The glory days had certainly passed producer Aaron Spelling by when he died Friday at 83. True, he had producing credits on such current or recent shows as Seventh Heaven and Charmed, both of which helped give The WB its identity, just as he had helped establish Fox with Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place.
But however popular those shows were, they were just shows. But back in the seventies, Spelling pretty much owned TV, or at least ABC, which was the network most watched by those of us growing up in that era. Virtually all the shows I think of when I think of the seventies were Spelling's handiwork: The Rookies and Starsky And Hutch, The Love Boat and Fantasy Island, Charlie's Angels and The Mod Squad.
In addition, Spelling's liver-spotted hands were all over some of the most delightfully lurid TV movies of the period, including Little Ladies Of The Night, One Of My Wives Is Missing, Death Cruise, The Girl Who Came Gift-Wrapped, and Satan's School For Girls. The nea plus ultra of seventies cheese, The Boy In The Plastic Bubble--yup, that was Spelling.
Keep in mind, none of these things were any good. In fact, you didn't even need to watch them--their contents just sort of took up residence in your system, providing you with glossy images of feathered hair and wide lapels, plus more than your recommended weekly dose of Karen Valentine or Laurette Spang. Spelling was some sort of genius, seemingly able to tailor a show to any conceivable audience segment.
As the decade shifted, he was right there, offering Big Eighties Hair and padded shoulders aplenty with Dynasty, a show which seemed to run forever, spinning ever screwier storylines, and a massive phenom of its time--and yet the magic was fading, cannier producers were using some of Spelling's formulas with greater elan, and his name no longer guaranteed a big hit, or even a decent time slot.
Additionally, Dynasty, like 90210 later, was all too aware of its own camp charm. The joy of prime Spelling, Charlie's Angels or any of his TV movies, was a total lack of irony. They were stupid, yes, but entertaining in a brain-dead way, and they aspired to nothing higher. There was a consistency to his work, a craftsmanship, and we'll not see his like again. He gave us seventies kids some wonderful memories.
For just Satan's School For Girls alone, thanks, Mr. Spelling.