Spelling, 83, died on Friday at his home in Los Angeles after suffering a stroke on June 18, according to publicist Kevin Sasaki.
Spelling’s other hit series included Melrose Place, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, The Mod Squad, Starsky and Hutch, T.J. Hooker, 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, as a boy born without immunities whose life is spent in isolation; The Best Little Girl in the World (1981), which starred Jennifer Jason Leigh as a teenage anorexic.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Spelling provided series and movies exclusively for ABC and is credited for the network’s rise to major status. Jokesters referred to it as “The Aaron Broadcasting Company.”
Spelling had arrived in Hollywood virtually penniless in the early 1950s. By the 1980s, Forbes magazine estimated his wealth at $300 million. He enjoyed his status, working in a Hollywood office larger than those of golden-era moguls (“I’m slightly claustrophpobic,” he said).
“I grew up thinking ‘Jew boy’ was one word”
Spelling grew up in a small frame house “on the wrong side of the tracks” in Dallas, he wrote in his 1996 autobiography. He was the fourth son of immigrant Jews, his father from Poland, mother from Russia. The father’s name, Spurling, was simplified to Spelling by an Ellis Island official.
“I grew up thinking ‘Jew boy’ was one word,” the producer wrote in his memoir, Aaron Spelling: A Prime-Time Life. He was considered strange by schoolmates because his parents spoke Yiddish. He was subjected to anti-Semitic taunts and beatings on his way home from school.
After combat and organising entertainment in Europe during the World War II, Spelling returned to Texas and enrolled at Southern Methodist University, where he wrote and directed plays. He continued working in local theatrics after graduating.
Finding no work in New York, Spelling moved to Los Angeles, where he staged plays and acted in more than 40 TV shows and 12 movies.
Spelling’s friendship with such actor-producers as Dick Powell, Jack Webb and Alan Ladd led to his rapid rise as a prolific writer and later producer of TV series.
After ABC cancelled Dynasty in 1989 and his contract with the network had ended, Spelling found himself without a show on the air for the first time since 1960.
“I was so depressed, I would have quit, but I like TV too much,” Spelling wrote in his memoir. Besides, his company had started issuing stock in 1986, and he had an obligation to his investors. After a year’s respite, he returned with Beverly Hills 90210, which helped launch the fledgling Fox Network into the bigtime. Melrose Place gave Fox another hit.
Spelling and his second wife, Candy, had two children, Tori (for Victoria), who became a star on the two Fox serials (“Now I’m known as Tori Spelling’s father,” he said in mock lament), and Randy, who appeared in the short-lived Malibu Shores.
Spelling set a record of producing more than 3,000 TV shows. Besides the TV movies, he produced 10 theatrical films including California Split, Mr. Mom, ‘night, Mother, Loose Cannons and Soapdish.