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August 1, 2014

The Five: Favorite characters from Aaron Spelling shows

by Joel Keller, posted Jun 28th 2006 6:05PM
Fred Grandy as GopherAfter Aaron Spelling died last week, Keith asked if one of us would come up with some sort of The Five post that reviews the prolific producer's career. I was thinking of doing a "favorite shows" or "favorite moments" post, but there's so many of each to choose from, I didn't think I could do either category justice with only five choices.

So I decided to concentrate on the characters from Spelling's shows. And, yes, there are many to choose from in this category, too. But by choosing five of my favorite characters (and listing a few honorable mentions), it gives me a chance to illustrate how varied Spelling's shows truly were. And, as you can tell by the picture above, everyone could identify with at least one of his characters. So here are my favorite five:

Burl "Gopher" Smith - How could anyone not like Gopher? Every week on The Love Boat, people were hooking up all over the place, and Gopher was just there to be the comic relief. This was a crew full of suave, debonair, and attractive people (yes, even Doc), and yet Gopher was the one who always missed out on romance. Heck, I think even Vicki Stubing got more action than he did. Gopher was just a hard-working geek who never got the girl, which is why, on the rare occasions that the purser did get lucky, viewers rooted even harder for things to work. One of my all-time favorite stories was when Gopher and Julie got together; I was only 10 or so at the time, but I was so happy that ol' Burl got the pretty cruise director, I cheered when they kissed. Yes, I've always been a hopeless geek. Alas, like the other romances on The Love Boat, it ended as soon as the Pacific Princess pulled into its L.A. port.

Oh, and Fred Grandy's post-Gopher stint as a congressman only adds to my appreciation of ol' Burl, mainly because it generated one of my favorite urban legends.

Alexis Carrington - You know, I don't think I ever watched a full episode of Dynasty. Hey, I was a pre-teen and teenaged male; prime-time soaps weren't my thing. But you had to live under a rock to not be aware of the show in its mid-Eighties glory. And Joan Collins' character of (according to IMDb) Alexis Morell Carrington Colby Dexter Rowan was too bitchy and evil not to list here. She has to be considered one of the all-time TV villians, mainly because of the joy Alexis (and Joan, if her performance was any indication) took in making the Carringtons lives miserable. Ask Krystle Carrington (Linda Evans); the two got into more hair-pulling, mud-slinging, shoulder-pad-flying fights than any two women in TV history.

Also, Collins' 1983 appearance in Playboy only helped my admiration, even though I was only 12 at the time. Fifty, shmifty; she looked damn good in that pictorial.

Tattoo - He was little. He had an accent. He said "Da plane! Da plane!" How can he not be on the list? Believe it or not, it was Tattoo -- not Mr. Roarke, not the dumb stories -- that kept me watching Fantasy Island every week. He never really had more than a couple of lines per episode, but he always kept the haughty Roarke in line. After Hervé Villechaize left the show, it just wasn't the same (let's just say I liked Christopher Hewett better in Mr. Belvedere). It's too bad Villechaize led such a sad life, especially at the end. It would have been good to see him reaping the benefits of the today's endless seventies and eighties revival.

Dr. Kimberly Shaw - When people talk about the best characters on Melrose Place, they usually mention Amanda Woodward (Heather Locklear). But I think there was a woman on Melrose that was far, far scarier -- and more interesting -- than Amanda: Dr. Kimberly Shaw. I don't know what it was about her, but the way Marcia Cross played her, it just looked like Kimberly was pure, unadulterated evil. Maybe it was the manic look in her eyes. Anyway, the most shocking Melrose moment to me was, after Kimberly was supposedly run over by Michael, she comes back seemingly from the dead, and at the end of her returning episode, she rips off a red wig to reveal a gigantic scar on the side of her freakin' head! I'm a pretty jaded TV watcher, but even I gasped at that one.

T.J. Hooker - Shatner. Bad toupee. Cop uniform. Fifty-five year old guy running and jumping on car hoods. Need I say more?

Honorable mentions:
Amanda Woodward (Melrose Place)
John Bosley (Charlie's Angels)
Dylan McKay (Beverly Hills, 90210 )
Huggy Bear (Starsky and Hutch)
Dan Tanna (Vega$)

What are your favorite characters from Aaron Spelling's shows? Let me know in the comments.

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Brent McKee

Dan Tanna was cool - Magnum before there was Magnum. In fact I think Spelling could have sued. Dan Tanna drove a red T-bird; Magnum a red Ferrari. Tanna lived in the warehouse of the Desert Inn which was owned by his story telling pal Philip Roth; Magnum lived in the guest house of a mansion owned by his (unseen) pal Robin Masters and run by the story telling Jonathon Quayle Higgins. Tanna had two partners in his crime busting - short and funny Bobby "Binzer" Borso and the big serious Indian Harlan Two Trees; Magnum had short and funny Orville "Rick" Wright and the big serious T.C. About the only thing I can't recall is whether Tanna was a Vietnam veteran - I don't think so but i can't be sure.

June 29 2006 at 3:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Amy

Yay Gopher! Nice surprise seeing this pic as I logged on to the site. Plus his duet with "mom" Ethel Merman during the "Love Boat Follies" episode. Yes I'm right there in tv geekiness too.

June 28 2006 at 8:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tim

I'm glad you mentioned Dan Tanna. I was living in Las Vegas when the show was in production and we watched just to see the continuity errors. Just about every episode, Tanna would head down the strip, only to arrive somewhere at the opposite end of the city. Of course, CSI does the same thing twenty-five years later.

June 28 2006 at 7:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
purpleslog

T.J Hooker all the way

Snarling, while holding bad guy hard against the hood of his car: "Resist arrest! Come on, resist arrest!"

June 28 2006 at 7:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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