Darnell credits childhood interest for broad success

Fox prexy of alternative entertainment Mike Darnell says he has “an instinct” for what makes a hit reality show. But it’s more than just a gut feeling that has helped him shepherd “American Idol” to the No. 1 spot on television for six straight seasons and oversee hits like “Joe Millionaire,” “Hell’s Kitchen,” and “So You Think You Can Dance.”

“I want to get ratings,” Darnell says. “Sometimes that means controversy. Sometimes that means something sweet. Sometimes it means something aspirational. Whatever’s working, that’s what I’ll go for.

“Even as a young boy I would get the fall preview TV Guide and predict what was going to be a hit or failure,” adds Darnell, who began his Hollywood career as a child actor. “I was aware of ratings very young. I used to go to the school library, pick up the almanac and memorize the top 40 shows for every year from the beginning of TV.”

Darnell is planning future projects with Next Entertainment’s Mike Fleiss. The old friends recently teamed up on “More to Love.”

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