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That does it. I can stand silent no longer. From here on out, I throw down the gauntlet: Let he who will cast stones at America's first family come forward and be heard, for he shall feel the full brunt of my wrath.

The first family being, of course, the Spellings -- father Aaron, mother Candi, daughter Tori, and useless layabout Randy.

For just the latest manifestation of the anti-Spelling fervor sweeping our nation, I refer you to "Girls! Girls! Girls!", wherein Philip Michaels muses whimsically about the mystical powers of Nikki Cox, among others. While in the midst of an otherwise highly-entertaining, yet all-too-poignant discourse on the frailty of the male psyche, the Lutheran wag -- for no apparent reason -- veers off course to level a scandalous charge against the Spelling clan.

"Like most forms of pestilence and woe that afflict the world nowadays," opines Phil, "the problem can be traced to Aaron Spelling. Back before America's second- favorite jug-eared Texan was creating acting jobs for his lantern-jawed spawn through his own private WPA program otherwise known as Beverly Hills 90210..."

What, pray tell, is Phil talking about? If you must ask that question, then you must also ask another: "Exactly when do I plan to pull my head out of the sand?" Because it's plain as day that the target of Phil's scorn is none other than Aaron's progeny, Tori and Randy -- and, more specifically, their penchant for ending up in dad's TV shows.

This is not the first time pundits have cried nepotism at the mention of the Spelling name. It's only the latest. Which is not to say that the charge rings hollow. Quite the contrary, it rings with the distinct clatter of unassailable truth.

Before Tori starred in dad's Beverly Hills 90210; before Tori guest starred in dad's Malibu Shores; before Tori played the persecuted victim with the abnormally-sized noggin in movie-of-the-week fare like "Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?," "Awake to Danger," and "A Friend to Die For;" before Tori tried her hand as a comically-inept temptress in the likes of "Co-Ed Call Girl" and "Deadly Pursuits," there was Tori getting her start as a brassy young gypsy who drives William Shatner batty in an episode of T.J. Hooker, a show produced by father Aaron.

And there was Tori playing Dustin Diamond's (Screech, to you and me) devoted paramour on Saved By the Bell, a show Aaron didn't produce, but one so bad, he probably should have. So too for Randy who appears to be something of a special familial project, what with his rapid ascension from cameo spots on dad's 90210, to his supporting role in dad's criminally unpleasant Malibu Shores, to his current jaunt on dad's Sunset Beach.

No, the fact that "America's second-favorite jug-eared Texan" has long "creat[ed] acting jobs for his lantern- jawed spawn" cannot be denied. And that proposition I have no problem with. My quarrel, instead, lies elsewhere: with the inference, the silent implication, that somehow this arrangement is uncouth.

Place yourself in Aaron's shoes for a moment -- assuming, that is, you can envision yourself in the shoes of an obscenely wealthy man whose career-long leitmotif can be roughly described, "location plus breasts plus sex equals forty share!" You're a beloved, respected public figure. You have a staggeringly successful career, and you have everything in the world to offer friends and loved ones: genuine warmth, a fine home, a loving family, a mansion with more parking space than the Sherman Oaks Galleria.

And, yet, you have these kids. These no good, no talent, aimless, lazy kids, headed nowhere and seemingly destined to spend the rest of your waking hours in your home -- the home you had always hoped they would eventually move out of. So what do you do about it? Why, you kick 'em in the ass and put them to work in the family business, of course.

So Aaron has done with Tori and Randy.

This is, I submit, no different from what your father or mine would do under similar circumstances. Except, of course, our fathers are plumbers or chimney sweeps. Tori and Randy, it just so happens, become actors and stars, inexplicably loved and adored the world over. Sure, we can curse our relatively bad fortune, but is that reason to belittle father Aaron for doing what any of us (or our fathers) would do if faced with the same situation? I think not.

Now, I realize that I've made a rather crucial assumption here, that being that Tori and Randy are no good, no talent, aimless, lazy kids. But I don't think that's much of a leap. At least not on the "no talent" charge since... well, you've seen them act. Nor, I realize, does my thesis explain why Aaron feels the need to go the additional step and persist in foisting Tori upon us as an irresistible, eternally virginal goddess. Since I've seen her, and I've heard her speak, I can only conclude that her charms lie in the one area denied me by TV: her odor. Near as I can figure, Tori must emit pheromones on the order of Sunday morning short stacks.

Be that as it may. My purpose here is not to question the whys and wherefores of Tori Spelling, but to celebrate papa Aaron and his commitment to family values. The importance of this lesson cannot be understated. If Aaron Spelling, a man with millions of dollars, ratings success, and the lure of the syndication gold mine all on the line, is willing to risk everything for the sake of seeing that his family is gainfully employed, well, isn't that an example we would all do well to follow? After all, if Aaron doesn't employ her, Tori's unemployment check comes off our dime.

(Since I started this piece, a 90210 story arc has had irresistible Tori fending off zealous pursuers in the form of Brian Austin-Greene and reputed real-life beau Greg Vaughn, himself a former star of daddy Aaron's Malibu Shores. This continues to be the most egregious case of nepotism since Sly put Frank to work.)


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