In his 18 years as head of Fox’s alternative department, Mike Darnell built a brand of noisy, often outrageous, envelope-pushing programming, from specials like When Animals Attack! in his early days at the network to attention-grabbing projects like the Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? special and Joe Millionaire series, Temptation Island, The Swan, and blockbuster American Idol later on.
What does Darnell, now head of unscripted and alternative at Warner Bros. TV, think of the breakout success of Fox’s new reality series The Masked Singer?
The veteran top reality executive complimented the show for being able to stand out in a crowded unscripted space with its unique whodunit twist. Darnell also sees The Masked Singer, probably the biggest out-of-the-gate hit since he left the network in 2013, as a return to the irreverent Fox brand of his tenure and argues that its success is good news for the entire reality genre.
“I think Masked Singer is a nice harkening back to when Fox was all about – not just unscripted but scripted too — which is being maverick and taking big swings and doing unusual stuff,” he told Deadline at TCA where he was promoting his high-profile new CBS talent series World’s Best, which launches after the Super Bawl. “I enjoyed that ride for 18 years, and I think this was different enough and got people’s attention. It also is good for the reality genre because it says that with a new idea that feels fresh, you can get people to come to a show.”
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