Simon Andreae, the former Channel 4 exec in the UK and former Discovery Channel exec in Los Angeles, is a guy best known for programs that mulled why the RMS Titanic sank and whether God created the universe, but also the first televised human autopsy, first televised exorcism and, of course, the series Naked And Afraid. He is replacing the Fox exec crowned Point Man For Perversity by The New York Times, Mike Darnell.
In August, Andreae announced that after an eight-year stint in the U.S., he’d launched Scarlet Media and would be returning to the UK with a contract with Sony Pictures TV, reporting to SPT exec Andrea Wong, who used to head reality TV at ABC. Based in London, Andreae would develop factual and factual entertainment formats and specials for British TV and international markets.
While for public consumption Andreae is replacing Darnell, the job is smaller than it was under Darnell — and pays less, which eliminated a few of the candidates who’d been in talks, sources report. Andreae will oversee development; Fox veteran David Hill will hang on to the network’s current reality franchises American Idol and The X Factor. That’s maybe just as well for Andreae given that the two singing competitions had become something of a high-class headache for Darnell, what with Idol’s numbers still good but tumbling, and X Factor‘s promised gimongus crowd continuing to not show up for a third season despite yet another judge-panel makeover.
Andreae’s name had been on the list of contenders for some time; when word got out last month the field had been narrowed, word around Discovery halls was that he was the only contender, that the two sides were haggling over the money, and that Andreae’s strength was in coming up with unique programming concepts.
Andreae, meanwhile, told Deadline he was happy where he was, not contemplating a change, blah, blah, blah. He’d also said much the same to Sony, according to sources.
In his new gig, he will report to Fox Entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly and will be based in Los Angeles, while looking to leverage his British and European relationships to expand the network’s international presence.
The passing of the reality-TV torch to Andreae is very Circle of Life for the network –- Andreae being the guy who accomplished the One Big Thing that Darnell failed to pull off in all those years he brought the network those whopper ratings while making life so interesting for the Fox Decency Police: A plane crash.
Around the time he left Fox to go make reality-TV magic over at Warner Bros TV, Darnell lamented his failure to execute his live plane crash in a TV Guide exit interview, adding, “And then somebody else did!… When I tried to do those things everyone thought I was out of my mind.”
Darnell’s Jumbo Jet Crash Live: The Ultimate Safety Test was good to go at the network back in the summer of 1999, hosted by Maury Povich. A jet without passengers would be crashed in a remote area of the Mojave Desert in California — the pilots would be allowed to bail. Sadly, the Federal Aviation Administration, lacking Darnell’s vision, would not approve the stunt. A decade later, Andreae executed a 727 crash — albeit a taped one, rather than live — in a remote Mexican desert in Baja, for Discovery’s Curiosity series. Darnell’s mistake was in having boyishly boasted, “There is a 95 percent chance that the plane will explode when it crashes,” adding, “If this works, maybe we will make it an annual event.” He should, instead, have issued a news release assuring one and all that “The project aims to recreate a serious, but survivable, passenger jet crash landing with a real aircraft in order to allow an international team of experts to study the crashworthiness of the aircraft’s airframe and cabin as well as the impact of crashes on the human body.” That’s what Discovery did.
“We were looking for a particular caliber of executive – and we found the perfect fit in Simon,” said Reilly in today’s announcement. “Not only is Simon known for innovative thinking, he’s a dynamic leader who has been a producer and a network executive on both sides of the pond, and he has the energy and drive to open a new chapter in Fox unscripted.”
“I’m very grateful to Kevin and his team for giving me this opportunity. My intention is to help build on Fox’s rich heritage of risk and innovation and to help support and extend its range of category-defining shows and world-leading talent,” Andreae added.
Previously, Andreae served as SVP Development and Production, West Coast, at Discovery Channel. Prior to joining Discovery, Andreae served as President of The Incubator, which produced unscripted shows for Spike, USA, VH1, Discovery, History, Channel 4, TLC and Science. Andreae also served as Head of Science and Education at Channel Four in the UK, where he commissioned that autopsy show and others. Andreae started his career as a founding partner of UK indie Optomen Television.