Brandon Tartikoff

Executive, Producer
A creative and highly competitive television executive who spent nearly his entire career in network broadcasting, Brandon Tartikoff took over a flailing NBC in the early 1980s and at 31 years old became the youngest ... Read more »
Born: 01/13/1949 in New York City, New York, USA

Filmography

Actor (12)

Dave's World 1996 - 1997 (Tv Show)

Actor

Arli$$ 1996 (Tv Show)

Actor

Gail Sheehy's New Passages 1995 - 1996 (TV Show)

Actor

Good Money 1996 (Movie)

(Actor)

The Movie That Changed My Life 1994 - 1995 (TV Show)

Actor

NBC Investigates Bob Hope 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)

Actor

The Television Academy Hall of Fame 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)

Actor

NBC Presents the AFI Comedy Special 1986 - 1987 (TV Show)

Actor

America Talks Back 1985 - 1986 (TV Show)

Actor

Bob Hope Buys NBC? 1985 - 1986 (TV Show)

Actor
Producer (8)

The Online Adventures of Ozzie the Elf 1997 - 1998 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Weekly World News 1995 - 1996 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Last Call 1994 - 1995 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Q & E! 1994 - 1995 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

The Steven Banks Show 1993 - 1994 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

XXX's & OOO's 1993 - 1994 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Blade Squad (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Tom Clancy's Op Center (TV Show)

Executive Producer
Writer (2)

Beggars and Choosers 1996 - 1997, 1999 - 2001 (Tv Show)

Creator

House Party With Steve Doocy 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)

Creator
Other (2)

Second Noah 1996 - 1997, 1999 - 2001 (Tv Show)

Executive Consultant

Tapeheads 1988 (Movie)

assistance (Assistant)

Biography

A creative and highly competitive television executive who spent nearly his entire career in network broadcasting, Brandon Tartikoff took over a flailing NBC in the early 1980s and at 31 years old became the youngest president in the network's history. With such iconic series as "Hill Street Blues" (NBC, 1981-87), "Miami Vice" (NBC, 1984-89) and "The Cosby Show" (NBC, 1984-1992), Tartikoff turned the fortunes of NBC around to make it the most successful network for the ensuing two decades. In 1987, following more hits like "The Golden Girls" (1985-1992) and "L.A. Law" (1986-1994), Tartikoff simultaneously held the title of president of NBC Productions and had earned a reputation as a master of scheduling. Credited as the chief architect of the network's supremacy in primetime TV during the 1980s, he eventually left the Peacock Network in 1991 to attend to his daughter following a near-fatal car accident. Tartikoff embarked on a number of film and television endeavors, often under his own banner, while also serving briefly as the chairman of Paramount Pictures and New World Entertainment. Having twice battled Hodgkin's disease early in his life, Tartikoff finally succumbed to the cancer in 1997, leaving behind a legacy as one of television's most brilliant programming gurus.

Born on Jan. 13, 1949 in New York City, Tartikoff was raised in a Jewish home and attended Lawrenceville School during his teenage years, a college preparatory school where he excelled at baseball and fencing, while also harboring a desire to become a writer. From there, he went to Yale University in the late 1960s, during which time he worked as an account executive and sales manager for ABC affiliate WNHC-TV in New Haven, CT. Upon graduating Yale, Tartikoff moved on to Chicago, IL, where he worked for WLS-TV and helped revamp the flagging ABC affiliate with sensational programming like "Shark Week." Planning to move on to Los Angeles after a year in the Windy City, Tartikoff was shocked to discover that he had Hodgkin's disease at only 25 years old. Determined to beat the cancer while maintaining a regular work and exercise schedule, he found the disease tough to beat and had a close brush with death before embarking on an aggressive chemotherapy treatment that rendered him supposedly cured. Unbeknownst to him at the time, it would be the first of three battles with cancer he would have in his lifetime.

Once on the mend, Tartikoff made the move to Los Angeles and was hired as a programming executive at ABC in 1976. A year later, he made the jump to NBC when he was hired to head the comedy programming division by network guru Dick Ebersol. He rose quickly up the ladder to become president of NBC Entertainment by 1980, becoming at 31 years old the youngest division president in the network's history. When he took over for mentor Fred Silverman, Tartikoff had inherited a network in serious disarray. Affiliates where leaving, NBC had only three primetime shows in the Top 20, and Johnny Carson was considering jumping ship to another network. But because he had a seemingly endless well of ideas, Tartikoff was able to rapidly turn the fortunes of the network around in just a few short years, scoring big hits with classic series like "Hill Street Blues" (NBC, 1981-87), "Knight Rider" (NBC, 1982-86), "Miami Vice" (NBC, 1984-89) and "The Cosby Show" (NBC, 1984-1992), the latter having been the biggest hit of the decade and considered solely responsible for reviving the network.

Following a brief recurrence of his Hodgkin's disease, Tartikoff rebounded and continued churning out hit shows like "The Golden Girls" (1985-1992), "L.A. Law" (1986-1994), and "Family Ties" (NBC, 1982-89), which actually marked a rare misjudgment on his part due to his initial refusal to cast Michael J. Fox, declaring that he would never be a star. In 1983, Tartikoff actually guest hosted "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) and two years later became a member of the Screen Actors Guild following an appearance on the TV special, "Bob Hope Buys NBC?" (1985). He also appeared as himself on several other series, including "Night Court" (NBC, 1984-1992), "ALF" (NBC, 1986-1990) and "Saved By the Bell" (NBC, 1989-1993). Meanwhile, on Jan. 1, 1991, Tartikoff had another brush with death when he and his daughter Calla were involved in a near fatal car accident. While he recovered fairly quickly, his daughter had been severely injured and required extensive treatment for her injuries, necessitating a family relocation to New Orleans, LA to facilitate her therapy. At the time, Tartikoff left NBC to accept the position of chairman of Paramount Pictures, but in citing family obligations, he resigned abruptly in October 1992. During his brief tenure at the studio's helm, Paramount had a number of box office successes like "Wayne's World" (1992) and "Patriot Games" (1992), but also had its share of disappointments like "Leap of Faith" (1992) and "Coneheads" (1993).

While still in New Orleans, Tartikoff became part-time radio talk show host on WWAL-FM, while also developing programming for local television stations. After a two-year absence from Hollywood, he returned as chairman of New World Entertainment, signing a five-year contract and selling his company Moving Target Productions for $9 million to his new employer. In 1994, Tartikoff signed a three-year, first-look deal for international distribution with Solomon International Enterprises; spearheaded the short-lived late night talk show "Last Call;" and produced "The Steven Banks Show" for PBS. Later that year, Tartikoff had a brief run as the chairman of New World Entertainment before the company was assimilated into Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. From there, he moved into independent production, forming The H. Beale Company in 1996, while the following year he became chairman of Greenhouse Networks, a content provider for America Online. Always willing to appear on screen, Tartikoff made cameo appearances on shows like "Dave's World" (CBS, 1993-97) and "Arli$$" (HBO, 1996-2002). But his ambitions soon came to an end when Tartikoff battled Hodgkin's disease for the third and final time. He died on Aug. 27, 1997 at 48 years old, whereupon he received heartfelt tributes from a wide array of industry players that included Warren Littlefield, Ted Danson and Jerry Seinfeld.

By Shawn Dwyer

Relationships

Lisa Rosenthal

Sister
survived him

Lilly Tartikoff

Wife
married 1982 formerly with New York City Ballet survived him

Jordan Tartikoff

Father
survived him

Enid Tartikoff

Mother
died of cancer June 30 1994 at age 67

Calla Tartikoff

Daughter
born c. 1982 suffered severe head injury in a car accident with her father January 1, 1991 survived him

Elizabeth Tartikoff

Daughter
adopted 1994 survived him

EDUCATION

The Lawrenceville School

Lawrenceville , New Jersey
boarding school; Tartikoff excelled as an athlete at baseball and fencing

Yale College, Yale University

New Haven , Connecticut 1970
graduated with honors

Milestones

1997

Named chairman of Greenhouse Networks, a content developer for America Online (March)

1996

Left New World when company was sold; later formed production company, The H. Beale Company

1994

Sold company, Moving Target Productions, to New World Communications for a reported nine million dollars

1994

Signed a five-year employment contract with New World, serving as chairman of New World Enterainment

1994

Signed a three-year first-look agreement for international disttribution with Solomon International Enterprises

1993

Began developing local TV programming in New Orleans as well as projects for the networks

1993

Became a part-time radio talk show host on WWAL-AM in New Orleans LA

1992

On October 29 resigned as chairman of Paramount Pictures (effective December 1, 1992)

1991

Accepted position of chairman of Paramount Pictures (effective July 1, 1991)

1991

Was in near-fatal car accident on January 1; daughter Calla suffered head injuries

1990

Became chairman of NBC Entertainment (July)

1989

Created TV series, "House Party With Steve Doocy"

1987

First feature produced through NBC Productions, "Square Dance"

1985

Appeared in first TV special, "Bob Hope Buys NBC?"; became SAG member

1983

Guest hosted "Saturday Night Live"

1980

Became president of NBC Entertainment

1980

Named president of West Coast programs, NBC Entertainment

1978

Appointed vice president of West Coast programs, NBC Entertainment

1977

Moved to NBC Entertainment as director of comedy programs

1976

Moved to New York as manager of dramatic development for ABC-TV

1974

First diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease

1970

Began career in promotions department of New Haven's ABC affiliate

Founded own production company, NBC Productions

Had recurrence of Hodgkin's disease; underwent chemotherapy

Joined promotions staff at ABC's Chicago affiliate, WLS where he and station manager, Lew Erlicht, where among first to use and promote five-part news series

Moved to New Orleans, LA, so his daughter could receive treatment

Bonus Trivia

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"In a policy now standard at all three networks, Tartikoff tried to foster relationships with the best writers and producers in television, backing them when they felt passionate about a project. No programmer before Tartikoff ever paid attention--or even lip service--to cries that television shows were uniformly lowbrow entertainment. They were expected to produce good ratings, not good reviews. Those expectations have changed at all three networks because of the example set by NBC and Tartikoff. All prime-time television is now measured against Tartikoff's NBC schedules of the mid-1980s. That achievement makes him a significant contributor to American mass culture, every bit as much as the 68-week winining streak makes him the Joe DiMaggio of the Nielsen game." --Bill Carter (NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE, March 4, 1990)

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THE NEW YORK TIMES (May 2, 1991) reported that Tartikoff was "the highest-paid executive in the history of television", earning more than $2 million per year in recent years.

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He was named one of the 10 Outstanding Young Men of America by United States Jaycees (1980)

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He received the Jewish National Fund's Tree of Life Award (1986)

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Tartikoff was honored as Broadcaster of the Year by the Television, Radio and Advertising Club of Philadelphia (1986)

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He was awarded the Gordon Grand Fellowship from Yale University for distinguished service in the world of industry, business and finance.

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Tartikoff was president of the Hollywood Radio and Television Society (two terms)

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". . . what I'll remember most is a man who was never too big to admit his mistakes and laugh at himself. He was just a real, wonderful guy." --producer Gary David Goldberg in DAILY VARIETY, August 28, 1997

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"Brandon just changed so many people's lives. He bet on people who didn't have long track records. He made careers because he believed in people and their ideas, and he never lost his energy and enthusiasm for something he believed in. He cared about three things: the shows first, second and third. I never heard him talk about profit, how much a show could make. Brandon respected the audience and admired talent. And he had not a cynical bone in his body" --Jeff Sagansky quoted in DAILY VARIETY, August 28, 1997

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