Thread: Galactica 1980
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Old April 25th, 2005, 03:24 PM   #3
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Battlestar Galactica 1978

(con't)

Potential for resurrection aside, with this episode Glen Larson was also able to close the series with a measure of personal satisfaction. Larson cites the episode as probably his all-time favorite Galactica segment, next to the premiere episode and the two hour-long films like War of the Gods and The Living Legend.

"We were virtually going back to the original premise," he says. "That was really the series brought t a whole different level, even though it didn't need a lot of pyrotechnics."

Viewers liked this show so much that Larson got a request to do the show in London as a play. "We were approached on the subject and they never got around to doing it," he says. "It was a big hit in England. If you think about it, it was very much a play."

McCord recently bumped into a videotape of Galactica 1980. Curious to relive some of his work on the show, he rented it, only to find a badly edited film culled from three different episodes. "It's terrible! It's awful! I couldn't even watch it. It was just the worst. I remember they came to me and asked, 'Can you do some voiceovers?' It was probably one of the most dreadful things I've ever seen in my life. They should have just released The Night the Cylons Landed, a two-parter episode. That was just a mish-mash. It didn't cut together. It didn't make sense."

Like others involved with the show, Jeff Freilich says the Galactica 1980 failed, "not because the show was doing so badly, but because it was in a time slot that was the death time slot [with] CBS's 60 Minutes. At the time NBC and ABC deluded themselves into believing they could make inroads into the 60 Minutes audience with adults on one channel and under-25's on another.

"Ther other prerequisite [of the time slot] was there couldn't be more than ten incidents of violence in an episode, and that meant if ten Cylons got shot out of the sky, that was all we could do. You couldn't have anything else, which included hitting somebody on the head with a stick or punching somebody in the mouth or a car into a wall."

The competing show on NBC, The Wonderful World of Disney, got away with more violence, because it fell under the category of previously released theatrical motion pictures. Censors did not have to cut those films--but they kept their scissors sharpened for Galactica 1980.

"I remember one very particular night," says Freilich, "when Frank Lupo and I were sitting there on a Sunday and we got phone calls from ABC standards and practices, Susan Fetterman. She declared, 'You cannot air this show tonight!' She had just looked at it that day and we could not understand why. She had counted 11 Cylons being shot out of the sky, and she would not allow the show on the air with 11 incidents of violence. We had to go back to my office that afternoon with her, Peter Roth (a vice president of ABC at the time; now executive vice-president of Fox Broadcasting), and we had to sit there and watch the show and count, yes, 11 of them.

"Our argument was these were not people, they were robots. Cylons were animatrons and it wasn't hurting anybody. She put on such a stink, and we reminded her that it would probably cost upwards of $50,000 to cut one of the shots, recut and redub the film and be ready for satellite that night. We got away with it that time, but these are things you never have to deal with anywhere else."

One night while writing the episode "Spaceball," Freilich received a very unusual phone call from Texas. "Every show that I've every worked on has its own group of really obsessive fans. Regardless of the show you work on, there is a group of people who watch the show religiously and know the show better than you do, even if you are the creator of that show. They will read things into your shows that you as the creator or writer would never think about. They see people on your show as being in the real world, whereas you know they're fantasy. I got this call from a man who is very upset because he's been watching the show and he swears that's not how Galacticans talk because he's met them. Because they've actually landed in his yard and he put them up for a few days in his barn. They don't talk like that. He's calling to tell me that in the future there are several expressions Galacticans use that we don't use on the show, that we oughta use if we’re going to be accurate about them. I couldn't believe I was hearing this. I took him seriously because I didn't want to make fun of him. But I could not believe that someone truly believed what he was telling me. And yet, this was a middle-aged man, he must have been at least in his late forties if not early fifties. He was a devotee of the show."

Taking him seriously could have been a good idea. Freilich accepted the man's advice and incorporated the expressions into the show. Sadly, Freilich can't recall the specifics of what he added.

Working with Glen Larson was an enriching experience for Freilich. "Glen always had his finger on the pulse of the American television audience," he says, "and he was very good at creating shows that critics might pan, but the audiences turned into in droves. He never paid much attention to anybody but the audience. What Glen taught me more than anybody else, was to exploit whatever your own ideas were and don't pay attention to networks and studios. your own success for failure should be measured by our ideas without having them polluted or changed [by other people].

"He was really very much of an individualist. He had, more than any other producer I've ever worked for, a high respect and reverence for the writer. Glen started as a writer, a pure writer, and that's all he was. He wasn't a producer, and he built an incredible reputation as one of the faster writers in television. Speed in television is really important because things are done so quickly. I learned to go with your instinct when you are writing; to close yourself off from phone calls, make sure to have other people to handle the nuts and bolts of making a television show, to lock yourself behind a door. Glen would disappear to his home in Hawaii or Malibu and not answer the phone until he was finished with what he was doing. He also had an amazing ability to make incredibly expensive television shows despite the protestations of the networks and studios and then take those television shows, and in the case of Galactica, which is a prime example, make it into a theatrical film, release it overseas, and make back any deficit he might have incurred by making a TV show. It was very, very rare to do that.

"Glen was one of the first people to market toys and games and cards and all sort of ancillary things that could come from a television show.

" I had heard a tremendous amount of negative things about Glen Larson before [working with him]. In retrospect, most of the stuff I heard about that was not positive came from jealous people...My experience with him was a very pleasant one, and it paid off particularly well about a year and a half ago. I was in Paris on vacation from Spain, where I was doing an episode of Dark Justice, a show I created. Glen called me in Paris to tell me that CBS had just shown him the pilot I had written and directed for Dark Justice because he was interested in writing a late night show, and how he thought it was really wonderful and how proud he was and stuff. I said, 'In a lot of ways you taught me all I know.' He took no credit for that at all, kind of laughed it off. Truthfully, the other person that he really helped was Frank Lupo, who created the A-Team." (Lupo also worked on Greatest American Hero and invented, with John Ashley, Something Is Out There.)

If the show had continued further, Larson says, "We would have just expanded on our basic premise but refined our storytelling. There are an infinite number of stories you could tell in outer space. It had a lot more scale and potential than, I think, Star Trek did in many ways...We had better hardware to work with and a lot less limiting. We could have done a great deal, but we needed more time."

The last word on Galactica 1980 comes from Glen Larson, musing on a revival of the adventures of the Battlestar Galactica. "There was a point where Universal was talking about doing it the same way as Star Trek--that we might have done it as a prime access sold to stations [i.e. syndication]. But with the sale of Universal to Japan, and some of the other things, I don't know if the people [who are there now] have the imagination to do that. Right now it's a little less likely, but nothing's impossible. With the success of Star Trek and its spin-off, it's possible that this will come up again."

And would Larson be interested in doing it? "Yeah, I would, because I really think having been there once, I have a better idea of what we could do. But who knows?" he shrugs. "We'll have to see."

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