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Award Winners Talk Tartikoff

1/30/2005 07:00:00 PM Eastern

Attendees took time out from the NATPE convention in Las Vegas to honor Brandon Tartikoff and recognize three programming giants. The Tartikoff Legacy Awards—sponsored by the National Association of Television Program Executives, B&C, Multichannel News and Variety—were given out Jan. 25. It was a ceremony that was emotional, heartfelt and funny.

The honorees—Carole Black, the departing CEO of Lifetime Television; Jim Burrows, the director who has been associated with so many of TV's best sitcoms; and Dick Wolf, who started a stampede toward prime time crime dramas with his Law & Order franchise—were presented dish-shaped awards. When Burrows, who had a deep friendship with Tartikoff, got his award, he instructed NATPE President Rick Feldman to tilt it upward, satellite-style, “so maybe Brandon can hear.”

Tartikoff, the legendary NBC program chief through the '80s, when he took the network from nowhere to knock-out, left NBC in 1991 and died in 1997 of Hodgkin's disease.

Wolf, Burrows and Black talked about the faith Tartikoff always expressed in what they were producing. “He was the last programmer who solely worked by his gut,” Wolf said, recalling an early episode of Law & Order that aired without any commercials sold. Tartikoff didn't seem to care. “When he believed in you, you really had to screw up for him not to believe in you,” Wolf said.

Wolf later added that he regretted that Tartikoff had died shortly before L&O won its first Emmy, after six years of being nominated. After each loss, he said, Tartikoff called to say, “Maybe next year.”

Black remembered her times with Tartikoff when she worked in marketing for Disney, which had lots of shows on NBC at the time. No matter what funk she might have been in, she recalled, Tartikoff's boundless spirit always picked her up: “He obviously was having fun. He just enjoyed it.”

She also spoke of Burrows, who directed many episodes of some of the TV's most venerated comedies (and Will & Grace today): “Jim Burrows, you are the only person who ever made me stay home on Saturday night—to watch the Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

Earlier, Kevin Reilly, who is now president of NBC Entertainment—the title Tartikoff held—called Tartikoff “an enormous influence on my life.” And then he joked, “Not a week goes by I don't think about him—and that he didn't warn me about this job.”

NATPE's Feldman said the award not only honors TV's great talents but teaches a new crop of TV executives about the spirit of the late programming exec. Earlier, B&C Group Publisher Chuck Bolkcom praised Feldman as possessing the qualities Tartikoff was known for: a passion to succeed, a commitment to excellence, and a deep creative streak.

Lilly Tartikoff, Brandon's widow, talked about her husband fondly and said she knew he would have liked to be at NATPE looking at new shows. But, she allowed, “basically, I think he just liked to schmooze with you guys.”

 

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