Fox’s Long-Time Reality Chief Calls It Quits

Mike Darnell was head of Fox reality TV programming for 18 years (Photo: Getty Images)

Mike Darnell, one of the TV industry’s true pioneers of reality programming and one of the leaders in the Fox TV executive suite, unexpectedly resigned Friday (May 24).

Darnell and Fox made the announcement late Friday, ending Darnell’s extraordinary 18-year run as head of reality TV on Fox.

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Currently holding the title of president of alternative programming for Fox Broadcasting, Darnell, 51, has been around long enough to have overseen such seminal reality shows and specials as “When Animals Attack,” “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire,” “The Littlest Groom,” “Joe Millionaire,” “Man Vs. Beast” and scores of other Fox shows up to and including the blockbuster “American Idol.”

Darnell said he has decided to leave because he has been at it for so long at Fox. He even said Fox recently offered him another long-term contract, but Darnell decided he didn’t want to make that kind of commitment to the network. He noted that he’s been around so long that, when he started, “reality TV” was just beginning to take hold as a new category of TV show.

“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,” he said in a prepared statement.

“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.

“However, the world has changed drastically over the last few years and now with hundreds of channels and limitless ways to watch television, I’ve decided this was the perfect time to take advantage of the rapidly changing marketplace.”

Darnell’s contribution was praised by News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch. “Mike took risks at a critical time and was a pioneering force in shaping the reality programming genre that exists today,” Murdoch said in a statement. “He’s a smart and fearless executive who will be missed.”

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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