When Aaron Spelling Ruled Television: An Oral History
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The most prolific producer in the history of television, Aaron Spelling dominated his industry in a way no single producer in today's splintered 400-show landscape possibly could. He boasted more than 200 series and TV movies — programs that defined the medium and garnered Emmys for acting, costumes and more, though Spelling himself won only two (for TV films about the A-bomb and AIDS). He changed the face of pop culture in the '60s and '70s with counterculture cops on The Mod Squad, female private eyes on Charlie's Angels and such escapist fare as The Love Boat. He pioneered crossover episodes (yes, the Angels did solve a case on The Love Boat) and season-finale cliff-hangers (Starsky and Hutch chucking their badges into the ocean). In the '80s, he brought soap melodrama to nighttime with Dynasty and produced one-third of primetime on ABC (nicknamed "Aaron's Broadcasting Company"). At the height of his career, he wielded more influence than any TV producer before or since. After ABC canceled all of his shows in the late '80s, the populist maestro persevered, reinventing his now-publicly traded Aaron Spelling Productions with Fox's Beverly Hills, 90210 and Melrose Place and The WB's Charmed and 7th Heaven, which was still on the air when Spelling died in 2006 at age 83, leaving an estimated $500 million estate and a vast TV library now owned by CBS TV Studios. "He had blatantly commercial taste," says NBC Broadcasting chairman Ted Harbert, who worked with Spelling in the '80s and is one of 32 friends, loved ones, colleagues and stars who recalled the producer's life, times and achievements for THR. "He had storylines full of action and glamour that women, husbands and kids would watch. Certainly they can be accused of being formulaic, but what a winning formula."