Television had never seen anything like the team of Grant Tinker and Brandon Tartikoff. They took a deadbeat, ridiculed network, NBC, and made it the symbol of TV quality in the 1980s.
But it was how they did it that turned heads. Tinker, who became NBC chairman in 1981, and Tartikoff, a boy wonder who was put in charge of the entertainment division in 1980 at age 31, gave the corporate side of network TV a human face of wit, frankness, sophistication and a willingness to gamble.
Tinker had headed TV's most prestigious production firm, MTM, a boutique operation that turned out such award-winners as "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "Lou Grant." His was the steady, experienced, dignified presence that gave free reign to Tartikoff's instincts as a budding programming genius who embodied the tastes of the TV generation.
While Tinker gave once-
frantic NBC a calm, confident and open executive style, Tartikoff used the groundbreaking police show, "Hill Street Blues," and a blatant commercial series, "The A-Team," with the flashy Mr. T, as keys to a combination of quality and ratings success.
An astonishing flow of hits followed, capped by "The Cosby Show."
Tinker and Tartikoff gave slow-starting but admirable series such as "Cheers," "St. Elsewhere" and "Family Ties" time to grow and blossom. TV's best creators responded by flocking to NBC. And the hits kept coming --"Miami Vice" (from a two-word Tartikoff instinct scribbled as a memo: "MTV cops"), "The Golden Girls," "L.A. Law."
In 1988 and 1989, NBC won the ratings competition for an unprecedented 68 consecutive weeks, an astonishing popular vote.
The Taste Makers project was edited by David Fox, assistant Sunday Calendar editor.