Mike Darnell, Unscripted TV President, Warner Bros., and Susan Levison, EVP, Original Programming & Production, VH1, remember their friend and colleague Howard Schultz, who died Monday in Hawaii while vacationing with his family. As head of alternative programming at Fox, Darnell greenlighted Schultz’s controversial series The Moment Of Truth, in which contestants were given a polygraph test.
“Howard was a fearless producer…no matter how crazy or irreverent a concept was, he would go at it full force and with no regrets,” Darnell said. “He was an absolute pleasure to work with, straightforward, funny and someone you could always count on. I am shocked and saddened by the news and my heart goes out to his family.”
Levison also worked in Fox’s reality department before taking the reins of comedy for the network. As head of programming at VH1, Levison recently oversaw Schultz’s latest series, the headline-grabbing Dating Naked.
“Although I’d known Howard in passing for years, I didn’t get to know him well until he produced Dating Naked for us last summer. During preproduction we flew all of the finalists into LA to be interviewed in person. Howard sat front and center during every single interview, but not only did he attend the casting finals, he led them! He peppered every prospective contestant with questions, trying to determine what made them tick,” Levison said. “Sometimes he used psychology, asking them about their childhoods, their parents. Sometimes he’d go light, seeing if they could roll with his playful – even cheeky – questions. But all along, he was relentlessly curious and unbelievably engaged. His eyes were bright with the fun he was having. That was Howard in a nutshell – charming, passionate, and someone who loved every minute of it.”