Joe Rogan has officially signed on to return as the host of NBC's Fear Factor revival. Rogan, who hosted the show's original run from 2001 to 2006, will be on hand when production begins at the end of July.
"It doesn't seem real," Rogan tells TV Guide Magazine. "It seems like some sort of bizarro dream world. But I'm looking forward to it. The idea of sitting at home and watching someone else host it would have driven me crazy."
NBC has ordered eight episodes of the reborn Fear Factor, which producers say could be ready to air as soon as September. Fear Factor executive producer Matt Kunitz says he always planned to bring Rogan back. "We wouldn't want to do this show without Joe," Kunitz says. "This makes me 100 percent relieved. Part of the nostalgia of the show coming back is Joe Rogan. Joe is a guy's guy, but women like him as well."
Rogan has kept busy in the years since Fear Factor ended by continuing his stand-up career, hosting a popular podcast, and becoming a color commentator for the Ultimate Fighting Championship league. He's also featured in the upcoming Kevin James film Zookeeper.
"What I brought to Fear Factor the first time I hope to bring to it again — a background in competitive athletics along with being a standup comedian," he says. "This show is tailor-made for me."
Rogan and Kunitz say the show will essentially remain the same, but adapted to modern media times. The new Fear Factor will be shot in high definition, for example, while the original wasn't. And while the first Fear Factor pre-dated most social networking, Kunitz plans to make social media a big part of the revival.
"The stunt world has evolved significantly in the last seven years, since we taped the last show," says Kunitz. "Technically stunts now are so much better at what we can do — much bigger falls, much faster falls. Bigger explosions, faster car stunts, bigger flips. We want to take it to the next level."
The new iteration of Fear Factor will continue to focus on pairs of contestants, such as significant others or brothers and sisters. "When you have pairs, there's so much more at stake. You're relying on your partner to get through this stunt. There's a lot of screaming back and forth and better energy," Kunitz says. "So we're sticking with that."
Kunitz also says that one of the eight episodes could be a celebrity edition. "We're in discussions right now," he says. Ten new hours will actually be produced — with the first and last episodes to be taped as two-hour events.
Kunitz and Rogan were behind nearly 150 episodes of the original Fear Factor. At the time, the show was controversial for its gross-out and over-the-top stunts. "Fear Factor was never taken seriously," Rogan says. "It was the red-headed stepchild of TV. I took some heat from comedian friends who said we were taking away jobs from sitcoms and standup comics working as writers. But now reality is the norm. And there's a lot of nostalgia for Fear Factor."
Indeed, the show is now considered the respected granddaddy of the stunt shows that came after, including Kunitz's Wipeout and new entry 101 Ways to Leave a Game Show (all of which, like Fear Factor, come from Endemol USA). "We're getting applicants who were in junior high when they watched the original show and now are of age," Kunitz says. "It's been their dream forever and now they're old enough to be on the show. Hopefully we'll get a whole new generation of viewers, plus people who used to watch."
Talk of a Fear Factor revival had gone on for years, but Kunitz says the surprise success of repeats on NBCUniversal's Chiller network finally convinced NBC to give it another shot. "Once it was a reality, I got really fired up about it," Rogan says. "It seems so strange that a show could be off the air for five years and come back."
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