Aaron Spelling Dies at 83

Aaron Spelling, who produced some of the biggest hits on television for four decades, has died after a stroke at age 83.

Aaron Spelling Photo Aaron Spelling with his daughter Tori Spelling and actor Stephen Collins at the 2005 TV Land Awards. Aaron Spelling, a onetime movie bit player who created a massive number of hit series, from the vintage “Charlie’s Angels” and “Dynasty” to “Beverly Hills 90210” and “Melrose Place,” died Friday, his publicist said. He was 83. Spelling died at his home in Los Angeles after suffering a stroke on June 18, according to publicist Kevin Sasaki.

Spelling’s other hit series included “Love Boat,” “Fantasy Island,” “Burke’s Law,” “The Mod Squad,” “Starsky and Hutch,” “T.J. Hooker,” “Matt Houston,” “Hart to Hart” and “Hotel.” He kept his hand in 21st-century TV with series including “7th Heaven” and “Summerland.” He also produced more than 140 television movies. Among the most notable: “Death Sentence” (1974), Nick Nolte’s first starring role; “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble” (1976), John Travolta’s first dramatic role; and “The Best Little Girl in the World” (1981), which starred Jennifer Jason Leigh.

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Success was not without its thorns. TV critics denounced Spelling for fostering fluff and nighttime soap operas. He called his shows “mind candy”; critics referred to them as “mindless candy.” “The knocks by the critics bother you,” he admitted in a 1986 interview with The Associated Press. “But you have a choice of proving yourself to 300 critics or 30 million fans. You have to make a choice. I think you’re also categorized by the critics. If you do something good they almost don’t want to like it.”

Most of Spelling’s shows seem painfully dated now but we watched several of them as a family when I was growing up. “Starsky and Hutch” was probably my favorite among them.

Gone Hollywood

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James Joyner
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James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.