Monday, December 2, 2019

Ranking The “Julies” of Aaron Spelling

A television show’s executive producer exerts his influence on a series in countless ways. For Aaron Spelling, one of TV’s most successful EPs, that meant indulging his penchant for characters named Julie.

For this ranking of his top 10 Julies, the only rule is that the selections must be limited to the Comfort TV era (which still ends in 1989). So with apologies to Julie Dante of Models, Inc. and Julie Tate of Malibu Shores, here, as Casey Kasem might say, is our top ten.

10. Julie Tipton
This series about a show business magazine was one of the first casualties of the 1984 television season. Kristen Meadows played reporter Julie Tipton in the pilot, but was replaced by Dianne Kay when the series debuted. At least she can say it wasn’t her fault that it bombed.

9. Julie Gage
Wagon Train
Aaron Spelling was a writer before he was a producer, and one of the first scripts he sold to television was a 1957 episode of Wagon Train called “The Julie Gage Story,” featuring Anne Jeffreys. That’s how the name became Spelling’s good luck charm. 

8. Julie Davis
As Julie Davis, Loni Anderson sings (and does a pretty good job) in this 1981 TV movie about a small town girl in Prohibition-era Chicago, who seeks revenge on the gangsters who killed her boyfriend. Worth seeing for the cast – John Forsythe, Leslie Uggams, Roy Thinnes and Phyllis Davis. 

7. Julie (no last name)
Fantasy Island
This is a character with a very odd history. As played by Wendy Schaal, Julie pops up in 1981 as Mr. Roarke’s goddaughter, greeting each week’s guests alongside Roarke and Tattoo. She was around for most of that season and then disappeared as mysteriously as she arrived. I liked Wendy Schaal on It’s a Living, though, so that’s good enough to place her at #7. 

6. Julie Gillette
With the focus of this series on the guest starts that checked into the St. Gregory every week, the hotel staff was relegated to supporting roles, outside of stars James Brolin and Connie Selleca. Julie Gillette ran the information desk when the series began, and Shari Belafonte-Harper did what she could with the moments she got. She played a powerful me-too story 30 years before that term was coined in “Harassed,” gets to sing on “Hidden Talents,” and was promoted to a manager role at the end of season three. 

5. Julie (no last name)
Cry Panic
This Spelling-Goldberg produced 1974 TV movie is one of the many little hidden gems that can now be enjoyed again courtesy of YouTube. John Forsythe plays a man who kills a pedestrian with his car just outside a hick town, and then runs to the nearest house to report the accident. By the time the sheriff arrives, the body has disappeared, and Forsythe finds himself in the middle of a mystery in which he seems to be the only person that doesn’t know what’s really going on. Anne Francis was a Spelling favorite since she starred in one of the first series he exec produced, Honey West. Here she played Julie, but I can’t say more at the risk of spoiling the movie’s surprises.

4. Julie Rogers
Charlie’s Angels
Aaron Spelling waited until the last possible moment to introduce an Angel named Julie. Tanya Roberts was the final Townsend detective to wear the halo until all the forgettable remakes and reboots started. 

She was a better fit for the show than Shelley Hack, whom she replaced, but had the misfortune of joining the series in its fifth and final season, when everyone else was ready to move on. Her acting rep took a hit after Sheena and A View To a Kill, but as an Angel Roberts added a welcome spark to episodes like “Angel in Hiding” and “Angels of the Deep.”  

3. Julie Greer
The Dick Powell Theatre
“Who Killed Julie Greer?” was the brilliant debut episode of this anthology series, as well as the pilot for the popular 1960s cop series Burke’s Law, starring Gene Barry as the suave, wealthy police captain who arrives at crime scenes in his Rolls Royce. Carolyn Jones (who was married to Spelling at the time) played the title character, a party girl found murdered in the first scene, leaving a long list of suspects behind (played by Lloyd Bridges, Mickey Rooney and Ronald Reagan, among others). Try to guess which one killed her before the reveal – I guarantee you’ll be wrong. 

2. Julie Barnes
The Mod Squad
The show’s famous tag line – “One white, one black, one blonde” – is an indication on how dated some of this material plays. But in its time The Mod Squad was groundbreaking, and Peggy Lipton became an icon of counterculture chic as flower child detective Julie Barnes. 

Her range was still somewhat limited as an actress, but Lipton had that rare quality of cool that overwhelmed such criticism. 

1. Julie McCoy
The Love Boat
How many television characters personify their profession for generations of viewers? How many thousands of people have boarded cruise ships in the past 40 years, met their cruise director, and thought, “He/she is no Julie McCoy!” 

Lauren Tewes played Julie in 199 of the show’s 250 episodes (with a break in the midst of the run to get clean and sober). Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but with that pixie haircut and dimples I thought she always outshone whatever glamorous stars were sailing on the Pacific Princess each week. She will always be “the” classic TV Julie for me.  


  1. Wow--who knew?? I was going to ask if Julie Kanisky (Lauri Hendler) on 'Gimme a Break' could get an honorable mention, but I guess that wasn't an Aaron Spelling production--and even if it was... cough

    ANYWAY--great list & heck yes to Julie McCoy grabbing the top spot!

  2. Being a longstanding "Fantasy Island" fan, I was hoping to see Mr. Roarke's itinerant goddaughter on this list. And I guessed right about who'd be the #1 Julie, which is a rarity for me. :)

    I wrote a lot of FI fan fiction (still occasionally do) and ended up developing a backstory for Julie. I can't begin to imagine what Aaron Spelling would have thought, but at least I had fun doing it.

    I really enjoy this blog; Comfort TV provided the backdrop to just about my entire childhood, and I'll always choose to watch a Comfort TV show on DVD over a current show on the airwaves (or internet-waves, as the case may be). Thanks for another great blog entry!

  3. Um, how often was the name "Julie" used on Quinn Martin's TV shows?

  4. I've been on 2 Carnival cruises so far, and the cruise directors of both were men. I got to meet the 2nd cruise director, and I had to call him Julie, which he thought was mildly amusing. I'm pretty sure the pursers (Gopher) on both were women too.

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  6. Speaking of Kristen Meadows, the actress appeared as Victoria "Tori" Lane on "Santa Barbara" from September 1986 to January 1989. Sadly, Ms. Meadows received a lot of hate mail and even death threats due to the fact that the Victoria Lane character broke Cruz and Eden, the top supercouple on "Santa Barbara," up. (Believe it or not, Tori essentially drug-raped Cruz.) Kristen ended up quitting the show because of the situation.