There was stunned sadness in the entertainment community Wednesday as Hollywood struggled to come to grips with the death of Brandon Tartikoff of Hodgkin’s disease, at 48.
Tartikoff had been seemingly full of life just the week before, pitching and taking meetings as usual. Even longtime associates were caught off guard.
Now Tartikoff’s associates were being asked to assess the worth and impact of a man to whom they weren’t ready to say goodbye. They used words like “indomitable,” “courageous,” “irrepressible,” “masterful” and “inspirational” to describe him.
Perhaps even more telling was their tone. Many voices choked with emotion as they described losing not only a smart colleague and competitor but a good friend.
“Brandon was a gentleman. He was a generous and gentle soul. To me, he was also the person most responsible for the success of ‘Family Ties,’ more than Michael and myself. He and I were together for that whole turnaround at NBC, and it was particularly great to take that ride together. But 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
“To understand Brandon Tartikoff’s legacy, all you need to do is look at all of the strong, intelligent dramas on TV today. He started it with ‘Hill Street Blues’ and ‘St. Elsewhere,’ which were big risks at the time. By doing that, he improved the landscape of television and showed producers and writers that the one-hour form was a noble place to be.”
— producer David E. Kelley
“There seems to be a law that the best have to leave us early, and Brandon was the best in a variety of ways. It’s very hard to deal with his absence, but we’re all going to have to. Even though I didn’t see that much of him, I always felt connected to him. It was the same with everybody who knew him.”
— former NBC chairman Grant Tinker
“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 the talent. And he had not a cynical bone in his body.”
— Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman Jeff Sagansky
“Brandon Tartikoff was an irrepressible spirit and an irreplaceable friend. I am heartsick over his loss.”
— producer Steven Bochco
“Brandon was one of the most incredible people I’ve ever known. His indomitable spirit was an example to all of us who loved him … Life didn’t always smile on him, but Brandon always smiled at life.”
— NBC West Coast president Don Ohlmeyer
“So much of what NBC is about today is due to Brandon.”
— NBC Sports president Dick Ebersol
“Brandon was my boss, my friend, my mentor and oftentimes the brother I never had.”
— NBC Entertainment president Warren Littlefield
“Brandon Tartikoff will forever remain an inspiration to anyone associated with the television medium. He will be remembered throughout the News Corp. and Fox Broadcasting Co. not only for what he represented as a colleague and competitor but, more importantly, what he exemplified as a man.”
— Fox Entertainment president Peter Roth
“We have lost a dear friend who fought a courageous battle that will never be forgotten.”
— producers Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner
“What I’ll remember most was that Brandon was a really fun guy to be around. He had an amazing sense of humor and a real warmth to him. And he was never elitist. He was as excited about ‘Manimal’ and ‘The A-Team’ as he was about ‘Cheers’ and ‘Hill Street.’ He realized that he wasn’t just programming to Princeton grads.”
— producer Stephen J. Cannell
“Brandon was a masterful programmer and a wonderful human being who put his family and his friendships ahead of business. He transformed television by creating groundbreaking programs that entertained while shining a spotlight on the human condition.”
— ABC Inc. president Bob Iger
“Brandon’s understanding of the medium was so all-encompassing. He had his finger in every pie imaginable and was one of the only people who understood all the myriad subsections of the network business from a creative sense.”
— producer Dick Wolf
“A programming genius, a broadcasting legend and a dear friend — we will miss him more than words can say.”
— NBC president and CEO Bob Wright