Fear Of ‘Fear Factor’

December 15, 2011

NBC has hit an all-time low. It wasn’t THAT long ago when Thursday night TV included “Seinfeld” and “Friends.” And before that it was “Cheers” and “The Cosby Show.”

Today, the Peacock Network has not only dropped “Prime Suspect” (I’m taking that as a personal jab), it’s reinventing its inglorious past. Now, if that meant they had revived “Will & Grace” or “Family Ties,” I might be on board. Instead, NBC has breathed new life into “Fear Factor.” “Fear Factor!” Mind you, I have nothing against Joe Rogan. Aside from some possible plastic surgery, he’s kind of held up pretty well. And his UFC announcer gig lends him some odd testosterone cred. Despite that, there is ZERO reason to bring back this show.

I watched the premier episode Monday night, and you can’t imagine what a treat it was. First off, all the contestants were former couples. Classy. Their first “stunt” involved driving a car into a body of water, sinking with it, grabbing a flag from a lockbox and swimming back to shore. This was all fine until the third couple came up for air and it became apparent the woman couldn’t swim. Seriously. She sank, had to be rescued and was  disqualified. And did the ex-boyfriend try to save her? I think you know the answer to that question.

I’m going to jump ahead to stunt #3. This one involved being lifted off a moving bus by a helicopter, jumping onto and off a speedboat and climbing a cargo net carried by another chopper. Suffice it to say one couple needed post-stunt medical attention. Please. It’s an interesting stunt, I guess, but I fail to see how it puts the “fear” into “Fear Factor.”

Now let’s go back to the second stunt. I don’t really know how to convey the grotesqueness that was broadcast over the network’s airwaves, but I’ll give it a try. Three couples were forced to jump in a vat of – I SWEAR – cow blood. They had to submerge one at a time – IN COW BLOOD, WITH NO PROTECTION ASIDE FROM SWIMMER’S GOGGLES – and find beef hearts at the bottom of the tank. One contestant would find a heart, put it in their partner’s MOUTH, and that person had to SPIT the heart (which is as big as a human head) into a bin down below. Nevermind they can’t SEE the bin because they have BLOOD in their EYES. Add to that several inappropriate references to spitting (wink wink)…I can go no farther. One contestant nearly vomited. I identified with him most of all.
If all this isn’t the first sign of the apocalypse, I don’t know what is. At a bare minimum, it’s the manifestation of America’s crumbling taste, if not its morals.

Don’t get me wrong – I can be a glutton for bad reality TV. But come on, NBC, recycle something that’s actually worth the trouble.