Fear Factor was reborn on MTV last night, its second reboot after NBC’s 2011/2012 version. Purists will be happy that it’s the same show it always was, just with younger contestants and a new host. Nothing about the show itself felt different, and nothing changed substantially.
The most notable change is in casting. While Joe Rogan wasn’t exactly a heated blanket, soft and warm, Ludacris was rather stiff in this first episode. He mocked the contestants a few times, and delivered some clunky lines, and that was all fine. His best moments were just actual reactions, such as when two contestants were flinging roaches at him instead of placing them into boxes.
So let’s talk about the challenges, which MTV’s Fear Factor has named:
- Beat the Beast: “your fear of something creepy,” Ludacris said.
- Face Your Fear: “this is just tailored to your worst fears”
- The Final Fear: “the ludicrous one”
The winner of the first challenge won a small advantage in the second.
While episode one’s first and third challenges were familiar, if not exact copies of ones we’ve seen before, I’ll give the challenge team a lot of credit for the second one: not only did the contestants have to lie in morgue drawers, but one of them was chained up, and the other was inside what looked like a giant vacuum sealed latex condom, with just a small hole for their mouth so they could breathe.
No thanks! Ditto for challenge three, which submerged the contestants in a shark cage with only three holes at the top to breathe out of—holes that were at the water line so it was hard to breathe without taking in water.
I was also pretty terrified of another gross element throughout the episode: the casual sexism, with a pair of brothers mocking a male competitor for his name, which they declared was a woman’s name, and Ludacris confusing saving an unconscious person’s life with making out with a person he’s attracted to when he told the contestants, “I don’t do mouth-to-mouth, unless it’s Salma Hayek.”
Not exactly challenges for millennials
The show’s web site says that the new Fear Factor is “custom-created for a generation that is increasingly empowered, while also more anxious than ever. Filled with new stunts inspired by urban legends, popular scary movies and viral videos from today’s cultural zeitgeist,” and will have contestants “confront their fears, be pushed beyond their comfort zones and take action against some of their biggest stressors.”
And MTV promised the show would “hit on youth tension points with challenges including ‘Roach-ella,’ ‘Trap Queen,’ and personal cell phone rescues at heights of over one hundred feet.”
But none of that was really present in episode one.
We saw one of those challenges, Roach-ella, but it was the same covered-with-bugs challenge Fear Factor has been doing since before these contestants were toddlers.
Literally: the show debuted in 2001, and episode one had an 18-year-old contestant. At the beginning of the show, that was the most discordant thing for me, how young the contestants were. But once they started the gross-out and terror-inducing challenges, it just became another episode of the Fear Factor we’ve always known. Cool.