In this casual biography written with freelancer Rukeyser, Tinker, who has been in network television from the beginning, relates his hits and misses. After graduating from Dartmouth in 1949, he went to work for NBC radio. Shifting jobs to an advertising agency, he became involved in developing TV programming. While working for NBC on the West Coast as head of programs, he married Mary Tyler Moore. Tinker's dissection of The Dick Van Dyke Show, on which Moore co-starred, is a textbook example of what it takes to make a successful show. During this time, Tinker introduced such NBC shows as I Spy, Dr. Kildare and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.; he also rejected Bewitched. He next went to Universal, where he helped produce It Takes a Thief and Marcus Welby, M.D. Tinker also reveals that Ralph Bellamy was orginally slated to play Welby, not Robert Young. But it was at MTM Productions that Tinker made his name, first with The Mary Tyler Moore Show and then with spin-offs Lou Grant and Rhoda. Back at NBC as president, he secured the network's lineup with Cosby, Hill Street Blues, Cheers and St. Elsewhere. An interesting, often humorous read for industry and TV buffs. Photos. (Sept.)
Tinker's name has become synonymous with quality television, thanks to his cofounding (with his former wife, actress Mary Tyler Moore) of the MTM Enterprises production company and his five-year stint as chair of NBC-TV. MTM produced The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Taxi, and, most memorably, Hill Street Blues. Under Tinker's leadership, NBC shot from a dismal third to a dominant first in both the ratings and the Emmys. Throughout, and unlike some of his crasser brethren in the network executive suites, Tinker has always exuded class and an understated charm. Those qualities are evident in this memoir, which is filled with amusing anecdotes but offers generally civilized treatment of everyone (no dirt on Mary). Tinker's one target is General Electric, whose management approach at NBC alienated talent like David Letterman and sank morale to new lows. Lacking the scandalous tidbits that will bring patrons clamoring, this quality memoir is only for larger collections.-Thomas Wiener, formerly with "American Film"
Tinker had a large hand in creating "The Mary Tyler Moore Show", so he has much to be proud of. But he also invented the "warmedy"--a somewhat humorous production designed to make the audience feel "warm"--so he has a lot to answer for, too. His career has spanned the history of network TV as we know it, and here he tells all, or at least most, in a manner not all that self-serving, for he takes blame when he's deserved it. Overall, serious fans may feel he deserves far more praise than condemnation, and they'll find particularly important what he has to say about devolving network commitment to quality and the money-grubbing culture that passes for creative community at the networks. Finally, reading Tinker's memoir is sobering, for as he recounts TV history and assesses its present state, it becomes increasingly clear that TV's golden age is probably gone, never to be resurrected. Fortunately, Tinker's best work endures on Nick at Nite.