Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
April 22
Aaron Spelling April 22, 1923
Aaron Spelling born

If you scratch deeply into the psyche of any baby boomer, at some point he or she will probably admit that a formative cultural influence was not some great novelist or film director but.... Aaron Spelling, one of the most prolific and successful television producers the medium has ever known. Synonymous with cheesy action dramas, guest star-filled comedies, and zeitgeist-nailing teen ensemble shows, Spelling's work was defiantly lowbrow, but his ability to tap into mainstream taste over a span of decades was nothing short of astonishing. He began his career as a television writer in the 1950s and, after opening his own production company, scored his first major hit with The Mod Squad in 1968, a show that smartly reconciled all the contradictions of the era. Three young small-time offenders, including an impossibly stylish Peggy Lipton, were drafted as a hipster cops, going undercover to combat those who preyed on youth culture. Soon, the hits began to flow one after the other: Hart to Hart, The Rookies, Starsky and Hutch and, of course, one of his biggest hits of all, Charlie's Angels. In the late '70s and early '80s, Spelling created two shows that worked different formats. The Love Boat was an hour-long comedy that wove together different storylines with different guest stars each week, while Dynasty, perfectly attuned to the conspicuous consumption of the Reagan years, was the first night-time soap opera. Spelling worked as a producer up until his death in 2006, with later shows including Beverly Hills 90210 and Seventh Heaven. He also had production credits on more upscale programming like Twin Peaks and the HBO movie And the Band Played On. In a 2004 interview, the president of his production company, Jonathan Levin, discussed what he viewed as the secret of Spelling's success: a focus on family. "The essence of these shows is the notion of family, either an ordinary family or a constructed family," Levin said. "They celebrate people who love and care about one another and live together. They aren't necessarily all related like a traditional family, but in the end that's what's compelling about it."


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