Friday, December 2, 2016

Grant Tinker R.I.P.

Grant Tinker, who was co-founder of MTM Enterprises (the company responsible for such classics as The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Bob Newhart) and who served as chairman and CEO of NBC from 1981 to 1986, died on November 28 2016 at the age of 90.

Grant Tinker was born on January 11 1926 in Stamford, Connecticut. During World War II he served in the United States Army Air Corps. He received a Bachelor of Arts in English from Dartmouth in 1949. Afterwards he became an executive trainee in NBC's radio operations department. He left in 1954 to work in advertising, first at McCann-Erickson and then at  Benton & Bowles. It while he was at Benton & Bowles that he helped develop The Dick Van Dyke Show for Procter & Gamble Co.

In 1961 Grant Tinker joined NBC as its vice president in charge of West Coast programming. There he developed such shows as Dr. Kildare, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and I Spy. In the late Sixties he left NBC for Universal and then 20th Century Fox. It was in 1969 that he founded MTM Enterprises with his wife of the time, actress Mary Tyler Moore.

MTM Enterprises would prove to be one of the most successful television companies of all time. Its first series, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, prove to be a smash hit. It would be followed by such successes as The Bob Newhart Show, Lou Grant, WKRP in Cincinnati. Hill Street Blues, Remington Steele, St. Elsewhere, and Newhart. In 1981 Grant Tinker and Mary Tyler Moore divorced, and Mr. Tinker left MTM Enterprises to become chairman and CEO of NBC.

When Grant Tinker rejoined NBC it was the lowest rated network on television. Grant Tinker approached programming on NBC with the philosophy of "First be best; then be first." He nurtured the creative talent on shows, giving them room to do their work and protecting them from studio executives who might want to meddle with their shows. Grant Tinker's programming philosophy worked out and turned NBC around. While Mr. Tinker was chairman and CEO of NBC, the network's annual profits went from $48 million to $500 million. Several classic, hit shows made their debut on NBC during his tenure there, including Hill Street Blues,Cheers, Night Court, St. Elsewhere, and The Golden Girls.

After General Electric bought out RCA, NBC's parent company, in 1986, Grant Tinker left the network. He founded GTG Entertainment with media conglomerate Gannet. Unfortunately GTG Entertainment was not successful and folded in 1990.

Grant Tinker was remarkable in that he is one of the few network executives of whom one hears producers and writers speak fondly. Both Steve Bochco, creator of Hill Street Blues, and Gary Golderberg, creator of Family Ties, acknowledged how Mr. Tinker nurtured creators. Grant Tinker's approach certainly paid off, as NBC went from being the lowest rated network at the time to the highest rated network. Of course, Grant Tinker had earlier put his philosophy to work at MTM, where he created an environment that resulted in a whole slough of quality, hit shows. Grant Tinker was blessed with an eye for talent, the ability to nurture that talent, as well as an instinct for quality shows that audiences would actually watch.

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