As the president of alternative programming at Fox, Mike Darnell developed a well-earned reputation as a showman with a wicked mind. "I usually like to take a pitch and twist it into something more evil or more dangerous," says Darnell, who was once called "Fox's Point Man For Perversity" by the New York Times.
Darnell, the man behind some of the most notorious reality series and specials on television over the past two decades, left Fox at the end of July. He's now moving on to Warner Bros. Television Group as president of unscripted and alternative TV.
It's the end of an era for Fox, which meets reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour on Thursday without Darnell for the first time in decades. Network execs are still mulling Darnell's replacement. (Among names that have been rumored for the job: National Geographic Channels CEO David Lyle and president Howard T. Owens; Sharon Levy, Spike TV's executive vice president of original series; and Nigel Lythgoe Productions president Kary McHoul; among others).
American Idol was easily the biggest hit on Darnell's watch, but we all know the ins and outs of that show. Now that he's exiting Fox, we asked Darnell to recount the rest of his greatest reality hits — and misses.
Fox's longtime head of alternative programming Mike Darnell, who helped launch American Idol and Joe Millionaire, is leaving his post after 18 years, he announced Friday.
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.
Think you've got a dysfunctional workplace? You're not the only one.
Fox is bringing work home from the office with its new reality show Does Someone Have to Go?, which premieres Thursday at 9/8c. In the series, the latest creation from veteran reality show producers Mike Darnell (Joe Millionaire) and Cris Abrego (The Surreal Life), company power is turned over from management to the employees. The employees must then select three underperforming co-workers who run the risk of getting fired if they can't change their tune.