Are you a fan of Survivor's curmudgeonly Rudy Boesch and Marilyn "Mad Dog" Hershey? Well, don't look for any spunky seniors on NBC's young-skewing reality series, Fear Factor debuting tonight at 8 pm/ET whose average contestant ranges from 20 to 30 years old. Why? "I think we like to limit it to people you would like to have sex with," quips host Joe Rogan (Newsradio). "That's just my own personal take on it."
Fear Factor isn't just about sex appeal, though. As they compete for a $50,000 prize, each episode's players must face various fright-inducing stunts the pilot has them leaping off a high pedestal (acrophobia) and lying down in a rat-filled pit (that's, uhm, creepy-crawlyphobia). As for the latter, Rogan insists: "The gross-out factor is purely psychological. There's no danger of snakes or rats harming anybody."
Not that they're about to tell that to the hapless contestants. For the rat stunt which was filmed in an appropriately bleak warehouse in downtown Los Angeles producers didn't even offer them assurances that the rodents would be disease-free. Says executive producer Matt Kunitz: "We play off their fears, and that would definitely be something we would not tell the contestants. We want [them] to be freaked out. That is the point of the show: to find what each contestant's fear factor is. So if we went in and said, 'These are laboratory-raised rats. They are as clean as a rat can be, and they won't bite you' that's not a particularly scary event."
However, the show's host gets defensive at the suggestion that Fear Factor
which will also find nauseated folks sacrificing their dignity by scarfing sheep eyeballs tonight signals yet another low point in reality TV. "I've always said we're three seasons away from The Running Man
," Rogan jokes. Then, he more earnestly adds: "The idea that it's just going to go further and further and get worse and irritate, annoy and disgust everyone is ridiculous. TV is entertainment. The reason why this show is going to be successful is because it's fun to watch."