Prolific TV producer Aaron Spelling dies

By Reuters

Jun 26, 2006

Prolific television producer Aaron Spelling, whose shows such as Beverly Hills 90210 and Dynasty helped shape US prime-time television, died Friday, days after suffering a stroke, his publicist said. He was 83.

Spokesman Kevin Sasaki said Spelling died at his home in Los Angeles about 6:25 p.m. local time. He had been hospitalized briefly after a stroke over the weekend.

Among Spelling's other television shows were Fantasy Island, Starsky and Hutch, Hart to Hart, Charlie's Angels, and Love Boat. He is survived by his wife, Candy, daughter Tori Spelling, who starred on Beverly Hills 90210, and son Randy Spelling, also an actor.

Spelling, a decorated war veteran, lifted himself out of poverty to become one of the richest and most powerful men in Hollywood. The Texas native was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's most prolific producer.

For better or worse, few people did more to influence TV viewers' habits--and perhaps to shape the international view of American culture--than Spelling. Although his shows were created by other people, Spelling was a hands-on producer who helped craft storylines and character development.

Many of Spelling's shows offered a glimpse of fabulously wealthy and photogenic people whose lives were often miserable, a reminder that the grass is not always greener on the other side. The same could be said about his own life. Shy and reclusive, he rarely left his 123-room mansion in the exclusive Los Angeles suburb of Holmby Hills.

Never shy about his shows' cultural import, he once dubbed them "mind candy." But he also helped bring some significant works to the small screen, among them the AIDS-themed TV movie And the Band Played On and the dramatic series Family.


Born in Dallas, Texas on April 22, 1923, the son of impoverished Russian and Polish immigrants, Spelling was taunted during his childhood for his Jewish roots. He served in the US Army Air Corps from 1942 to 1945, and was honored with a Bronze Star Medal and a Purple Heart.

He began his Hollywood career in 1953 as an actor, playing villains and losers in TV Westerns like Gunsmoke, an unusual career choice for a painfully shy and skinny kid.

He quickly decided he was better off behind the camera, working as a writer and then as a producer. His first major hit came in 1963 with Burke's Law, which starred Gene Barry as a millionaire detective. Spelling tapped into the counterculture with The Mod Squad, an action series about three young delinquents who become crime fighters. It ran on ABC from 1968 to 1973.

Soon, Spelling virtually owned prime time at ABC--dubbed Aaron's Broadcasting Company. During the 1980s, he was the king of soaps with Dynasty, a rip-off of Dallas, which made Joan Collins a star for her portrayal of the bitchy Alexis.

After a fallow period, Spelling bounced back in 1990 with Beverly Hills 90210, which followed the travails of fresh-faced teens in America's most exclusive zip code. The show costarred his daughter, Tori, as the virginal Donna.

Melrose Place, which revolved around young adults in a West Hollywood apartment complex, followed in 1992, making a star out of villainous vixen Heather Locklear.

Spelling found one of his greatest successes with 7th Heaven, about a church minister's family. It just began its 10th season on the WB Network.

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  • Katearoo Jun 28, 2006

    Aaron will always be the greatest TV man in history. We have been lucky to be graced by all of the TV shows that he put out... my all time favorite is 90210!!! I watch re-runs everyday and Tivo then over and over . Thanks for the great gift of TV and our thoughts and prayers to your family. Rest in Peace

  • gonzo00420 Jun 27, 2006

    He was a true professional. I will miss his work a lot =(

  • forestbansh Jun 27, 2006

    Such a great person he will be wonder the wb and cbs are con-joining..

  • TrickMeNot Jun 26, 2006

    He will be truly missed. My prayers are with his family.