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Producer Of 'Knight Rider' And 'Battlestar Galactica' Dies At 77


If that music takes you right back to the 1980s and a pre-"Baywatch" David Hasselhoff, you have Glen Larson to thank. Larson created "Knight Rider," which featured the Hasselhoff foiling criminals with a help of a talking car, and he wrote the distinctive music, to boot. Glen Larson died on Friday. He was one of the most prolific TV producers in history.


RATH: He created "Quincy"...


RATH: ...The original "Battlestar Galactica"...


ARUN RATH: ..."Magnum, P.I.," "The Fall Guy." The list goes on, and it's truly remarkable. But - and not to disrespect the dead - Glen Larson was never a darling among the critics. These days, most people seem to enjoy those old shows ironically or as a guilty pleasure. They show "Manimal," about man who could change into animals and, of course, use those abilities to fight evil-doers, has been called the worst TV show ever. But on those terms, it's also awesome.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (As character) Dr. Jonathan Chase - wealthy, young, handsome - a man with the brightest of futures, a man with the darkest of pasts.

RATH: Cynthia Littelton writes about television for Variety. She says, the critics may have sneered, but they can't take away Larson's impact on popular culture.

CYNTHIA LITTELTON: I mean, I think the greatest influence is the fact that we can all still talk about them. And we - you know, we can all - many of us can describe "Knight Rider" in a sentence and "The Fall Guy" in a sentence. And even the shows going back to the '70s - "Quincy" - who hasn't zoned out watching a "Quincy" rerun on the weekend, you know, enjoying it? So, I mean, these are indelible shows. They may not have been Emmy bait, but these are shows that went the distance.

RATH: She also says that Larson deserves a ton of credit and respect for being able to get it done as a show runner. But the count of The Hollywood Reporter, he's responsible for more than 500 hours of television, over 21 seasons. But there's another standard critique of Glen Larson - that many of his TV shows were rip-offs of movies. The science-fiction writer Harlan Ellison famously called him Glen Larceny.

"B.J. And The Bear," about a trucker and his pet chimp - it was an awful light lot like "Any Which Way But Loose," a movie featuring Clint Eastwood as a trucker with a pet orangutan."Automan" looks a lot like "Tron." And that that list goes on and on. Fox Pictures actually sued over "Battlestar Galactica," claiming it was a "Star Wars" rip-off. In the end, though, Fox lost. Cynthia Littelton says that beyond all the shows, Larson leaves behind another unmistakable legacy.

LITTELTON: But I would say is, you know, one of Larson's strengths was clearly casting. He helped launch a lot of careers - Lee Majors, Tom Selleck, David Hasselhoff. For good or ill, he had an eye for talent that was going to make an impact in the industry.

RATH: Glen Larson passed away on Friday. He was 77 years old. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.