There's a reason why they call Mike Darnell the "dark prince" of reality TV. Darnell, who on Friday announced his exit as the president of alternative entertainment at Fox, is still best known for his in-your-face fare like Joe Millionaire, Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction, The Swan, When Animals Attack and Man vs. Beast.
Some of those shows, like Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire and Temptation Island, led to juicy TV scandals. (It's why the New York Times once billed him as TV's "point man for perversity.") But Darnell also oversaw the biggest TV phenomenon of the past decade: American Idol, a show that was unbeatable in its prime...
The big screen isn't the only place to find your favorite superheroes this summer. Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, Hawkeye and Black Widow will kick some bad-guy butt as the stars of a new animated series, Disney XD's Marvel's Avengers Assemble. "People will be blown away," promises Jeph Loeb, the head of Marvel Television, who stresses that these episodes have been made with passion and care. "Our job is to create stories that make your heart race, to re-create that feeling you get when you first open the comic book."
No one saves face in director Steven Soderbergh's ghoulishly entertaining, opulently produced Behind the Candelabra (Sunday, 9/8c), HBO's grandest, gaudiest and most fascinating movie in quite a long while — probably since last year's Game Change, in which Julianne Moore's uncanny impersonation of Sarah Palin swept the awards the way Michael Douglas is likely to repeat with his equally astonishing transformation into the flamboyant but closeted "Mr. Showmanship" Liberace.
Well-known bandanna enthusiast Bret Michaels — front man of Poison, former reality-show Lothario, Celebrity Apprentice champion and composer of drunk-girl karaoke classic "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" — hardly seems like the kind of guy who'd get excited talking about RV countertops.
Will Arnett, David Cross, Portia de Rossi
From the outside, soundstage No. 7 at Los Angeles's Culver Studios looks like an unremarkable airplane hangar. Inside? The fourth-season resurrection of the cult comedy Arrested Development rages in full eccentric swing as Cinco de Quatro — a fictional holiday meant to upstage the May 5 Mexican fiesta — is being celebrated noisily.
It all started, oddly enough, on the set of director Steven Soderbergh's gritty, Oscar-winning 2000 drama Traffic. "Steven said to me, 'You ever think of playing Liberace?'" remembers Michael Douglas of the first time he was approached to portray the ultra-effeminate yet closeted pianist who was the world's highest-paid entertainer for decades. "And I thought, 'This guy's f---ing with me. I'm playing the drug czar! Is this some kind of director's trick?'"
The Yoda Chorincles
The Force will be strong in Times Square this week. To celebrate the premiere of the new Cartoon Network special LEGO Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles, LEGO and Lucasfilm have teamed up to bring a massive recreation of a X-wing Starfighter to New York City.
Made of 5,335,200 LEGO bricks, the model — based on the iconic ship Luke Skywalker & Co. fly in the Star Wars movies — was transported to the United States from the LEGO Model Shop in Kladno, Czech Republic, where it was constructed by a team of 32 builders. It is an exact replica — at 42 times the size — of the LEGO Star Wars set No. 9493. It will be parked in Times Square Thursday through Saturday, May 23-25.
Does Someone Have to Go
Have you ever wanted to take control of your office and expose fellow coworkers that may be too lazy, too overpaid or just plain annoying? Fox is granting that power to three companies in the new reality series Does Someone Have To Go? (premiering Thursday at 9/8c)
"It's basically Survivor meets The Office," says Fox president of alternative entertainment Mike Darnell. "There's always someone in a company who the employees feel should be gone and they feel the boss is too stupid to see it. If the employees decided somebody's fired, then they're gone, but they take it really seriously and there's a lot of emotion."
In the show's first episode, bosses from the Illinois-based company Velocity Merchant Services (VMS) put their employees to task by having them survey a number of factors — including gross productivity and yearly salary — to decide who should be demoted, have their income slashed, or fired on the spot. In the end, the employees nominate three colleagues to face the chopping block, all in the name of company improvement.
It's going to be a long off-season, especially where network TV is concerned, if the offerings don't soon improve from the dregs on display on this inauspicious opening night. Think of it as an excuse to catch up on repeats — or to dive into your DVR and/or On Demand archive to see what's new to you.
The only advice I have after enduring the pilot episode of NBC's woeful comedy Save Me is: Save yourself. This shrill parable of redemption, being burned off in back-to-back episodes (Thursday, 8/7c), is like a spiritual Enlightened for the tone deaf. Anne Heche, at her most manic (and that's saying something), stars as Beth Harper, a heroine possessed with an unbearable lightness of being — or you could just stop at unbearable — when she is suddenly transformed from an "angry drunken bitch" (her words) into a cockeyed optimist seemingly filled with a holy spirit after nearly choking to death on a sandwich.
Charlie McDermott, Patricia Heaton
On this final night of the official broadcast season, let's focus on the good times, shall we? Two of TV's finest comedies, ABC's underappreciated The Middle and the much-honored Modern Family, go out with a flourish, and perhaps a sniffle or two, as the Heck and Dunphy/Pritchett clans experience life-changing and/or affirming ceremonies likely to strike home for many viewers.