes on NBC in 1983 (you can relive some of its animal-morphing glory in the trailer). Whatever the laughable excesses of “Manimal," it was almost certainly the first time that anyone ever saw a dude turn into a panther to the strains of eerie, “Scarface” soundtrack-worthy synthesizers

Still not ready to bow down? Consider that Larson created some seriously iconic seventies shows, too. There was the original “Battlestar Galactica," an incredibly-influential “Star Wars” takeoff that ran for only one season (1978-1979) but whose robot Cylons with creepy Vocoder voices still haunt the dreams of sci-fan fans of a certain age. And don’t forget that Larson made his bones with the bionically-augmented astronaut hit, “The Six Million Dollar Man” (“We can rebuild him…. We have the technology”). In fact, Larson started his entertainment career back in the fifties as a member of the popular Hollywood folk quartet The Four Preps, before getting into TV production a decade later with shows like “The Fugitive.”

Twitter, predictably, is awash in Larson remembrances. Hasselhoff helpfully tweeted “(He) had 7 tv series at one time! Without him there'd be no KITT & Michael." Edward James Olmos, who played Commander Adama in the Sci-Fi Channel’s “Battlestar” reboot, added: "Glen Larson, we thank you for the ride, you are battlestar, we will miss you. See you on the other side.” Scott Baio, of “Happy Days,” “Charles in Charge” and Pamela Anderson boyfriend fame, called him a "dear friend" and "The Walking Dead" executive producer Scott Gimple opined that Larson will "rule forever."

Who are we to argue with that?

Photos by Albert L. Ortega / WireImage