Grant Tinker brought an abundance of style to television with beloved shows such as The Cosby Show and Hill Street Blues to the audience as both a producer and a network boss. He was best-known as the nurturing hand at MTM Enterprises, the production company he founded in 1970, and ran for a decade. He scored with some of the most respected and best-loved programs, including Lou Grant, Rhoda, Phyllis, The Bob Newhart Show, and of course, the series that starred his business partner and then-wife, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. GRANT TINKER —>
Tinker, who had come to NBC as a management trainee in 1949 with legendary founder David Sarnoff still in charge, left the company for the last time at the end of an era, as NBC, along with its parent RCA, was about to be swallowed by General Electric. He worked for this parent company on three separate occasions.
After initially leaving NBC, he moved into advertising. At a time when ad agencies were heavily responsible for crafting programs its clients would sponsor, Tinker was a vice president at the Benton & Bowles agency, when he helped develop The Dick Van Dyke Show for Procter & Gamble. There he met, and fell for, the young actress the whole country was about to fall in love with: Mary Tyler Moore. Soon after the new CBS sitcom had begun its five-season run in fall 1961, Tinker returned to NBC, this time as Vice President of West Coast Programming.
Tinker founded MTM and began developing its first series: a comedy to revive the flagging career of his wife. The sitcom, which premiered on CBS in 970, was a critical and popular smash for seven seasons and became the flagship series of a studio whose mewing kitten (parodying the MGM lion) came to signify some of television’s best. Along the way, MTM became an incubator for some of the small screen’s best writers and producers, many of whom — like Steven Bochco and James L. Brooks — continue to excel. Programs like WKRP in Cincinnati, The White Shadow, Remmington Steele, and St. Elsewhere became wildly popular.
By 1981, Tinker’s stewardship of MTM had ended (as had his marriage to Moore) when he returned to NBC. Under Tinker’s regime, the network enjoyed a remarkable recovery. The Cosby Show was an overnight hit, but slow starters such as Hill Street Blues (which was from MTM), Family Ties, and Cheers were allowed to find their audience and became hits, too. Other hits included Night Court and The Golden Girls.
In 1994, Grant wrote a book entitled Tinker in Television. That same year, he won a personal Peabody Award. Tinker was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1997.
Grant Tinker was 90.
This just in from TCM: A tornado touched down in Atlanta, forcing most of the staff to take shelter in the studio canteen in the basement. The good news… Everyone was safe.
Until next time> “never forget”