Fox's longtime head of alternative programming Mike Darnell, who helped launch American Idol and Joe Millionaire, is leaving his post after 18 years, he announced Friday.
Over his long career at the network, Darnell is credited with helping oversee the creation of Idol, which was the top TV show for nine straight seasons, as well as The X Factor, MasterChef and So You Think You Can Dance. He also played a big role in some of Fox's most infamous, albeit short-lived, reality series that made an indelible mark on pop culture, such as Joe Millionaire, The Simple Life, Temptation Island, Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?, Trading Spouses and When Animals Attack.
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Darnell's exit comes after a season for both of the network's singing competition series. The X Factor, only in its second year, dropped 18 percent despite the addition of high-profile judge Britney Spears. She announced earlier this year that she would not be returning, and Kelly Rowland and Paulina Rubio recently signed on for Season 3. Season 12 of American Idol, which just wrapped last week, dropped 23 percent and suffered a public backlash because of the tension between new judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj. The landmark show's last original judge, Randy Jackson, exited this year, and reports say the rest of the judging panel may follow him.
"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," Darnell said in a statement. "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."
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Darnell joined Fox in 1994 as Director of Specials after eight years at the network's L.A. affiliate KTTV and Fox TV station group. Darnell's most recent contribution to the network is the workplace reality show Does Someone Have to Go?, which premiered Thursday.
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