Mike Darnell, reality TV pioneer and overseer of ‘American Idol,’ to leave Fox

FoxWe’re not sure that all of you out there will be familiar with the name of Mike Darnell, but for those of you who are, hopefully you will understand just how much the man has really meant to the world of television in the 18 years that he was at Fox. While you can credit “Survivor” in many ways for bringing the reality TV format to America, Darnell is one of the men who helped to push it to the top.

Remember such publicity-makers as “The Simple Life” and “Joe Millionaire”? He’s responsible for getting them onto the air, along with such other shows as “The Swan,” “So You Think You Can Dance,” “Hell’s Kitchen,” “The X Factor,” “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?,” “MasterChef,” and many more. Oh, there is also a little show called “American Idol” that was the most-powerful program on TV for almost a full decade before its recent decline.

On Friday, the sad news came in that Darnell has decided to step down to pursue other ventures, and he gave an extremely honest and personal statement confirming the news:

“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. 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.”

We hope that Darnell’s contributions to TV history are well-documented, especially since we’re not sure some other shows such as “Dancing with the Stars” or “The Voice” would have existed were it not for him helping to create the road map. He is a pioneer and a man who loved what he did, so we have to wish him nothing but the best.

Meanwhile, the show goes on for “American Idol,” which is in the process of trying to correct what was possibly Darnell’s biggest error with the show in the past year: The judging panel that just couldn’t get along.

Photo: Fox

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