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Grant Tinker died Monday. He was 90.

If you don't know who Grant Tinker was, if you are of a certain age you almost certainly know many of the television programs for which he had some level of responsibility, either as a producer or the network executive who put them on the air.

"The Mary Tyler Moore Show." "The Bob Newhart Show." "Hill Street Blues." "Lou Grant." "Cheers." "Rhoda." "Family Ties." "St. Elsewhere." "Miami Vice." "The Cosby Show."

For many of these programs, he was the president of MTM Enterprises, which he founded with his then-wife, Mary Tyler Moore. For others, he was the chairman and CEO of NBC, which he turned around, restoring both its ratings and profits in the eighties.

Tinker was known as a man of both elegant taste and a willingness to get out of the way of the creative types who wrote, directed and produced these shows; he was especially known as a guy who loved writers, and empowered them in a way that made them want to reach for the highest denominator. And he was well-known within the media industry for a dictum that, I think, could be applied to a wide variety of industries:

“First be best, then be first.”
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