Brandon Tartikoff (January 13, 1949 — August 27, 1997) was a television executive who was credited with turning around NBC's low prime time reputation with such hit series as Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, ALF, Family Ties, The Cosby Show, Cheers, Miami Vice, The Golden Girls, Knight Rider, The A-Team, St. Elsewhere, Night Court, Hunter, Highway to Heaven, Matlock, Remington Steele, A Different World, 227 and Empty Nest.
Tartikoff also helped develop Punky Brewster, for which he named the title character after a girl he had a crush on in school. Brandon, the pet dog on Punky Brewster, was named after Tartikoff. He was also involved in the creation of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Beggars and Choosers.
When Tartikoff took over, a writers' strike was looming, affiliates were defecting, and the network had only three prime time shows in the Top 20: Little House on the Prairie, Diff'rent Strokes and Real People). Johnny Carson was reportedly in talks to move his landmark late-night talk show show to ABC. The entire cast and writers of Saturday Night Live had left that late-night sketch-comedy series, and their replacements had received some of the show's worst critical notices. Tartikoff and his new superior, the highly well-regarded former producer Grant Tinker, turned the network's fortunes around.
As head of NBC's Entertainment Division, Tartikoff's successes included The Cosby Show, for which Tartikoff had pursued actor-comedian Bill Cosby to create a pilot after having been impressed by Cosby's stories when Cosby guest-hosted the Tonight Show. Tartikoff wrote a brainstorming memo that simply read "MTV cops", and later presented the memo to series creator Anthony Yerkovich, formerly a writer and producer for Hill Street Blues. Knight Rider was inspired by a perceived lack of leading men who could act, with Tartikoff suggested a talking car could fill in the gaps in any leading man's acting abilities.
During the casting process of Family Ties, Tartikoff was unexcited about Michael J. Fox for the role of Alex P. Keaton. However, the show's producer, Gary David Goldberg, insisted until Tartikoff relented, saying "Go ahead if you insist. But I'm telling you, this is not the kind of face you'll ever see on a lunch box". Some years later, after the movie Back to the Future cemented Fox's stardom, Fox good-naturedly sent Tartikoff a lunch box with Fox's picture on it and a note inside reading "To Brandon: This is for you to put your crow in. Love and Kisses, Michael J. Fox". Tartikoff kept the lunch box in his office for the rest of his career.
Johnny Carson broke the news of his retirement in February 1991 to Tartikoff at the Grille in Beverly Hills. For several days only Tartikoff and, at the time, NBC Chairman Bob Wright knew of the planned retirement.
Tartikoff wrote in his memoirs that his biggest professional regret was cancelling the series Buffalo Bill, which he later went on to include in a fantasy "dream schedule" created for a TV Guide article that detailed his idea of "The Greatest Network Ever".
In 1994, he made his comeback to national TV with Last Call, a short-lived late-night discussion show he produced. That same year he also produced The Steven Banks Show for PBS. Later that year, he began a brief run as chairman of New World Entertainment. Just prior to his death, Tartikoff served as the chairman of the AOL project "Entertainment Asylum", for which he teamed with Scott Zakarin to build the world's first interactive broadcast studio.
The Deep Space Nine sixth-season premiere "A Time to Stand" began with a title card reading "In memory of Brandon Tartikoff". A similar card appeared at the end of the ninth-season premiere, "The Butter Shave", of Seinfeld.
Tartikoff Awards On Tap.(National Association of Television Program Executives)(Brandon Tartikoff)(Anne Sweeney)(Tyler Perry)
Nov 03, 2008; By Ben Grossman NATPE honors Silverman, Sweeney, Perry, Lorre Ben Silverman, Anne Sweeney, Tyler Perry and Chuck Lorre have been...
An enduring legacy for television: the late Tartikoff continues to influence programmers.(2004 Legacy Awards)(Brandon Tartikoff)
Jan 19, 2004; Brandon Tartikoff wanted to make an impact on the television. He succeeded like few others. Nearly seven years after succumbing...