Former NBC chairman Grant Tinker has died at the age of 90, according to the Associated Press. Tinker might not be a household name, but he made a lasting impact on the television landscape, shepherding iconic shows and their creators. At a glance, his life is like a history of the medium, and two periods were arguably his most notable. First, he established MTM Enterprises with Mary Tyler Moore, to whom he was married at the time. That company produced The Mary Tyler Moore Show, naturally, as well as its spinoffs, including Rhoda and series like The Bob Newhart Show and Steven Bochco’s Hill Street Blues.
Following his divorce from Moore and time with MTM, Tinker returned to NBC—the company where he began his career in 1949 as a radio trainee—for a legendary run as chairman starting in 1981. In that period he championed programming like Cheers, The Cosby Show, and The Golden Girls, revitalizing the then flailing network. A 1987 New York Times Magazine feature on Tinker explained that “much of Tinker’s success was ascribable to his knack of finding writers and keeping them happy.“ Bochco confirmed that, saying “Going to MTM was like water to a guy crawling through the desert. MTM was virtually the only place that offered a creative environment. So I took less money to go there. We all did. But the world is a different place now.” By the time that article was published, Tinker had left NBC and started another production venture, GTG, which spawned Baywatch.
In a statement via THR’s extensive obituary, current NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke said Tinker “was a great man who made an indelible mark on NBC and the history of television that continues to this day. He loved creative people and protected them, while still expertly managing the business. Very few people have been able to achieve such a balance. We try to live up to the standards he set each and every day. Our hearts go out to his family and friends.”