NBC Reviving Fear Factor
Fear of reviving reality hits is not a factor for NBC. After spiking their ratings impressively with singing competition The Voice, the Peacock is now rebooting action classic Fear Factor.
NBC’s head of alternative programming Paul Telegdy says the notion first came to the network’s attention when sister cable channel Chiller saw high ratings for near decade-old Fear Factor repeats. Telegdy watched some of the encores himself and was impressed how well the action held up.
“No one has come close to doing what they’ve done on that show,” Telegdy exclusively tells EW. “You go back and they’ve stood the test of time. It always had this incredible spectacle to it.”
Telegdy conferred with Fear Factor producer, Endemol North America, and discussed doing a few specials with the company’s chairman David Goldberg. Then they decided to go bigger.
“I said, ‘Let’s apply everything we’ve learned since then and put together the team,'” Telegdy says. The team includes original executive producers David Hurwitz along with Matt Kunitz, who later went on to launch ABC’s stunt-driven hit Wipeout.
“The stunt and camera technologies have evolved since then, we’re going to be able to make it even bigger,” Telegdy said. “We’re going to make it more visually arresting.”
Fear Factor ran for five years on the network starting in 2001.When it launched, the series was a rallying point for NBC’s critics. At the time, the network was best known for prestige shows like The West Wing and Friends, while reality TV was considered a tawdry genre stealing attention from scripted shows, with Fear Factor pushing the gross-out envelope beyond what had ever been seen on TV.
Telegdy says that although the new show will go even bigger, “we don’t necessarily need to do the stuff with maximum shock value.”
“In the brave new world of reality TV it was deemed symptomatic of a problem — ‘we want our West Wing, why are you doing this?'” Telegdy said. “Now the ecology has changed, the top shows are reality TV. For consumers, it will be a fond reunion.”
During Fear Factor’s final year, some accused the network of over-exposing the show — running 39 original episodes on NBC, plus airing episodes on the broadcaster’s cable networks, plus the show was running in syndication.
“Fear Factor is one of those iconic bands that set the table for a lot of reality in this country,” Goldberg says. “We felt it went off the air prematurely due to incredible overexposure. There’s some shows that make it into the vernacular — you still see it in headlines and you still see it used by pundits and journalists. It’s nice to see a TV show cancelled and then come back.”
News of the production company’s Fear Factor casting notice was first reported by Reality Blurred. Original host Joe Rogan added plenty of personality to the first series, but it’s not yet clear who will host the revamp, or when the show will launch (midseason or next summer would be safe bets).