Oral History: Aaron Spelling and the Future of Television (in the 90s)

by Jack Tewksbury July 23, 2020
TV producer Aaron Spelling, Golden Globe nominee, in the 1990s

Aaron Spelling in his office, 1991.

paul harri/getty images

For over 40 years the HFPA has recorded famous and celebrated actors, actresses, and filmmakers. The world’s largest collection of its kind – over 10,000 items – is now in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences Margaret Herrick Library. In 1991 legendary producer Aaron Spelling was at the height of his powers, riding on a stream of hits, from Dynasty to Beverly Hills 90210. He would be nominated for a Golden Globe three years later, for the TV movie And the Band Played On. In this interview from our archives, he shares his vision of the present and future of television.

“The level of verisimilitude doesn’t matter if we’re doing it an issue-oriented show or something that is more popular. I think television should be like a menu when you walk into a restaurant. I think it should give you everything.

There are people in this country today with what we’re all going through who need escapist entertainment. I see nothing wrong with doing a glamorous show like Dynasty. I see nothing wrong in doing sheer escapist entertainment. I would think we would be totally wrong if we just hit over the head with issues without showing the joy of dressing up and going to dances. 

The great thing about our show (Beverly Hills 90210) is the bounding between our cast. They’re a gestalt that I have never seen before with any group much less with young people but, no, I don't think television should be just one thing. I think it should be everything. If you’ve just lost your job I don’t think you want to see a show that night about the homeless people. I think you want to escape. I know - I was very, very poor growing up in Dallas, Texas and I think I would have been one of those people writing letters to stars about suicide if my mom didn’t take me to see Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies and I saw beautiful clothes and I saw beautiful people and I said ‘oh, boy, I can dream'.”