Almost anyone raised on television during the 1980s knows the handiwork of Tartikoff, who, with Fred Silverman, helped restore the luster to the once-proud Peacock, which had fallen on hard times in the 1970s.
Barely in his 30s, Tartikoff came to power just as network TV was changing to a demo-focused medium. Youth served him well as hits such as “Miami Vice,” “Cheers” and “Family Ties” made NBC far hipper than its rivals. Quality counted as well: “Hill Street Blues” revolutionized character-based drama under the watch of the Long Island-born Yale grad.
But while he was young, Tartikoff didn’t have tunnel vision. His most successful programming move came when he asked Bill Cosby and producer powerhouse Tom Werner and Marcy Carsey to develop a comedy for the network. Must See TV was born.
After leaving NBC in 1991, Tartikoff had a brief career in movies as the head of Paramount Pictures, and later worked as an independent TV producer. His work at NBC, however, remains his legacy.