Though the 23 million or so viewers who stuck around after American Idol to check out the series premiere of The Moment of Truth surely provided all the validation he needed, Fox president of the Dark Alternative Programming Arts Mike Darnell has been reveling in the critical scorn heaped upon his lie-detecting masterwork, knowing from experience that such an outpouring of vitriol probably means he has a huge hit on his hands. Pausing briefly from the celebratory soak in his office's Cristal-filled Jacuzzi he'd been enjoying since the release of this morning's preliminary Nielsen numbers, Darnell spoke to TV Week about Truth, acknowledging complaints about the debut episode's sluggish pacing (they're working on it!), and pledging that future installments of the show will deliver all the deception-induced human misery a rubbernecking, TV-watching nation can handle:
"For every game show on television, somebody says it's too slow," Darnell says. "'Deal or No Deal,' for all its energy, can be slow. When opening those first 10 boxes, I feel like I'm gonna kill myself."
That said, Darnell says the "Moment" pace will pick up.
"It's always been a semi-issue with the show because you have the pauses between the revelation and [the lie detector result]," he says. "You gotta have that to watch the reaction of the friends and family. But we're going to try to quicken the pace a little bit."
The show's promised "end of western civilization" drama will increase as well, Darnell says, particularly once the show shifts to the 8 p.m. hour in early March.
"We intentionally opened with a middle-of-the-road episode," he says. "I didn't want people from middle America to freak out coming out of 'American Idol.'"
Thankfully, Darnell and Fox have realized that early March will seem like an eternity to viewers who've already been tortured by the agonizing months of waiting for the polygraph-enabled, civilization-eroding fun to begin, setting up a lie-along-at-home version of Truth on the network's website to keep the impatient entertained while they wait for the show to finally hit its stride. With just a few clicks of a mouse, fans can invite their co-workers, spouses and friends to answer the kinds of uncomfortably probing, provocative questions they've now seen on the show, though without the tantalizing promise of a huge pile of cash in return for destroying their romantic or professional relationships with greed-motivated honesty.