Putting a Spell on Us

Aaron spelling was the McDonald's of TV producers--no one ever accused him of being a master chef, but he sold more shows than anyone. Spelling, who died last week of a stroke at 83, was never deluded by where the likes of "The Love Boat," "Dynasty" and "T.J. Hooker" would leave him in history. "We often have to make the choice between 150 critics and 150 million Americans out there," he once said, "and I have always felt that my job was to please the viewers." He may not have reinvented television, but Spelling created genres that were, in their own way, hugely influential. "Charlie's Angels" was the first bimbo police show (just as "Starsky & Hutch" was the first starring himbos). Before "Beverly Hills, 90210," no one ever made a hip teenage drama entirely from the kids' point of view. "The Mod Squad" made cops look cool--in 1968. And his biggest hit? "7th Heaven," about a family headed by a minister. Spelling's shows may have been as deep as the pool on "Melrose Place," but his tastes were amazingly broad.

All that success--the Guinness Book of World Records says he created 3,842 hours of television since 1956--naturally made him a fortune. Over the years, Spelling became almost as famous for his wealth as for his programs. He would import snow to Los Angeles so his children, Randy and Tori, could have a white Christmas. And then there was the 123-room, 56,000-square-foot Holmby Hills house, complete with ice-skating rink, bowling alley and a room famously set aside so that Spelling's wife, Candy, could wrap gifts. Tori, who arguably owed her acting career to her father's largesse, lampooned the house this year in a comedy series called "So Notorious." But Spelling, who grew up in Dallas the son of a poor tailor, had the last laugh. He even, finally, won a measure of Hollywood respect when he won an Emmy in 1994 for producing the AIDS TV movie "And the Band Played On." "Once I got up onstage to accept the Emmy, I took a deep breath and just stood there for a moment, taking in the scene," Spelling said. "It was like, 'Hey, Hollywood, take a good look at who got your Emmy! The "Charlie's Angels" guy!'"

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