Michael H. "Mike" Darnell (born May 18, 1962) is an American television executive who is most well known as the Director of Specials for the Fox broadcast network from 1994 until 2007, and president of alternative entertainment from August 2007 until June 2013, titles which effectively had him oversee the network's reality television programming division during the genre's rise. Darnell is currently President of Unscripted and Alternative Television at Warner Bros. Television, which he began on August 12.
Darnell was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Eileen and Gene Darnell. His father was a policeman, and Mike was raised and attended public school in Philly's Northeast section. When he was 10, a talent manager saw him singing at a Police Athletic League event and encouraged him to do commercials. When he was 12, his family moved to California, where he eventually appeared in or voiced-over some 60 commercials. He also appeared in TV episodes such as Sanford and Son, Welcome Back, Kotter and Kojak. Later he worked as a bank teller to help pay his way through Cal State-Northridge. He also played piano at a night spot. Soon after graduating, in 1994, he had an internship at 'Entertainment Tonight, which he says he "hated," and then started working in the news unit of the new Fox affiliate station in Los Angeles, KTTV. He stayed with Fox for the next 19 years.
During his long run with the network, Darnell was credited for launching When Animals Attack!, Breaking the Magician's Code: Magic's Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed, Temptation Island, Joe Millionaire, American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance?, and the various American reality series of British chef Gordon Ramsay, along with the canceled special O.J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here's How It Happened.
Mike is married to his childhood friend Carolyn Oberman, a public relation executive who used to work for the Emmy awards. Their daughter Chelsea was born in 1998.
- Lesley Goldberg & Michael O'Connell (24 May 2013). "Mike Darnell Exits as Fox Reality Boss". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
- Friedman, Wayne (7 August 2007). "Darnell Stays At Fox, But Upped To Prez, Alternative Entertainment". MediaPost News. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
- "'American Idol' exec Mike Darnell to head Warner Bros Television". Digital Spy. July 18, 2013. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
- Weiner, Jennifer (29 December 1998). "Inventing A Fox Formula ``when Good Pets Go Bad. ``when Stunts Go Bad. ``when Disaster Strikes. Critics Cringe, But Programmers Love These Profitable Specials. Where Do The Ideas Come From? Meet Mike Darnell.". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
- Carter, Bill (2007). Desperate Networks. NewYork, NY: Random House. p. 96. ISBN 978-0-7679-2786-4.
- Solis, Jorge (September 14, 2014). "Mark Burnett, Mike Darnell's '500 Questions' Quiz Show Picked Up By ABC!". Retrieved May 30, 2016.
- "Fox's Point Man For Perversity; 'World's Scariest Programmer,' Starring Mike Darnell as Himself" New York Times accessed 26 January 2008
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