Brandon Tartikoff Biography (1949-1997)

OBITUARY NOTICE: Born January 13, 1949, in Freeport, Long Island, NY; died from complications from Hodgkin's disease, August 27, 1997, in Los Angeles, CA.Television network, film, and Internet executive. The youngest man to becomepresident of a major television network's entertainment division, Tartikoffhad a keen understanding of what the American viewing audience wanted in itsprograms and was responsible for popular shows such as The Cosby Show, MiamiVice, The A-Team, Cheers, Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, L.A. Law, The Golden Girls, Family Ties, and Seinfeld. Tartikoff developed his interest in television programming as a child, and he even displayed evidence of his futureoccupation when he told his parents at age ten that the Dennis the Menace lead was miscast. He eventually attended Yale University and received his B.A. in 1970. While at Yale, he coedited the school's humor magazine with Garry Trudeau, who later rose to fame as the creator of the Doonesbury cartoon strip.

Early in his television career, Tartikoff joined WYNH-TV, an ABC- affiliate station in New Haven, Connecticut, as director of advertising and promotion. After two years with WYNH-TV, he went to Chicago in 1973 for three years withWLS-TV, another ABC affiliate. Again the director of advertising and promotion, he rose to the challenge of finding creative ways to promote movies that the station aired. He was so successful, in fact, that he landed a job at ABC-TV in New York City as director of dramatic programs in 1976. A year later, however, he left New York and ABC-TV for California and NBC-TV. From 1977 to 1978 he worked as director of comedy programs before becoming vice president of programs in 1978.

In 1980 he was promoted to president of NBC-TV Entertainment, a moved which shocked the industry due to Tartikoff's youthful age, thirty-one. When he tookover as president, NBC-TV was last in ratings and faltering. During Tartikoff's tenure at the network, NBC eventually began to win the ratings battle. According to the New York Times: "No other television programmer was so closelyidentified with a network's success as Mr. Tartikoff was in the 1980s. NBC,which had been widely regarded as the laughing stock of the television industry when he began, ended the decade with the longest laugh in network history:a streak of dominance never equaled, as NBC finished first in the Nielsen ratings 68 weeks in a row."

While at NBC, Tartikoff was responsible for programming some of the most popular shows of the 1980s, including Hill Street Blues, Cheers, and Miami Vice.The initial idea for the last show, a gritty drama about undercover detectives in fashionable Miami, came from Tartikoff himself. During a meeting with producer Anthony Yerkovich, he jotted down an idea on a napkin. The idea, "MTVcops," was eventually developed into the highly stylized police drama. He wasalso responsible for bringing Bill Cosby and Jerry Seinfeld to the network.In addition to all these popular shows, there were a few less successful ventures such as Bay City Blues, Manimal, and Beverly Hills Buntz.

Tartikoff became chairman of NBC Entertainment in 1990, but left the networkto become chairman of Paramount Pictures in 1991. According to industry sources, Tartikoff was not as successful in the film industry, although he was responsible for popular motions pictures such as Wayne's World, A Clear and Present Danger, The Firm, and Patriot Games. He left Paramount in 1992 when bothhe and his daughter, Calla Lianne, were hurt in a car accident. As noted in MSNBC, "Since {his daughter} needed rehabilitation services in New Orleans, hechucked his seven-figure salary and moved to New Orleans to be with his daughter and wife. After his daughter's condition slowly improved, he returned tothe business."

Later, established a production company called H. Beale & Co., which created independent productions. He named the company after fictional character Howard Beale, a television news anchorman in the movie Network who goes mad. In 1992 he issued an autobiography called The Last Great Ride. Toward the endof his life, he became acting chairman of Entertainment Asylum, which is partof America Online's Greenhouse Network. His work with the Internet powerhouse was in developing original content, specifically an online site devoted toentertainment. According to MSNBC: "And through his H. Beale & Co. production house, he had been developing a feature called Beggars and Choosers, intended for both the Internet and television."

In addition to waging various ratings wars during his career, Tartikoff had apersonal battle he fought as well. At age 23, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, a cancer which affects the lymph nodes. Despite chemotherapy and other treatments, he reportedly never missed a day of work in his first bout with cancer, which went into remission. However, the cancer returned in 1981 and ultimately claimed his life. Earlier in 1997 the disease forced him to take a sabbatical, which ended after only a month. According to the Chicago Tribune, he joked about his return to work: "Tartikoff quoted George Burns: 'I can't die now. I'm already booked.'"

television, film and internet executive
Birth Details
January 13, 1949
Freeport, New York, United States
Death Details
August 27, 1997
Los Angeles, California, United States

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