Top TV exec Thomas D. “Tom” Tannenbaum, who established Viacom as a major player in the 1980s and whose TV work at Seven Arts, Wolper, MGM, Columbia, Paramount and Universal fostered many hit series such as “The Brady Bunch,” “Kojak” and “Fame,” died Saturday Dec. 1 of heart and liver failure at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital in Woodland Hills Calabasas, Calif. He was 69.
Taking on the position of president in 1984, Tannenbaum built Viacom Prods. up from scratch, establishing it as one of a major player in the hotly contested ranks of TV’s leading program suppliers by packaging established stars with leading producer-writers.
During his seven years at the helm, Viacom became known for quality telepics MOWs and series.
However, Tannenbaum came to Viacom with a world of experience already under his belt, having held top positions in the television divisions of three majors: Paramount, Universal and MGM.
He Tannenbaum began his career at MGM in 1952, serving in a number of capacities, including associate producer on the feature film “Raintree County,” then moved on to Famous Artists’ television division, which he headed up with David Gerber. After that, he tackled such executive positions as president of Seven Arts Television and VP of David Wolper Prods.
He took up Stanley Jaffe offered him the opportunity of joining Paramount Television in New York as VP of sales, then he accepted, but after a year, he returned a year later to the left coast as VP of production, supervising such hit series as “Mannix,” “The Odd Couple,” “The Brady Bunch” and “Mission: Impossible.”
Ankling Paramount to become senior VP of Universal Television, Tannenbaum packaged and supervised the production of such Emmy -winning telepics and specials MOW’s as “The Marcus Nelson Murders,” “Sunshine” and Lauren Bacall’s first TV spec, “Applause.” He also brought such hit series as “Kojak,” “Switch” and “The Incredible Hulk” to air and packaged the first full-contact sporting event, “Kickboxing.”
Six and a half years later, he moved on to Columbia Pictures TV as exec VP, overseeing the mini “From Here to Eternity” as well as such shows as “The Young and the Restless,” “Days of Our Lives” and “Fantasy Island.”
Nearly 30 years after he began, Tannenbaum returned to MGM in 1980 as president of MGM-TV, which at the time had one successful network series, “Chips” on the air He developed and packaged five primetime series, including “Fame” and “Chicago Story,” as well as several telepics MOW’s and attracted such talent as David Gerber, Valerie Harper’s TLC Prods. and Fred Silverman, who he would later bring into Viacom.
Two years later, he joined Centerpoint Prods. as president, bringing together such creatives as Blake Edwards and Neil Simon and developing “Dreams,” “Ocean Quest,” “Night Heat,” several NBC specials and “Enchanted Musical Playhouse” for Disney Channel. He also packaged such made-for-TV movies as “Son of Sam” and “Trackdown.”
Tannenbaum is survived by his son Eric, president of Artists Television Group; two daughters, Audrey and Madelyn; four grandchildren; and his ex-wife.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that, due to his love of animals, donations be made to the Amanda Foundation, which can be reached at (310) 278-2935.