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Mike Darnell, Fox reality chief, leaving network

Mike Darnell, Fox reality chief and the (oft-called) dark prince behind some of the genre's worst excesses  - oh yes, and some of its biggest successes - the last couple of decades, is leaving the network, Fox just announced. 

  Call this a surprise, conveniently released on the day before a long weekend, all the better to bury any suggestion that his departure is linked to the implosion at "American Idol" - about to undergo another overhaul, with new judges (JHud is now rumored) and maybe even new producers.

  Darnell is one of those rare executives whose style, demeanor and tastes were (and are) so distinctive that he actually made a major impact on this network and the culture at large. No one ever accused him of having good taste. But his series made a lot of noise, generated press, got a growing network attention, even notoreity - and perhaps most importantly, helped it to establish a renegade rep that set it apart from ABC, CBS and NBC.

 But the world changes, and has: His latest series, "Does Someone Have to Go?" about co-workers firing one of their own - tanked in the Nielsens.  

 Meanwhile, just a quick list - provided by Fox - indicates what that influence of yore was...

“Joe Millionaire,” “The Simple Life,” “My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé,” “The Moment of Truth,” “Trading Spouses” and “Temptation Island”; countless specials like “The Billboard Music Awards,” “The Teen Choice Awards,” “The Primetime Emmy Awards” and “The American Country Awards”;  “The Swan,” “Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction?,” “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?,” “Man vs. Beast,” “Busted on the Job,” “World’s Scariest Police Chases,” “When Animals Attack!” and “Breaking the Magician’s Code: Magic’s Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed.” 

  Mike's statement: “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,” said Darnell. “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.

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