June eighteenth was quite the somber day for me. I was returning from California, having spent the early part of the day at Disneyland. I was thrilled at the idea that for the cost of one days admission I had made my paper Disneyland ticket into a plastic one, complete with my digital likeness on the back, allowing me to return on practically any day until June 12 of next year. This excitement faded quickly when I was told that Aaron Spelling had suffered a stroke. It wasn’t too long before he was released from the hospital, which made me a bit optimistic he would get better. Less than a week later, however, complications from the stroke brought on his passing at the age of 83.
Not Nearly 120
The blessing “You should live to 120” is fairly common amongst the Jewish people, coming from the sixth chapter of the first book of the Torah. It is written in the verse, “Let My spirit not quarrel forever concerning man, because he is also flesh, and his days shall be a hundred and twenty years.” (See here for full context.) Indeed, regarding Moses, it is believed that he died precisely one hundred and twenty years from the day he was born and not a moment later. While our Aaron Spelling did not reach this point, we can be thankful that he lived eighty-three years – moreover, it was Moses that once wrote “The days of our lives number seventy years, and if in great vigor, eighty years;” (See here for full context.) One can therefore say that not only did he reach the age of strength, he even surpassed it.
My First Introduction
I didn’t realize it at the time but when I was a child watching Love Boat on television, I was in fact watching an Aaron Spelling production. When I would sit with my grandmother as she watched Dynasty at night I also was unaware that I was watching one of his productions. It wasn’t until I sat in my grandmother’s room on October 4, 1990 that I got to really appreciate the genius of Aaron Spelling. That was the night that Beverly Hills 90210 (more commonly referred to as just 90210) first aired, bringing to us our first meeting with Brandon and Brenda Walsh. They were plucked out of their comfortable lives in Minnesota and brought to Beverly Hills.
I have never spent any significant time outside of the airport in Minnesota but from what I am told it is about as different from Beverly Hills as the sport of football is from the sport that is referred to as football in the United States. One of the things that really appealed to me at first was that they were being transported out of the city where they had to that point spent their lives living and I was at the time newly moved to Princeton. Until that point I had lived the majority of my life in a modest house in West Windsor, New Jersey. I had an entirely different sort of move when I began attending The Peddie School in 1993, but it was equally jarring for me.
Making new friends is not the easiest thing when one transitions from one kind of living to another the way that Brandon and Brenda did – and, in some ways, the way that my brother and I did. Though I didn’t always watch it with the same fervor that I did the first few seasons, there are many times when I reflect on a memory of an episode and how I can relate something that has happened to me to the episode.
Looking over Spelling’s career the introduction of 90210 was phenomenal. As Dynasty was coming to a close, speculation had it that it was time for Mr. Spelling to retire from the business as he had done everything a producer could do. Rather than do this he created 90210, a television program that continues to influence dramatic television to this day. Where would programs like The O.C. be without 90210? Is it conceivable that soon to be departing Days of Our Lives head writer James E. Reilly was not at all inspired by 90210 in his writing of teen characters like Abby and Chelsea? I would find such a premise a bit difficult to swallow.
I will admit that I never really watched Melrose Place with any sort of devotion however I do know that it too had a strong impact on American television. Through its ups and downs, the arrivals and dramatic departures of characters, it changed the way that people thought of nighttime drama.
Proving that he had yet more territory to explore in American television, Spelling soon came forward with 7th Heaven in 1996 and Charmed in 1998. Had someone come to you 11 years ago and told you that soon a producer would make television programs about a preacher and his family and a group of three witches who were sisters, would you have believed it? I wouldn’t have, and I imagine that most people would not have either. Not only were these shows both critically acclaimed but they brought in viewers by the millions. 7.7 million people (plus or minus a few dozen) watched the very first watched the series premiere of Charmed. About 12.5 million people watched a particular episode of 7th Heaven where twin boys were born to the female head of the house.
Given all of this tremendous success and the enormous amount of creativity that came forth from Mr. Spelling, one might even say that he may have had another half a dozen brilliant programs in him yet to be developed. We are quite fortunate to have had him in our lives in a way for as long as we did. Aaron Spelling has passed away but his memory will be kept in our hearts in reruns and in programs that have his trademark influence on them.