A sick puppy of a reality series, NBC’s “Fear Factor” takes the worst of every “Survivor” knockoff and rolls it all into one ridiculous, rodent-infested hour. When people make fun of the networks for scraping the bottom of the barrel for ratings, this Euro format import could be held up as the poster child. It’s long been the joke that execs will not rest until someone dies on a television show; if this debut is any sign, that might very well happen. Stay tuned.
The Peacock actually has the last laugh because its relative cost is so cheap. Whereas CBS ponied up $1 million to its “Survivor” victors, “Fear Factor” competitors are in the running for a relatively paltry $50,000.
Minus taxes, that undoubtedly comes to very little, considering the winner — in the first episode anyway — has to be dragged by horses; endure four minutes of quality time with 400 rats in a coffin; and maneuver around the outside of a car while suspended high over a body of water.
Hosted by “NewsRadio” alum Joe Rogan, show pits six competitors each week against one another in a battle of phobias and wills (it’s a sure bet nobody is really afraid of stallions pulling them down a muddy road).
It’s quite a sight, however, to see reasonably normal people pick themselves up from a dragging covered in blood, something with which critics of voyeur entertainment will have a field day.
But nothing can prepare auds for the second stunt, in which the remaining candidates are strapped to the bottom of a box while cartonloads of rats are poured on top of them. The critters nibble and screech while everyone screams in disgust (“Ohmigod, they’re starting to eat my ear!”). It’s enough to make one contestant walk away without even giving it a shot.
The rules are simple: If you can’t complete one leg of the match, you’re out. If you refuse to participate in any segment due to panic or dread, you’re out. Whoever is left must go further in the “last act” than anybody else in order to take home the cash. (The first to go can’t hold the rope when the horses take off.)
So much for the actual “plot.” It’s execution is worse. Rogan has the unenviable task of being this show’s Jeff Probst, trying to elicit emotion, apprehension and nervous energy from a bunch of people who just met and really have nothing to say to each other. When one evaluates her performance, the cameras get close, her emotions change, and everyone is supposed to be sad. (Poor baby! — She couldn’t be hauled by animals!)
“Fear Factor” is something that “The Simpsons” would mock to high heaven if one of its episodes were about the proliferation of “real” TV and the television industry’s approach to Nielsen numbers. It’s definitely something that should make NBC brass cringe with embarrassment.
Tech credits are a nonissue; anyone with a videocamera can capture this dreck.