Shortly after we broke the news of Fox President of Alternative Programming Mike Darnell‘s decision to depart the network after 18 years, I’ve got to speak to Darnell about the bombshell news. “I remember considering leaving the last time,” he said. “This happens every time my contract is up. It’s always an excruciating decision.” This time he couldn’t resist the temptation of other opportunities. “I love it here, but there are all these other things out there.” What are the things he’s most attracted to? “I will take a little time to feel my way through, but it will be something that is creative and exciting that has a sense of entrepreneurship,” Darnell said, indicating that a career as a producer might be in the cards. He has already signed with Mark Itkin, the co-head of TV at WME.
As for the timing of his decision to leave Fox and likely the executive ranks, “my dream was to work on a big show that will go down in the history books,” he said. “I achieved that with American Idol, which may be the biggest show that ever was.” But Idol, as well as newbie The X Factor, had been taking up a lot of Darnell’s time over the last few seasons with a series of shakeups and attempts to keep Idol fresh and relevant after 10 years amid an inevitable ratings decline. “The last couple of years have been very intense, with me taking on duties of a current executive and line producer,” Darnell admitted. As for his legacy, “I’ve done good things, I’ve done bad things, I’ve done funny things, and I’ve done evil things,” said Darnell, whose stature in the business is far greater than his 5’2″ height. Fox’s search for Darnell’s successor won’t be easy. “They’ve got some some really small shoes to fill,” he quipped.
Related: Anyone Care Who Won ‘American Idol’?