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The Last Great Ride.

THE LAST GREAT RIDE by Brandon Tartikoff and Charles Leerhsen (Turtle Bay Books, 223 p.) restores ones faith in the humanity of television. It's straightforward, it's honest, it doesn't bluster or exaggerate, it isn't the usual executive ego trip and it has a delightful self-deprecating sense of humor that easily and pleasantly communicates the remarkable Tartikoff personality.

From its pages rises a most appealing human being: Tartikoff is an immensely talented, event driven person who overcomes severe handicaps (like cancer) and a terrible accident that severely injured his little girl, and. without bragging, he makes it quite clear that, under his guidance, one of America's prime networks made it to the top - and stayed there - defying the competition for years.

It was Tartikoff who, in an inspired flash, decided on convincing Bill Cosby to do The Cosby Show that was to become a classic (and a huge money-earner for NBC), and it was he who gave the green light to Miami Vice and Don Johnson.

Tartikoff literally lived his job, and the book makes it clear that it was all-consuming, exhilarating and -at times-depressing. Yet, he clearly thrived in the frantic environment, in the negotiations, the casting sessions, the agents' pitches and even the support of his superiors, like NBC topper Robert Wright and Grant Tinker, to whom he pays generous tribute.

The Last Great Ride is very well written, full of information and anecdotes, replete with insight and bursting with intelligence. Tartikoff doesn't pretend to be a genius, and he has the ability to view both himself and the medium realistically. And the examples he has chosen are both enlightening and often amusing, reflecting on himself and on the people he dealt with.

He describes how he almost turned down Don Johnson and originally objected to Michael J. Fox (because of his height) and relates how someone presented him with a video of auditions, showing how many top people slipped through his fingers (including Madonna). And there was the time when he turned down the idea of a show consisting of home videos, a concept that literally exploded on ABC some time later.

Best of all, Tartikoff the programmer doesn't pretend to have hit bull's eye every time. In fact, he notes, "I spent a lot of time during my NBC years trying to convince people that television isn't the work of the devil. The airwaves don't belong to you or your networks. They. belong to the public"- a sentiment not often heard from TV executives.

Tartikoff gifted NBC with some of its best and most popular shows - from The A Team and The Golden Girls to Family Ties, Hill Street Blues, and, of course, The Cosby Show. Each had a significant input from the super-energetic Tartikoff, even at a time when he suffered badly from his cancer treatment. In just that respect, The last Great Ride is a story of personal courage, simply and most convincingly told.

Tartikoff clearly made a major contribution not only to NBC but to television as a whole, and he knew when to quit (to join Paramount) and when to give up altogether to devote himself to his little girl's recovery. The book proves convincingly that the much-maligned world of executive television is also peopled with wonderful, warm and thoroughly decent men and women, dedicated to their jobs and aware of their responsibilities to the profits and loss columns, but somehow also able to balance it with a satisfying measure of humanity. The last Great Ride is an absolute must for your bookshelf.
COPYRIGHT 1993 TV Trade Media, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Hift, Fred
Publication:Video Age International
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Feb 1, 1993
Words:590
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