NEW YORK (AP) — Fox reality chief Mike Darnell said Friday that he's exiting the network after an 18-year stay, ending a reign that — depending on one's point of view — has made TV more exciting or more squalid. And great for Fox.
In a puckishly worded announcement, the 50-year-old Darnell said that the end of his current contract in June presented him with 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," added the exec who was once called "the world's scariest programmer." But 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, who was named the network's president of alternative entertainment in 2007, joined Fox in 1994 as director of specials.
During nearly two decades, he oversaw such programs as "American Idol," ''So You Think You Can Dance," ''Joe Millionaire," ''My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance," ''Temptation Island" and "The Simple Life."
While many of his shows won Fox high ratings and loads of attention, his irrepressible (and some said shameless) style pushed Fox and reality TV to new extremes, as with "When Animals Attack," ''World's Scariest Police Shootouts" and "The Moment of Truth," whose players were strapped to a polygraph and asked embarrassing questions.
His most recent creation premiered Thursday night. "Does Someone Have to Go?" takes its cameras into small businesses whose employees are obliged to rat out underperforming colleagues, then choose one co-worker to recommend for firing.