Friends, as is often the case, I was doing some research on an entirely different subject when I stumbled across this interview between Gil Gerard and Bobbie Wygant. The video which was uploaded on June 1st of 2020, gives a 1979 to 1980 date for the conversation between the two. As Bobbie Wygant brings up both the theatrical release for Buck Rogers in the 25th Century as well as the fact that Battlestar Galactica didn’t make it on television – I am willing to bet this took place shortly after the Buck Rogers series was picked up by NBC. Interestingly enough, the original concept for Buck Rogers in the 25th Century was that it would not be a series but a couple of made-for-TV films. It would seem though that what Universal Studios was seeing from the dailies, to say nothing of the fact that they had found success by releasing Battlestar Galactica to theaters after the series ended – resulted in the decision to go ahead and release Buck Rogers in the 25th Century as a feature film on March 30th of 1979. To be fair that decision also had quite a bit to do with co-creator and showrunner Glen A. Larson (Automan, Knight Rider) pointing out to the executives that they had suggested a theatrical run for Battlestar Galactica before that series had aired on ABC too.
As I understand it, that theatrical run ended up netting 21.7 million dollars against a budget of 3.5 million. It also had the benefit of a Buck Rogers series being ordered, with the film acting as a two-part pilot, now entitled “Awakening”. Although they were forced to excise some of the more “mature elements” of the film when it was broadcast on September 20th of 1979 – the biggest change however would be the removal of the death of Princess Ardala’s loyal bodyguard, Tigerman (H.B. Haggerty).
In this short interview with Bobbie Wygant, Gil Gerard discusses why he hoped that Buck Rogers in the 25th Century would not become a television series as well as the reasons for Battlestar Galactica failing to keep its audience.