Mike Darnell — the evil-genius who brought us “Alien Autopsy,” the Rick Rockwell/Darva Conger insta-marriage train wreck “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire,” the singles-in-a-hot-tub series “Temptation Island,” the slice-and-dice-a-chick series “The Swan,” “World’s Scariest Police Chases,” “When Animals Attack!”, and, of course, “American Idol,” has stepped down as president of “alternative entertainment” at the Fox broadcast network.
“Mike Darnell Votes Himself Out…Of Fox Broadcasting Company,” the network said Friday, in an announcement that was trademark Darnell.
“The results are in,” the network continued, explaining Darnell would pack his bags when his current contract expires at the end of June, ending of one of most colorful broadcast network runs.
“I’m extremely grateful that Fox has offered me a new long term contract (and anyone who knows me won’t believe I’m saying this) but I’ve decided it’s time for a change,” Darnell said in Friday’s announcement.
“With my current deal ending in June, and having been here for 18 years (kind of a record in Hollywood), I had to make a decision: either stay (and basically admit to myself I was going to retire at Fox…not a terrible choice) or leave and try something new.”
“I’ve been in ‘reality’ since before it was even called that, and it has truly been an amazing ride.”
Darnell is such a big deal in the reality-TV world, that even News Corporation chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch weighed in on his exit Friday, saying, “Mike took risks at a critical time and was a pioneering force in shaping the reality programming genre that exists today. He’s a smart and fearless executive who will be missed.”
Darnell’s exit comes at a critical time, reality-TV-wise, for Fox.
With its two singing competitions gobbling up around three hours of the network’s 15 hours of primetime each week — “The X Factor” in the fall, and “American Idol” in the spring – and both down dramatically in the ratings this past TV season, Fox slipped from first place to second among the 18-to-49-year-old viewers who are the currency of broadcast TV primetime ad sales.
This week Fox announced a virtually all new lineup of mentor/judges for “X Factor,” with Kelly Rowland and Paulina Rubio joining Demi Lovato to set up what Darnell described as a sort of reality-TV Charlie’s Angels for show creator/mentor Simon Cowell. Ick.
Meanwhile, betting money has all of the judges out on “American Idol,” replaced by a judge table made up of former Idolettes who’ve gone on to stardom – to remind viewers of “Idol’s” status as the only singing competition in this country to produce actual stars. Jennifer Hudson reportedly is on board, and the producers are also in various states of talk-i-tude with reps for Kelly Clarkson, Adam Lambert, and Clay Aiken.