Brandon Tartikoff, newly annointed chairman of the NBC Entertainment Group, didn't know quite what to make of his new title.
"It doesn't really feel comfortable at this point." said the man who has been president of NBC Entertainment for the past decade. "The only two chairmen I know are Sinatra and Mao, and I'm not really a big fan of either of them."But it was the best title available since Ghost Dad was taken."
Tartikoff has handed the reins of the Entertainment presidency over to Warren Littlefield. And, strangely enough, the new chairman said the inspiration for the changes at NBC came from Barry Diller, the head honcho over at Fox.
Tartikoff said he had read that Diller stayed interested in his job after 17 years by changing what he focused on in the company. "And that's what I'm doing right now," the NBC exec added.
While he'll be stepping back from the day-to-day scheduling and network operations, it was still the same old Tartikoff appearing before the nation's television critics. He came on stage with rapper Will Smith, a.k.a. the Fresh Prince, for a rap duet.
And he displayed plenty of faith in NBC's fall schedule and the Peacock's ability to remain No. 1 in the ratings.
"I'm confident we're going to win the season for a couple of reasons," Tartikoff said. First, the quality of NBC's new shows.
And second, "I don't see any momentum happening at the other two main competitors (ABC and CBS)."
Welcome To My Nightmare: Tartikoff wasn't the only one with a surprise up his sleeve. When he took the podium, the TV writers in the audience put on Bart Simpson masks, kindly provided by the folks at Fox a week earlier.
"This is what I dream about at night," Tartikoff said. "This is my nightmare."
Smith's evaluation was more succinct - "This is ugly."
Bart v. Bill: Getting back to the topic even TV writers are getting sick of, Tartikoff has a few thoughts of his own on the impending battle between "The Crosby Show" and "The Simpsons" on Thursday nights.
"We're going to take a dent on Thursday night," he said. But he pointed out the move by CBS to switch "48 Hours" from Thursdays to Saturdays may help - that the older audience that tuned into "48 Hours" may well prefer "Crosby" to the youth-oriented "Simpsons."
"My secret hope is that when it all washes away, whle we may lose some share points on the younger side, we may gains some of them back on the other end, the over 35s," Tartikoff said.
Besides, when one strong show is moved to take on another strong show, "History usually favors the incumbent," he said. He asked his 7-year-old daughter what she will watch on Thursday nights.
"Cosby, because it was there first," she said.