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Tartikoff left the coast, but not the business

He doesn't live in Los Angeles or New York. Doesn't do power lunches or chichi cocktail parties.

He plays softball. Does the dishes. Ferries kids around in a car pool.

Oh, and by the way _ just in case you were wondering where all that talent is going _ Brandon Tartikoff is also creating television shows like crazy.

Right here, in this "Crescent City," which is near a coast, but not the ones he used to work on.

Shocking as it must be to the television and movie executives he left behind, the former chief of NBC and Paramount Pictures has found there is rewarding life outside television's twin cities.

"In this day and age of faxes, conference calls and Fed Exes, you don't have to be in New York or L.A. to get it done," Tartikoff told a standing-room-only luncheon at the annual Public Television Meeting on Monday.

Since relocating his family to New Orleans in September for much-needed medical therapy for his daughter, who was seriously injured in a car accident, Tartikoff has produced three television shows with local stations. He hopes to sell one to PBS nationally _ but, if not, he's already the creator and executive producer of four mid-season network series produced around the nation, including one in Florida (and none in Los Angeles or New York).

"He's a busy man," agrees wife Lilly, who confirms he does dishes. "All we gave him was a pad of paper."

It's how Tartikoff, one of television's brightest programers, deals with change. The speech he gave about surviving in a multichannel television future to PBS executives could also be a blueprint of his own philosophy.

Those who succeed will adapt to change.

When Lilly and Brandon decided the only way their daughter, Calla, could fully recover was to work with a New Orleans physical therapist, Tartikoff did what is just about unthinkable in the entertainment industry: He chucked a powerful, high-paying job to be with his family.

Almost a year later, Calla, now 10, is better. And Tartikoff is working hard. Though he's not the chairman of NBC, where he oversaw creation of Hill Street Blues, Cheers, L.A. Law and Seinfeld, or head of Paramount, where he made Patriot Games and the upcoming The Firm, Tartikoff says he's a content man.

"Now, I only get to work on my pet projects," Tartikoff said in an interview after lunch. "Now, it's 90 percent inspiration and 10 percent perspiration. Before, it used to be the other way around."

Among his pet projects are four series that he says are destined to be mid-season replacements, and his PBS dream show. The man who used to unveil network lineups has one of his own.

Weekly World News. Straight from Lantana, Fla., Tartikoff plans a version of the supermarket tabloid, done docudrama-style each week, treating the bizarre stories as if they might be true. "We are playing it straight," Tartikoff said. "There will be no winking at the camera. It will be labeled an entertainment program. If people want to think they found the Titanic baby in the middle of ocean, it's up to them." He said two networks are interested in the project.

A new action-drama, not finally titled, set in Maryland. Tartikoff is working on it with blockbuster author Tom Clancy (Patriot Games). For NBC.

A steamy series set in Nashville about the ex-spouses of country singers. For CBS.

House of the Rising Sun. From New Orleans, a "gothic murder mystery that's like Twin Peaks if Twin Peaks made sense." Tartikoff says he's negotiating with two networks.

Under New Management: His New Orleans-based topical soap opera for PBS. Set in a Big Easy restaurant, the show will be taped the day it's aired to make it as timely as possible. The series was written, directed and performed by local talent.

He's also trying syndicate a game show and a children's show he created for New Orleans stations.

To be sure, it's a different world than Tartikoff is used to. He's selling now, not buying. On Monday, he brought his Under New Management pilot to PBS programing chief Jennifer Lawson for review.

"I'm not used to people saying "we'd love your show, we'd like to buy your show, now go raise the money!' (to produce it)," Tartikoff said during his speech, to laughter. "So I brought these."

He pulled out a pair of knee pads with PBS on them, prompting greater laughs from producers who know what it's like trying to plead for money from the notoriously stringent system.

Lawson said later she didn't know if PBS would pick up the series, but outgoing president Bruce Christensen said "given Brandon's record, he's going to get a very good look."

So Tartikoff waits. Does dishes. Car pools. Plays softball. Hosts a radio show. Helps Calla. Creates his own unique TV. Is always changing, always adapting.

It's Brandon Tartikoff and his brave new world.