'Fear Factor,' Hosted by Ludacris, Revived at MTV (Exclusive)

Ludacris - The Fate of the Furious Premiere - Getty - H 2017
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MTV is putting a new spin on Fear Factor.

The younger-skewing Viacom network has revived Fear Factor with an order for a 12-episode reboot to be hosted and exec produced by Ludacris, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. The revival, which will premiere Tuesday, May 30, at 10 p.m., is the first project to stem from a new overall deal MTV inked with Ludacris.

The new incarnation will flip the script on its targeted Generation Z audience and instead of gross-out challenges (like eating worms), will be more playful with the hope of providing a cathartic tension release along the way. The newly designed stunts are geared at tapping into visceral fears of today's anxious youth — such as couch surfing at 300 feet and waterlogging personal cellphones.

Inspired by urban legends, scary movies and online videos from the zeitgeist, contestants will be pushed beyond their comfort zones where their body's physiological responses will take over. Each hourlong episode will feature eight contestants pairing up in four teams of two — think siblings, college rivalries, roommates, best friends, co-workers and exes — and facing off for a cash prize.

The MTV reboot hails from Endemol Shine North America, which produced the original series. Original exec producers Anthony Carbone and Kevin Wehrenberg are returning to serve in the same capacity. They will be joined by Charles Wachter (American Gladiators), Rob Smith and Robin Feinberg for Endemol. MTV head of unscripted Nina L. Diaz will oversee for the network alongside Pamela Post and Tim Palazzola.

“MTV is about celebrating youth culture, and with the reinvented Fear Factor, we are putting the power in our audience’s hands to face and overcome their biggest fears,” MTV, VH1 and Logo president Chris McCarthy said. “We are thrilled to partner with Ludacris, one of the biggest global stars who has a rich history with MTV, to energize this franchise for a whole new generation.”
Fear Factor first launched on NBC in 2001 and ran for six seasons where it is said to have generated $600 million in ad revenue. The series was the first reality competition show to be sold in syndication, with repeats airing on NBCUniversal's horror and suspense network Chiller. NBC revived the series in 2011 with original host Joe Rogan returning for the one-season run.

Fear Factor was based on a Dutch format called Now or Neverland, with NBC and Endemol changing the franchise's name for U.S. audiences. It has been adapted all over the world.

Ludacris will take over as host, previously Rogan's role. Fear Factor comes at a busy time for the singer-actor, who recently released the first single from his forthcoming studio album. He also has been busy doing press ahead of the April 14 debut of The Fate of the Furious, in which he reprises his role as Tej. He next voices a role in the animated feature Show Dogs. Fear Factor will be his largest TV commitment to date. He's repped by CAA and Fox Rothschild.

“I am excited to kick off my partnership with MTV, starting with the relaunch of Fear Factor, which will be even more insane and ludicrous than what you remember,” he said. “This will be the first of many great projects together.”

Fear Factor becomes the latest unscripted show to get a revival as the reality space returns to its roots as new concepts — and hits — become increasingly challenging to find. ABC is bringing back Battle of the Network Stars as the Disney-owned network has found success with other retro shows like Celebrity Family Feud and Match Game as well as the upcoming Love Connection and Gong Show.

For MTV, Fear Factor joins a roster of reality competition series including veteran The Challenge and recent launch Stranded With a Million Dollars. The decision to revive Fear Factor comes as MTV president Chris McCarthy has stressed his plan to reinvigorate the network focus on "everything it is to be young" with universal moments similar to those seen on staples The Hills, Jersey Shore and Laguna Beach. Below, McCarthy talks with The Hollywood Reporter about what to expect from the new Fear Factor and how it fits in with his vision for MTV.

Talk us through the decision to reboot Fear Factor. What made that franchise appealing for MTV?

Fear Factor is one of the iconic franchises that people still talk about, and it continues to resonate within culture. With so much change in the world, young people have a rising sense of anxiety. Our reinvented Fear Factor was designed to directly tackle this, and empower the audience to face their fears head on and overcome them in a fun, spirited way.
The original series had its share of controversy for gross and inhumane challenges. How will you avoid that?
We are updating the challenges that will include fresh physical stunts and mental challenges, relevant to today's culture. Each episode will provide contestants the platform to test their physical, emotional and mental strength, as well as the opportunity to overcome their biggest fears.  No two episodes will be alike. We’re not about grossing out for gross out sake. This is an adrenaline-filled show that is about testing physical, mental and emotional strength, as well as the ability to overcome our biggest fears. 

How much is the cash prize?

There will be a $50,000 per episode cash prize.

Will Joe Rogan be involved at all?

No, but you never know who may pop up.

In success, is this a renewable series or a one-off?

We have the highest hopes for this franchise and believe it has a long road ahead of it.

How does Fear Factor speak to the types of programming that the new MTV is looking for?

MTV is at its best when we are celebrating the spirit of youth culture from escapism to activism. We have many more series soon to be announced including a return to live programming, coming of age docuseries and of course scripted and one-of-a-kind music tentpoles that have made MTV one of the most iconic youth culture brands in the world.

What does having Fear Factor mean for The Challenge? Can both shows coexist? 

The Challenge and Fear Factor can absolutely coexist — in fact they are complementary. Fear Factor has different contestants from episode to episode, empowering our audience in self-contained challenges and episodes. The Challenge is an investment in characters and the tensions between them in a serialized format.