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The Telefile
<I>Fear Factor</i>: Is Fear Still a Factor for TV?

I'll admit that back in the day (you know, 2001), I was one of the millions of people who was grossly fascinated by Fear Factor. Watching people confront bugs, spiders, heights etc. was something relatively new and different for the still fresh genre of reality TV and it really struck a nerve. But by the time the series ended in 2006, I was beyond tired of watching people eat scorpions, nosh on cow testicles, get hoisted by helicopters and be placed in the general vicinity of not-really-near explosions. So now that NBC has brought the show back, I had hoped that they'd found a way to push the envelope and take the premise to the next level.

Since Fear Factor went off the air, there have been plenty of other game shows that have tried to step up and take its place -- to varying degrees of success. But if I want to watch contestants safely loitering near explosions in order to make some cash, there's 101 Ways to Leave a Game Show. For gross food consumption, I look to Survivor or Big Brother. To see crazy tasks involving heights, there's the The Challenge on MTV. And when all else fails, we have Wipeout to show us cocky people doing stupid stuff.

Frankly, in this day and age, I'm far more disgusted by watching someone eat 37 giant donuts on The Biggest Loser for no real reason than I am by seeing someone scarf down scorpions. Fear Factor has lost its shock value and last night's two episodes did nothing to convince me that the program could be something bigger and badder than what it was. Sure, they made people reach in a vat of motor oil to retrieve the scorpions they had to eat, but at this point, the contestants going on this show should expect to eat some kind of bug. In order to make this revival succeed, the producers need to figure out what is grosser than gross, or what is even more ridiculously challenging than crashing a speeding car into a small pool of water and getting out with a flag. The reality landscape has change immensely in the five years that the series has been gone and this show hasn't really altered its essential formula. Horror movies (or at least the good ones) have found new ways to get us to jump out of our seats, and reality shows have done the same. Fear Factor needs to tap into fresh fears in order to be remotely relevant. Joe Rogan screaming at people to swim through a pool of blood faster to get animal parts is not going to cut it anymore.

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