the vine


Darnell mulls new reality

After 13 years at Fox Broadcasting Co., the company's reality chief Mike Darnell is pondering an exit to launch a production company, sources said.

Darnell, whose trademark brand of outrageous reality projects has become a key part of the network's identity, is at the end of his current deal with Fox. Sources said he is in talks with the network for a new deal while also exploring the possibility of switching to producing. It is understood that he is being lured by new NBC Entertainment and NBC Universal TV Studio co-chairman Ben Silverman to set up shop there in a free-wheeling agreement similar to the one Silverman landed for his Reveille production company. Darnell, whose department shepherds television's biggest show, "American Idol," also developed such hits as "Joe Millionaire" and, most recently, "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" Darnell is well-liked within News Corp. At the network, he enjoys great autonomy and has more power than his counterparts at the other networks. Still, no executive salary can match the income for a producer of a megahit like "Idol." (Nellie Andreeva)

Good intentions prevailed in the salary dispute between the stars and producers on "Law & Order: Criminal Intent." Sources said Vincent D'Onofrio, Chris Noth and Kathryn Erbe all agreed Friday to return to the series next season without a raise. Wolf Films and NBC Universal TV Studio had set a Friday 5 p.m. deadline for them to accept the offer (HR 6/8). The actors are said to be a disappointed because leads on returning series get at least a 5% salary increase every year. In the end, it came down to wanting to come back to the show and understanding the financial strain posed by the series' move from NBC to USA Network next season, sources said. (Repeats of "L&O: CI" will air on NBC.) It's belt-tightening time for the "Law & Order" franchise. Sources indicated that below-the-line crews members are taking 5%-10% pay cuts next season. Reps for Wolf Films and NBC Uni TV declined comment Friday. (Nellie Andreeva)