×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TCA: Mike Darnell’s Shadow Hangs Over Fox Session

'American Idol,' 'X Factor' play an over-sized role in determining Fox's near-term fortunes

It felt strange not having Mike Darnell at a Fox press tour session. Yet the legacy of the one-time reality guru — and the issues left unresolved since the network announced his departure — lingered during Thursday’s Q&A with Fox Entertainment chief Kevin Reilly.

For years, Darnell sat in the back at the TV Critics Assn. gathering, watching one exec after another deal with the public-relations fallout from one of his latest unscripted brainchildren — from “When Animals Attack” and “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?” to “Temptation Island” to the more recent “Does Someone Have to Go?” to, oh, you get the point.

As previously noted, even if critics often disapproved of his progeny, in terms of colorful copy Darnell was the gift who kept on giving, ginning up controversy and providing front-page fodder. And for Fox, he was the secret sauce used to spice up its lineup — and the secret weapon called upon to shore up weaknesses and plug the gaps created when its scripted fare went the way of “Terra Nova.”

Although Fox’s primary current challenge wasn’t necessarily of Darnell’s making, oversight of it did fall under his purview — namely, when you hand a fifth of your 15-hour-a-week primetime lineup over to two singing competitions, “American Idol” and its knockoff “The X Factor,” what happens when they suddenly begin to cool? (One can argue the former was undercut by the latter and Simon Cowell’s ego, but for now, what’s done is done.)

During a feisty, thought-provoking session with reporters, Fox Entertainment chief Kevin Reilly talked about refocusing “Idol” back onto the contestants, saying, “It really became too much about the judges.” That makes sense, since recruiting big-name stars has turned into its own version of an escalating and expensive arms race.

Still, the larger question might be whether Fox can gradually begin to pivot away from its heavy reliance on those franchises and specifically “Idol,” which, as was witnessed with ABC and the heady success of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” can be a real bitch when the bill finally comes due.

Not surprisingly, Reilly focused primarily on Fox’s new scripted offerings and the broader state of the TV business, from how same-day ratings fail to illustrate a show’s overall reach to placing the audience for cable and upstarts like Netflix into context. And spreading more premieres throughout the year does create more possibilities to find new hits that can potentially take some of the load off “Idol” and “X Factor.”

In the near term, however, Fox’s fortunes will rest heavily on how well the network does in terms of its attempts to jump-start those programs, or at least ensure they don’t fall any further. By that measure, while Mike Darnell isn’t particularly tall of stature, the programming area he oversaw continues to cast a very long shadow.

More TV

  • Name Of The Rose

    Germany's Tele München Group Sold to Investment Firm KKR

    Global investment firm KKR has acquired Tele München Group, one of Germany’s largest television businesses. The surprise deal was announced Thursday. New York-based global investor KKR has holdings in multiple sectors, including infrastructure, energy and real estate. Tele München Group, or TMG, is active in both production and distribution; its projects include the highly anticipated [...]

  • UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report: Women, Minorities

    Hollywood Diversity Gains in TV but Falls Short in Movies

    Minorities and women have registered gains in several key areas of television but women continue to lag in movies, according to a report issued Thursday by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA. “My basic take is that TV is improving more for minorities and women than film,” said Dr. Darnell [...]

  • 60 Minutes" reporter Lara Logan takes

    Lara Logan Says She's Been 'Targeted' for Her Claims of Liberal Media Bias

    Former CBS News foreign correspondent Lara Logan appeared on “Hannity” Wednesday evening to expand on her recent remarks characterizing the media as “mostly liberal.” “It’s obvious, right, because you get targeted,” she said, explaining her earlier comments that she was committing “professional suicide” by criticizing the media. “It’s the same group of people, they’re already [...]

  • Jussie Smollett

    'Empire' Producers Consider Suspending Jussie Smollett (EXCLUSIVE)

    Fox is considering removing Jussie Smollett from production on “Empire.” Sources close to the production told Variety that producers are weighing whether to suspend the actor after he was charged Wednesday in Chicago with filing a false police report. A spokesperson for 20th Century Fox Television, which produces the series, declined to comment. Smollett’s status on [...]

  • Game of Thrones Final Season: Best

    The Best 'Game of Thrones' Merch to Get You Ready for the New Season

    We’re just weeks away from the premiere of the final season of “Game of Thrones,” and whether you’re a die-hard fan, on the hunt for a novelty gift, or a serious collector hoping to nab some memorabilia before the series signs off for good, we’ve found 10 pieces of merch that pay tribute to one [...]

  • Ryan KadroPaleyLive NY: The News Is

    Ryan Kadro Will Join Quibi to Oversee News Programming (EXCLUSIVE)

    Ryan Kadro left CBS News several weeks ago, but he isn’t leaving the news business. Kadro, the former executive producer of “CBS This Morning” is set to join Quibi, the company led by Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman that is devoted to short-form  content. Kadro is expected to oversee news programming for the subscription-based service, [...]

  • Jussie Smollett

    Jussie Smollett Charged With Filing False Police Report

    “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett has been charged with filing a false police report, the Chicago police said Wednesday. “Detectives will make contact with his legal team to negotiate a reasonable surrender for his arrest,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said on Twitter. Smollett is due to appear in court for a bond hearing at 1:30 p.m. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content