The "New" Fear Factor Just Feels Old

Somehow I managed to avoid ever seeing an episode of Fear Factor during its first run. It wasn’t intentional, really—I enjoy reality competitions, public humiliation, and binging on animal parts. But there are only so many hours in the day, and I must have been too busy marathoning the umpteenth cycle of America’s Next Top Model. When I heard Fear Factor was returning to NBC, I was excited to finally get the chance to experience it for myself. And Monday night, I dove right into those 3,000 gallons of cow’s blood.

I’d heard people say Fear Factor was gross (it is) and exploitative (you think?). What no one warned me about is that Fear Factor commits the ultimate reality show sin: It’s really, really boring.

No, seriously. I have a hard time understanding how this show was ever a success. The biggest problem is repetition. Each team attempts the same challenge as the team before—and when you’ve seen one team do it, you basically know what to expect from the others. Not to mention the fact that Fear Factor gives its contestants challenges that are really only interesting when they’re thoroughly disgusting, i.e. swim through the aforementioned cow’s blood to find cow hearts and spit them into a tank. Otherwise, the challenges are big and loud, but nothing we haven’t seen before. And yes, the idea of a truck careening toward explosives is scary, but not when the contestants are on wires that will yank them to safety before they’re in any real danger.

I’m not saying I want to see anyone seriously injured. If I were into that, I’d watch one of those late-night MTV2 shows about skater mishaps. But what’s the point of watching a series in which the death-defying stunts really aren’t that death-defying? One of Monday night’s challenges had contestants strapped to a cement mixer and driven into a series of obstacles. Which, you know, ow. But they were covered in full body gear, and host Joe Rogan nearly salivated when one of the players cut her lip. “Is that blood?!” he squealed. Apparently it was, but it must have been a minor cut because I couldn’t tell and—brag alert—I was watching in HD.

Challenges aside, Fear Factor is not as engaging as other reality competitions because the contestants are different for each episode. That means there’s no one to latch onto, and all the hilarious reality show personalities pop up only to disappear shortly thereafter. The first hour of Monday night’s premiere featured a mother-son team who was definitely too close for comfort. They never stopped touching! And incest is so hot right now, but by hour’s end, they’d been eliminated. The second hour offered an absurd caricature of a playboy in Shawn, who espoused his mantra, “Showstopper lifestyle. Minimizing worries, maximizing life experiences. No fear, showstopper is here.” And wouldn’t you know it? He was the first to go.

These aren’t new problems with Fear Factor, but the series could have used its time off the air to refresh the tired old model. And I don’t just mean by heightening the gross-out factor of the challenges, because I still don’t think anything that aired was truly shocking. (Eating live scorpions did make me very uncomfortable, but only because I felt bad for the scorpions.) The format of Fear Factor works against it, and I’m not sure what could be done to make it better except shaking up that format entirely. Or, you know, maybe go for some (quality!) original programming instead. I get that NBC is on shaky ground these days, but familiar is not always the answer. I’d be surprised if Fear Factor’s ratings stayed put in the coming weeks.


I’m curious to hear from Fear Factor’s devoted fans: Is this iteration of the series new and improved? Or is NBC just trying to pass off the same old thing as a fresh product?

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Dec 21, 2011
I simply want the show to stop using cheesy sound effects. Since when has breaking styrofoam and balsa wood sounded like breaking glass and falling concrete? I understand that it's not so exciting to think of people being thrust through styrofoam but c'mon, we aren't stupid here.
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Dec 17, 2011
During it's first run, I never fully enjoyed the show. Most of the time I watched the first part, skipped the middle gross part, then watched the final part. Why would I ever want to watch a really gross part that might make ME a little queasy or nauseous? I would like the show a lot more if they replaced the gross part with another stunt. Then they could just rename the show something else like "Stunt Factor" (Yeah, I know that's a lame idea for a new show name).
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Dec 15, 2011
The only part of Fear factor worth watching is the second (gross) challenge. Joe Rogan's "words of encouragement" sound really hilarious during the second challenge if you forget the contestants are eating gross stuff. It sounds like Joe Rogan is having them give him--(use your schoolboy pervert imagination). Kind of hilarious!
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Dec 14, 2011
I always thought that Fear Factor should have things that you are truly afraid of. Granted, in the past, there were people who didn't do a stunt, so it wasn't always the same, but now, I think people who sign up know (sort of) what they are in for. The stunts (like the driving into things, or blowing stuff up while dangling from a helicopter) those are new, and that was fun, and I can see how that could be scary. But how about they have to swim with sharks? (That is terrifying) or things that really scare people... heart pounding things that when someone mentions it, they say, "F*&% that! I would NEVER do that!" Otherwise, blah. My 12 year old thought it was fabulous. But she hadn't watched it before, or didn't remember.
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Dec 14, 2011
The only episode worth watching IMO was the one where Joe Rogan ate the cockroaches to prove he'd do it and thankfully that's all I've watch of the original. Either lame stunts or gross stuff, rather watch Tosh.O at this point at least I get some good jokes to go with it.
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Dec 14, 2011
I enjoyed the first hour, but couldn't handle a second hour so I turned the TV off. I did think the final stunt of the first hour could have been a bit more challenging. It seemed more painful than anything.
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Dec 14, 2011
I think what caused Fear Factor to go stale the first time is that the stunts became repetitive, and they stopped picking interesting contestants. The first three seasons were interesting to watch because the stunts were relatively simple and most of them actually dealt with fear (dropping from a ten-story building, being trapped underwater). In later seasons, the stunts became so elaborate and competitive that it was almost like each stunt was actually five different mini-stunts and it became more like "challenge factor" than "fear factor".



The contestants back in the early years were not always familiar with the show, so it was interesting in that we got to see if the "man/woman off the street" would be willing to do those things. Additionally, they did a better job in the early days of picking a diverse range of contestants, and it was interesting to watch them interact and try to freak each other out. In the later seasons, all the contestants were fans of the show and knew exactly what they were getting into, so it was clear that no one was going to chicken out. Also, the later season contestants all consisted of supermodel types, athletes, and adrenaline junkies, and there were rarely "real world" people to relate to. I think the teams aspect makes the contestants even less interesting to watch because the teams sort of clique off and talk amongst themselves between themselves, and they don't interact with the other teams as much as solo contestants would interact with each other.
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Dec 14, 2011
The problem is that other shows have gone further. You have shows now that stick you in a dark, old, rundown insert favorite spooky place that someone once saw a scary shadow on the wall and they send people in there with the thought placed in their head that it is haunted. So at every motion of the wind or anything they jump and scream and so on. You have shows like Wipe Out where you aren't rigged to a harness and could actually get hurt. There is no real fear to the show. There is the gross out factor of eating something disgusting. But that is about it. And like before, only this time quicker people are going to tire of it and it will get cancelled.



Why dredge back a cancelled show from years ago? Why add yet another pointless reality show to your ever dwindling lineup of quality shows. Lets count you cancelled Prime Suspect and benched Community so that leaves you with two. Parks and Rec and the Jimmy Fallon how. And that is it. Bang up job you are doing there.



When are you going to do what you really want and just scrap the almosts and close too's and just make a real life version of The Running Man.
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Dec 14, 2011
It was just corny. Not smart at all and whoever chooses the contestants must only be looking for super annoying people. Maybe more down to earth people and pushing the envelope with stunts.
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Dec 14, 2011
I must admit that I am a fan of Joe Rogan and I watched Fear Factor during its original run and was surprised when it was canceled. However, its latest incantation is not new and improved. Its pretty much the same as it ws before. I agree that it may be nice if they had teams that you could get to know and invest in rather than different people each week. It's that personal investment in contestants that makes reality shows work.
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Dec 14, 2011
Have to say, first time I checked the US version and am disappointed it doesn't follow the Brazilian format (don't know if it was initiated here). Here we have one cast for the entire season, competing every week for immunity challenges and the worst 2 going to elimination challenges with another one that is voted by the other contestants in the house. This gives a lot of room for underdogs, and bully groups and all the things that make reality television fun.
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Dec 14, 2011
Eating live scorpions, I turned it off, I love Joe, but this show is just cruel, and no I don't mean to the contestants. Let's kill some creatures for entertainment, human evolution at its finest.
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Dec 14, 2011
I don't consider myself a fan of the show, but I did see quite a lot of episodes during its original run. I also found myself bored enough last night to watch both hours of the premiere. My biggest problem with the show has always been what you suggested, that the first and third challenges on the show are very rarely invoking of fear. They may be difficult and physically straining, but not something to be fearful of (unless you have an actual fear of heights or fast cars). The disgusting challenge, which is almost always second, is kind of fun to watch though.
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Dec 14, 2011
I liked Joe Rogan from the Newsradio days. Fear Factor is entertaining enough. I'd NEVER go on the show. I like to see how far they push people. And some of the stunts are cool like the truck into explosives. And yes, if we never knew it was gone, it would still be the same.
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Dec 14, 2011
Meh, it was alright. You're right it was kinda boring, but I wasnt expecting anything new, I knew I was gonna get the same stuff, I like the format, I dont watch a lot of reality shows but I'm ok with new people showing up every week. Those and soem of the other complaints you had are based on taste and whether you like that type of show.

The way it is and has always been, its entertaining for me personally. That said it could use a bit of updating. Not sure how that could be done though.
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Dec 14, 2011
I'm convinced that NBC is just run by monkeys at this point.
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Dec 14, 2011
Exactly. Wasn't their tagline for Fear Factor coming back "You're welcome America." As if.
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Dec 14, 2011
Drunk angry bitter monkeys that want us as miserable as they are. And it's working....
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