Fear Factor: same show plus creepy relationships equals big ratings

NBC’s decision to resurrect Fear Factor proved to be a good one, at least based on the very strong ratings for last night’s two episodes, which were—amazingly—nearly identical to the show that aired in the early 2000s.

The first episode was actually the weaker of the two, with challenges that weren’t all that exciting, unless you count explosions that are unrelated to the actual challenge, just fireworks, although it ended with contestants being strapped to the front of a cement truck and being driven through stuff. The most interesting part was a mother-son pair that the editors, and Joe Rogan, mercilessly taunted, suggesting that there was something inappropriate in their affection. The second episode was much stronger, with a car plunging into water, plus blood and cow hearts and a long, physical challenge at the end.

The most remarkable thing about both episodes was that this is exactly the same show that it used to be. Even if these stunts are crazier than what the show would have done in the past, they don’t seem noticeably different. Everything from Joe Rogan’s shouting at the contestants—taunting them, mocking them, or supporting them, depending upon the moment—to the structure of the show is identical. They changed nothing noticeable.

It worked: As The New York Times reports, the premiere was “the biggest thing introduced on NBC this television season” with “winning ratings for three of its four half-hours in the economically vital audience of people from the ages 18 to 49,” with the 8 p.m. episode having “NBC’s best result since February 2008” and the 9 p.m. episode offering “NBC’s best number in that hour since the premiere of ‘The Event’ in September 2010.”

Correction: This post was edited to correct an error that misidentified the episode that included one of the challenges.

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