The Swan

2004, TV Show


Exit Interview: Reality Guru Mike Darnell Recounts His Most Notorious Shows

Mike Darnell

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.

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Q&A: Fox Reality Kingpin Mike Darnell on Why He's Leaving, and What's Next

Mike Darnell

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... read more

Shedding for the Wedding Producer: I Despise Bridalplasty

Shedding for the Wedding

Shedding for the Wedding helps couples look their best on their big day, but don't confuse it with E!'s competition show Bridalplasty.

"I despise Bridalplasty," said executive producer Dave Broome Friday at the Television Critics Association winter previews. " I would never make a... read more

E! Orders Bridal Plastic Surgery Competition Series

Shanna Moakler

Just when you thought you've seen it all on TV, E! has ordered a new reality show that combines weddings and plastic surgery.

Bridalplasty will feature 12 brides-to-be competing in wedding-themed challenges to win the surgical procedure of her choice, the network announced Thursday.

VIDEO: Advice for brides on a budget from David Tutera

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A Winter of TV Discontent?

Skeet Ulrich in Jericho by Cliff Lipson/CBS

Just a thought: If the strike lasts much longer, do you think CBS' Big Brother house has room for all of us? I joke, of course, but I also fear that if things don't get resolved soon, it's going to be a long, cold winter indeed for fans of good old everyday regular non-reality TV.In the last few days, we’ve seen cliff-hanger episodes of Desperate Housewives and Heroes that felt like season finales, and for all we know, that’s what they might be, if production doesn’t resume early in the new year for the back half of their seasons. For the first month of the writers’ strike, viewers didn’t feel much pain (except for fans of late-night comedy, the first casualty) because we were in a sweeps month chock-full of original episodes. Life went on as usual. That’s about to end. There are scattered episodes of many series yet to air in December, and a few leftovers for early 2008. But come the new year, the TV landscape’s going to start looking mighty diffe... read more

I enjoyed both Extreme ...

Question: I enjoyed both Extreme Makeover and The Swan. Why are they no longer on the air? Answer: The trend in reality moved away from these sorts of physical makeover shows, although ABC has ordered four special editions of Makeover to air in the future. (When Extreme Makeover: Home Edition exploded in the ratings, ABC went with the numbers.) As for The Swan — and I don't mean to be insulting — but even the bottom-feeders in Fox's reality division must have realized they couldn't milk this ghastly freak show more than twice. (Second time around, the curiosity factor had ebbed, thankfully.) Hey, Matt fans! Join our exclusive reader panel to share your thoughts about TV Guide and your favorite shows, plus enter our Talk to TV Guide Sweepstakes for a chance to win a free trip for two to L.A. to attend the 2006 TV Guide After Party following the Emmy Awards. Sign up here ... read more

(Warning: Do not read if you haven't...

(Warning: Do not read if you haven't watched the Shield finale and intend to do so.)

Easily the most shattering episode of this TV week came from a show that has delivered the goods for the last 11 hours of what has been arguably The Shield's best season yet.

I'm talking about the cliff-hanger finale of The Shield's split season (10 more episodes are scheduled to air early next year), which really seems to me more like a season finale. The producers have yet to declare the back half of this fifth season The Shield's series finale, but given the enormity of what transpired in this latest episode, my gut tells me that the best creative decision would be for them to wrap the show in these next 10 episodes and go out on a dramatic high.

The dramatic stakes have rarely been more intense as poor Lem (the excellent Kenneth Johnson read more

With all this talk about ...

Question: With all this talk about Fox's schedule and how there isn't enough room for The Simple Life to return and how Prison Break won't return until May, don't you think it's time Fox got with the program and became the real fourth network, after 18 years (truly an appropriate age to finally grow up and be an adult). Shouldn't the network move the local 10 pm/ET news to 11 to make way for original programming? Answer: This question has come up a lot lately, especially in the wake of the Prison Break situation, so this is a good time to remind everyone once again of the "business" side of the TV equation. In Fox's early days, it programmed a limited number of hours for regulatory reasons (most of which no longer exist). But even if Fox desired to program a 22-hour weekly schedule, which many months of the year (when American Idol is absent, say) would seem to be more than this network of The Swan, Stacked and Killer Instinct could handle, it's a fact that Fox's local affiliates ... read more

If you can't stand reality shows...

If you can't stand reality shows then this one is probably akin to one of Dante's circles of Hell. But for unscripted-TV fans this is the equivalent of giving a junkie crack. The show combines reality "stars" from nearly every show, like Joe Schmo, The Amazing Race, Survivor and even The Swan. While it's missing the charm of the original '70s series — less hair flipping makes a big difference — it still includes all the silly games like the dunk tank and the obstacle course. Just good old-fashioned fun. And I think that the cast members of the Real World/Road Rules Challenge, like Mike the Miz and Coral, have an advantage because they've been doing contests like this for years on MTV. But the real problem with this show is the fact that teams have to vote to evict one of their players each week. Because fan favorites like Charla and Chip's wife, Kim, are nice compared to the brute force of so read more

I cannot believe what NBC ...

Question: I cannot believe what NBC did during the premiere of The Law Firm! I have never witnessed something so egregious in reality television. They actually aired a preview for the next episode, which showed who was eliminated in the premiere before the episode was over and the people were eliminated! I just do not understand how that could happen. Sorry, just had to rant and would love to hear your opinion on this ridiculous TV low. Now NBC is compromising its own show for advertising? Answer: Jeez, I was hoping this letter was a slam against the show itself, not the promos. I watched an advance tape of this one, so I didn't see the actual broadcast or the promos, and this is the only complaint I heard about it. I suppose I would care more if I gave a shrug about the show itself, but if this is true, that is beyond sloppy and you have every right to be upset. But really, more egregious than The Swan? Or Who's Your Daddy? I guess the point here is that the only thing more shameles ... read more

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Premiered: March 29, 2004, on FOX
Rating: None
User Rating: (14 ratings)
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Premise: Self-described ugly ducklings undergo extreme makeovers before competing in a beauty contest in this reality series, which supplies them with a life coach and a team of stylists, surgeons and trainers. The show took a critical beating, but scored well enough for a `Swan II' follow-up the following season.


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