Mike Darnell dispells 'myth' that Fox ordered 'Idol' at Murdoch's behest
By Steve Rogers and Christopher Rocchio, 09/17/2007
Just as American Idol hopefuls have a tale to tell about how they came to appear on the show, Idol too has a story about how it landed on Fox -- however according to Fox reality chief Mike Darnell, it's different than the "myth" that has circulated for years.
For years, the media has reported that Fox didn't pick-up Idol -- which ABC, CBS, and NBC had all already passed on -- until Elisabeth Murdoch, the London-based daughter of Rupert Murdoch, the founder and chief executive of Fox's News Corporation parent company, urged him to pick up the show because she was such a fan of Pop Idol, American Idol's U.K. predecessor.
However although the source of the "myth" is the Newscorp founder himself, Darnell reportedly "dispelled" Murdoch's claims during a Thursday night discussion panel hosted by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
"I might have been saying, 'What is hot over there?' or something," Murdoch told The New York Times about his daughter's role in Idol's pick-up during a December 2003 interview. "We were gossiping, and she said, '[Pop Idol] is.'"
According to Murdoch, he then asked one of his British newspaper editors about Pop Idol, and after learning of the big ratings the show was delivering in the U.K., personally called a Fox executive and told him that the network needed to buy American Idol immediately.
"I said, 'You have got to buy it,'" Murdoch told The Times in the 2003 interview. "They said, 'Oh, well, we are looking at it,' and I said, 'Don't look, buy.' They said, 'We will think about it,' but, the next day, they bought it."
"She has her uses," Murdoch joked to The Times about his daughter, a British television production company executive.
However according to Darnell's Thursday night comments, Fox had already ordered Idol by the time Murdoch intervened.
Darnell said he was a fan of Popstars, which aired for two seasons on the now-defunct The WB in 2001-2002, and Making the Band, which aired its first season on ABC in 2000 before moving to MTV. And despite the fact that both shows weren't big ratings successes, Darnell thought Idol contained the best of both formats and also improved upon them.
"I liked [Popstars and Making the Band] for 2-3 weeks, but when the auditions were over, they became very girly, with all the contestants living together," said Darnell, according to The Reporter. "What [American Idol creator] Simon [Fuller] was pitching was one big long audition, and I liked that."
Regardless of whose decision it was for Fox to finally order Idol, it was obviously a good move.