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Old January 8th, 2004, 02:41 PM   #2
peter noble
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Explains Larson: "ABC at that point had gotten very spoiled by fifty shares and all of their Garry Marshall comedies. They were on a roll...everything they had on the air was top ten. So if you were rated in the twenties with a high license fee, they considered you a disappointment."

At about the same time that ABC cancelled Battlestar Galactica, they also cancelled The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, another show Larson was responsible for, and which preceded Galactica at 7 p.m., the network's family hour on Sunday evenings.

Continued Larson: "But in retrospect, our numbers were quite respectable, and to this day, ABC has never come close to the numbers we were getting then (in those time slots)."

At the time, Larson felt that Battlestar Galactica was just reaching a creative peak. Just before the cancellation, he had a long meeting with Isaac Asimov, who was going to step in and be an advisor. Entire projections had been drawn up as to where the show would go in its second season. But then everything came crashing down.

The following September, ABC moved Mork and Mindy, which had shot to the top of the ratings in it's rookie year, from Tuesday nights into Battlestar Galactica's Sunday time slot. "They figured Mork and Mindy would just come in and dazzle everyone," said Larson. "But in fact it did not do as well as we had there. The network then conceded to us that they had made a tremendous mistake in not sticking with us longer."

In an attempt to rectify the situation, ABC offered Larson another shot at the concept. Larson wrote a three hour script titled Galactica Discovers Earth, which then spun into the abortive Galactica: 1980 series that spring. "But by that time, we weren't really geared to deliver as well as we had in the past," said Larson. "They stuck us with restrictions that were just ridiculous and justified it by rolling us into the 7 o'clock time slot."

"Reality doesn't prevail in those things. The same lady who was in charge of defanging Bugs Bunny was also in charge of our dynamics. It was similar to the violence witch hunt that we're going through at the moment. We just weren't allowed to use the same adult appeal." It could have been that ABC gave up on trying to pull the adult audiences away from CBS' 60 Minutes and All in the Family, intending instead just to go after the young adult and children's market.

When he first began putting the revival series together, Larson found the original cast would not all be available. When it looked like it would be difficult to get everyone back, the decision was made to go in a whole different direction.

Soon afterward, Larson found himself making a choice from the heart. "Lorne Greene called me and was so emotional about the show coming back without him that I really found myself in a position of feeling, 'God, I can't do this to him.' So we elected to go ahead and put him back on the bridge. And it was probably better, because it gave us at least that little bit of continuity."

Overall, he was disappointed in Galactica: J980. As with the original program, consideration had been given to the idea of doing a series of movies rather than a weekly show. "That would have been great," Larson says, "to have had a couple of months between them. But we were thrown into an all or nothing situation."

Actually, the show didn't go off for lack of support from the network. Once again, it was politics that doomed Larson's brainchild.

The show did get off to a great start. The Galactica Discovers Earth three-part special (which aired in January 1980) did exceptionally well. "The numbers were enormous, it was just like the original premiere," Larson says. ABC then went to Larson with a series proposal, but wanted to be on the air within four weeks.

Hence, the beginning and eventual demise of Galactica 1980.

"I never should have accepted that order," confesses Larson. "It just didn't give us enough time." Because the series was rushed into production so quickly, they once again ran into Sunday shoots, meaning triple overtime. The budget needed to get the show done on time went through the roof.

Larson feels that if he had turned ABC down at that time and waited, the network would have offered them a spot on the fall schedule instead. "That would have given us the time we needed to keep our costs in check," says Larson.

As it happened, almost as soon as the series debuted on March 16th, Universal realized it just couldn't make enough money off the series based on it's current budget, and challenged ABC to come up with more money. The network refused, and after a lot of arguing back and forth with the studio, decided to drop the show from its schedule. Based strictly on the ratings that Galactica 1980 had been pulling in and the fact that it was hitting its target audience, it more than likely would have been renewed for that fall.

The show did, however, provide Larson with one of his most memorable episodes from the entire Galactica experience. "When it got down to the end when things seemed pretty dark, I got an opportunity to just do what I wanted to do. So I forgot about the time period and wrote The Return of Starbuck. "

The episode took a look back in time to Starbuck's last voyage. After a space battle, Starbuck is left marooned on a barren planet along with a group of crashed Cylons. Isolated and lonely, the warrior decides to rebuild one of the automatons for himself as a friend.

"It gave me the chance to bring back Dirk and to really show what we could have done," states Larson. "I thought it was just a terrific episode, and it was much more akin to what we were doing best on the original series and what they did best on Star Trek, a nice little morality play."

Larson said he wouldn't be surprised to see Battlestar Galactica return at some point. "The show has a certain life of it's own. Since it's back on the air on cable, I've started to get mail from fans. There are people who have a passion about it, and it gets rekindled."

But what form it would return in remains to be seen. Comments Larson, "Certainly the costs would still be a problem. I don't know to what extent that would be an issue."

Creatively, however, Larson has a strong course of action in mind. "If I have my way," he said, "Galactica 1980 would certainly be Starbuck's nightmare, and we'd go back to the original concept. I guess if Dallas could turn a whole season into a dream we could make Starbuck wake up in the middle of the night after having had a nightmare about discovering Earth," he joked.

More likely, he says seriously, it could be explained as simply having been a computer projection of what the discovery of Earth could be like if they're not careful. A similar technique was utilized in an early segment of Galactica Discovers Earth.

"In our talks with Asimov, we discussed a lot of ideas, and none of them had anything to do with discovering Earth. That was just sort of a hype that made it possible for us to get in business with ABC again. It was all to attract that young seven o'clock audience."
"Battlestar Galactica will never happen again the way that it was." Laurette Spang
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