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.
Question: Where is The Moment of Truth program? It seems it goes on the air for one or two weeks, then disappears. It is going to come back? Also, is anything going on with The View and Elisabeth Hasselbeck? When are they going to get rid of her? If not, this program is doomed to go off the air. What do you think?
Answer: Like most critics, I¹d do cartwheels if the repulsive Moment of Truth never came back, but the reason it comes and goes without much warning is that Fox sees it as a utility player: something that can plug holes and attract an audience whenever or wherever the situation allows. Truth was scheduled to return on a regular basis in the fall on Thursdays, but was pulled late in the game to make room for the more slapsticky Wipeout knockoff Hole in the Wall, which tonally will make a better fit with the raucous Kitchen Nightmares. So for now Moment of Truth is on hold until midseason, but it will definitely be back, although the bloom is somewhat off the rose, since the
Brooke Burns by Jeffrey Mayer/ WireImage.com
Fox's Moment of Truth will take a moment and sit out the fall, instead ceding its Thursdays-at-8 time slot to the new show Hole in the Wall.Based on a high-rated Japanese game show turned global phenomenon, Hole in the Wall has contestants facing barriers speeding toward them with cut-out shapes. Each team of players must contort their bodies individually or in unison to fit through or be dunked into a pool below. It's best described as "human Tetris"; watch YouTube video here.Brooke Burns and Mark Thompson host the U.S. edition, premiering Sept. 11. Moment of Truth will return midseason. Matt MitovichRelated: Fox Likes Hole in the Wall Game ABC's Wipeout Clears Season-Renewal Obstacle
24 by Kelsey McNeal/Fox and Fringe by Mark Holzberg/Fox
Matt and Mickey here at the TCA press tour. Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly has taken the stage to field questions. First discussing Fringe, Reilly says that Fox was hot to work with J.J. Abrams, and thus offered him a series "on Day 1." Pegging Fringe as "X-Files meets Indiana Jones," Reilly says, "Sometimes with these big show runners, it's all hype and no delivery.... This one is going to bring the goods." Reilly reiterates that which has been said before and by others: "24 is going to come back rocking and rolling" after suffering hard from a full season's postponement. "It was a good opportunity for [exec producer] Howard [Gordon], who is such a perfectionist," he explains. "He was really wanting this next season to be great, and it was unfortunate that he got interrupted [by the WGA strike]." Reilly adds that the "prequel" movie airing Nov. 23 "is a cool piece of business." Explaining the decision to get in bed with Ozzy Osbourne and family, Reilly ...
Want to see a critic cringe in fear? Force me to watch Dina Lohan’s narcissistic celebreality atrocity, or another hour of Mark L. Walberg presiding ghoulishly over the Moment of Truth’s hot seat. By comparison, ravenous vampires, sadistic ghosts and spectral serial killers are almost welcome and charming company.
Not that charm has anything to do with the grisly stories told on Fear Itself, a horror anthology that should represent a welcome break from network TV’s summer reality obsession. Too bad watching the show is so oppressively unpleasant. I wasn’t so much scared by the three episodes I’ve seen as ultimately repulsed.
Suspense should be nerve-tingling fun, not necessarily punishing, and most of what I’ve seen so far has been about as enjoyable as taking a sledgehammer to the temple. And just about as cheesily predictable.
On the plus side, the show looks great, even when gross, and watching familiar TV faces get
Mark Walberg by Joe Viles/Fox
While conceding that Moment of Truth isn't "doing God's work," host Mark Walberg refuses to let the Fox series absorb undeserved blame. "Quite honestly, the 'wrecking-your-family,' evildoing rap we get, I think it's crap," Walberg said in a conference call promoting Truth's May 27 return. "No family gets wrecked unless they're wrecking it anyway." To make his case, Walberg notes that only one married couple from the show has since split and they were on the skids to begin with.Walberg says Season 2 will branch out to include more questions outside the realm of infidelity and illicit sex. Example: "Did you really vote for Archuleta?" What's your take? Do the Truth-tellers know what they're getting into and thus should be prepared for any fallout? MWM
Question: Your most recent column included a complaint about Moment of Truth and its immoral premise. While I agree with the reader, I put more culpability on the competitors. If readers really want to get mad about the show, they should be angry at the complete fraud the show perpetuates. The questions are asked in advance, not at the time of the show. I hate the fake waiting time as the contestant waits to answer, but the really dumb part is that the contestants already know the questions that are coming, yet act surprised. Why would a contestant not prepare his/her family in advance? Play for the cameras to get your money, but don't tell me anyone is surprised by the answers! That's what makes this show truly stupid. It is not even honest with itself. This is why I didn't watch it after a test viewing. It is truly for the dumb.
Answer: I got several letters complaining about one aspect or another of this dreadful show in the wake of the last column, so let me just say one last time
Joe Rhodes and The Moment of Truth host Mark L. Walberg
Think Fox's controversial quiz show The Moment of Truth (Wednesdays at 8 pm/ET) is nothing but hype? TV Guide's own Joe Rhodes strapped himself in for a revealing polygraph test to find out. Here, he gives us his first-person account.
I'm not really nervous until the rubber tubes are strapped across my chest, the cuff is fastened to my left arm, and the metal plates are attached to the first and third fingers of my right hand. Until that moment, I assume, as most people do, that getting hooked up to the Moment of Truth polygraph machine and answering a few questions will be the easiest thing in the world.
Even with nothing at stake — no chance at the show's $500,000 prize, no loved ones sitting just feet away wondering what horrible things I'm about to reveal, and no jeering studio audience — there is still something unsettling about sitting in a basement ro
Question: I would hope that in your position of some influence over television content and its value to the community, that you will do your utmost to remove one of the most contemptible and crass shows ever created: Moment of Truth. It's unfortunate that the American public and the network involved have seen it necessary to further reduce the ability of a family to sit and watch a program together. A promotion of that contemptible show was aired many times during American Idol. Consider the irony of that situation: American Idol gives hope and focus to the thoughts of hopefuls that they may achieve amazing success in life, only to have that level of inspiration decimated by the unmitigated vilification of the American family unit as perpetrated by other network advertising promotions. I watch little TV for this very reason, so perhaps I am not your normal audience, but I have been so incensed by this promotion, that I feel obligated to do something about it. This program must be ...
David Archuleta by Ray Mickshaw/FOX, Mark Walberg by Kelsey McNeal/FOX
Jeers to Fox for soiling its squeaky clean American Idol with promos for the super-sleazy Moment of Truth. Less than 15 minutes into this week's Beatles-themed sing-off, the network ran an ad for the lie-detector game show in which a contestant answers yes to the question, "Have you ever had physical relations with any of your friends' wives?" (It was followed, ironically enough, by a spot for the G-rated Horton Hears a Who!) C'mon, Fox, a lot of us watch Idol with our kids! We don't want to explain this trash to them and that's the cold, hard truth.