When NBC revived Fear Factor this week, the network gave executive producer Matt Kunitz specific marching orders. “They only wanted it if they were going to get bigger and better than before,” Kunitz tells The Hollywood Reporter. For a reality competition series that last aired original episodes in 2006, fulfilling those instructions won’t be difficult considering how far technology has evolved in that time.
Here are five things to know about the new Fear Factor.
It will be bigger and better. A good jumping off point for Fear Factor 2.0 will be the show’s final stunt that involved contestants dangling from helicopter unscrewing grenades off a moving Army truck heading off an aircraft carrier. “It’s been six years since we shot Fear Factor and in that time technology has come a long way,” Kunitz says. “Our ability to fling, drop and shoot people is much greater.” The falls, for example, stand to be dramatically different. “With the new technology like accelerators and all the different tools, I can drop somebody from a 50-story building at full speed — basically freefall — until they are 5 feet above concrete then slow them down,” he says. “Having that new tool is going to elevate the level of what we can do and the fear that we can cause someone.”
Gross is good. Insect consumption will still be a factor. “We’re still going to do gross because that’s the water-cooler part of the show,” Kunitz says. As grand as the launch off the aircraft carrier was, people still want to talk about contestants eating bugs or being placed in a coffin full of rats. “That stuff still gets people talking and we would be crazy not to include that.” Kunitz says the skin-crawling element will comprise a third of each episode. “In a typical episode, there are three segments and two will be big Hollywood stunts with one a gross stunt.”
The creative team will return. Stunt coordinator Pat Romano, who boarded the reality series in its sixth and then-final season, has experience on the big-screen stunt-rigging side with credits including Rush Hour 3, The Number 23 and Black Hawk Down. “When we brought Pat on in the last season, the show changed dramatically and got much better,” Kunitz says. “He comes from the movie world and brings a real cinematic element to the really big fantastic stunts. We were just getting really good at [big stunts] when we went off the air. You’re definitely going to see more high-risk and bigger cinematic stunts.” And while the reboot is still in the early stages, Kunitz also notes that there’s a “good chance” host Joe Rogan will return. “That’s a conversation we’ll be having very soon.” Also returning: director Rupert Thompson.
It’s a family show. One of the things Kunitz enjoys most about Fear Factor is that parents and kids can watch it — like his other show, Wipeout — together. “It’s become my brand,” he notes. However, don’t look for kids to be featured in the reboot. “We’ve featured families before but you can’t go as wild and crazy with a kid as you can with an adult — and we want to be wild and crazy and take it right to the limit and push it,” he says.
It will look better. When Fear Factor ended original episodes in 2006, there were only a few scripted series being broadcast in HD. “We’re going to be in HD for the first time,” Kunitz notes.