Series / Fear Factor

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"The stunts you are about to see were all designed and supervised by trained professionals. They are extremely dangerous and should not be attempted by anyone, anywhere, anytime."
Joe Rogan at the beginning of each episode.

Stunt Game Show / Reality Show hybrid that featured contestants attempting to outperform each other in various stunts to win $50,000 cash. Each show usually featured at least one stunt involving heights, one involving coming face-to-face with or consuming something revolting, and one involving a Hollywood action movie-type feat. Failure to complete a stunt, being too scared to attempt it, or placing too low resulted in elimination.

The show usually pitted six individual contestants (three men and three women) against each other, but occasionally featured couples or teams competing. Also, special tournaments were held in which players could win much more than just $50,000.

A 2011 Revival aired briefly on NBC, still on Monday nights, still with Joe Rogan hosting.

Not to be confused with Fear Factory, an industrial metal band.

Game Show Tropes in use:

  • All or Nothing: Losers left with nothing, unless they had won a designated "prize stunt" earlier. It was theoretically possible for the prize to be split, if all but one of the contestants/teams refused to participate in a challenge, in which case the contestant(s) who did undertake the challenge would immediately be awarded half of the prize, with the remaining half being left up for grabs. This happens about Once a Season and 3 times, the winner has won the second half as well.
  • Bonus Round: During the Las Vegas specials, the winner had to play a hand of blackjack with at least half their winnings. After the first hand, they could keep going, however.
  • Home Game: Believe it or not, there was one.
  • Personnel:

This show contains examples of:

  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Season 5 Episode 28 had a challenge that ended with 3 people moving on rather than 4. Two of them were rivals who were stealing the whole show. The third contestant barely got any focus and really any mention of him was just about how quiet he was compared to the other two. Ultimate he creams them in the first and third challenges and wins the $50,000.
  • Catch Phrase:
    • "Evidently fear is not a factor for you."
    • "Now let's get the hell out of here and see what tomorrow brings."
  • Celebrity Edition: About once a season.
  • Covered in Gunge: Some of the gross stunts.
  • Creepy Cockroach: Madagascar hissing cockroaches are a common target of an Eat That stunt.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Joe Rogan started developing these tendencies early as mid-Season 2.
  • Death by Irony: In the second Couples edition, one girl continuously chastised her boyfriend when they didn't come in first in a stunt, even after one challenge where he worked himself to exhaustion. It was her who got them eliminated when she grabbed a truss disqualifying them.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: One time, while Joe Rogan was explaining a stunt's rules, he got tongue-tied, as one of the female contestants began changing into her swimsuit.
  • Don't Try This at Home: There's no prize money so don't do any of this shit at home!
    • Inverted in Season 6, when they literally tried things at home by having Capital One sponsor an Audience Game where Rogan visited a family at their home, challenging them to play a stunt to win up to $10,000.
  • Driving into a Truck: One of the stunt challenges required the participants to drive a car up the ramp of a moving truck as the last part of the challenge. Inside the truck was a ramp that would flip the car and send it flying out the side of the truck for a spectacular movie-style ending.
    • Another stunt had contestants driving up a ramp onto a car carrier.
  • Eat That: Every episode has something gross and/or dangerous.
  • Electric Torture: Done several times, most notably with electrically charged exercise bicyles... and a Tesla coil.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • One stunt had contestants transferring worms from a box to a scale using only their mouths. When one contestant thought he saw dirt in the box, Joe told him they would never make them eat dirt because it's gross, it was just worm poop he saw.
    • Another time was when Joe Rogan asked a contestant what the craziest thing he ever did was and he said it was doing the running of the bulls in Spain and Joe though he was crazy.
  • Expy: A show from Down Under called Who Dares Wins, imported to the United States by the Game Show Network at the height of Fear Factors popularity. Message boards quickly dubbed it Who Cares Who Wins?.
  • Fanservice: Later in its run, save for specialty episodes like Family Editions, everyone seemed to have to be at minimum 'good-looking'. The show seemed to evolve into "good looking people doing crazy things for money".
  • Fanservice Pack: As the show's budget increased, there seemed to be a large tendency for stunts involving water - meaning we'd get shots of the contestants changing or simply doing the stunt in their swimsuit.
  • Flawless Victory: A substantial number of contestants would wind up winning every single stunt, including the last one
  • Foreign Queasine: Many of the "gross stunt" food items.
  • Funny Background Event: The episode where one of the stunts consisted of drinking ostrich egg yolk. The stunt was done at a ranch, and behind the contestants was a pen with a bunch of ostriches. One of the ostriches appeared to be watching the stunt. Its reactions to the contestants' revulsion is somewhat humorous.
  • Gas Chamber: One of the stunts was having to endure a sealed room that filled with CS gas longer than anyone else.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: It took the chugging of donkey semen and urine for NBC to refuse to air an episode.
  • Grossout Show: One episode in particular featured all "gross stunts".
  • Gross-Up Close-Up: Liberally. You always got a good portion of close-up shots of whatever the contestant would be eating or "wearing".
  • Heroic Sacrifice: One elimination stunt on the Couples edition ended with two of the competing couples failing, so the rest of the couples had to vote on which failed team to send home. The older of the two couples that failed the stunt outright told the other teams to save the younger couple because they made it further before failing, and the other couples granted their wish.
  • History Repeats: In Season 2, the grand champion had won episode 13 of the season. Next season the grand champion, had won episode 13 of Season 3
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Sometimes a contestants strategy bites them in the butt.
    • One stunt involved eating 10 slugs and one contestant decided to wipe the slugs on her arm to get the slime off the slug. This only made them agitated and they oozed more slime than she had wiped off, she succeeded but struggled more than the others.
    • A more disastrous example occurs in a stunt where contestants had to transfer bugs from a windshield to a scale using their mouths. One guy had an inventive strategy of moving the bugs using his forehead to grab larger chunks with his mouth. Unfortunately, it turns out the bugs were packed into the windshield so deep, that he couldn't move as much bugs as he thought and he couldn't make up for the mistake in the time limit and wound up going home
  • I'm Not Here to Make Friends: Because This Is A Competition worth thousands of dollars.
  • Informed Flaw: Some contestants are described as being obnoxious or annoying by others, but since it's usually before the game starts, we never really see that. This isn't always the case though, sometimes we see exactly what they were talking about
  • Jerkass: We know it's a competition for 50 grand, but some of the contestants go beyond the This Is A Competition line into sheer assholery.
  • Large Ham: Michael Thompson, who Joe called the best heckler they ever had.
    • Joe Rogan himself would act like this sometimes
  • Laser-Guided Karma: One contestant was extremely insulting and rude to other contestants going well beyond the "use others fears to your advantage" line. The next challenge was eating the penis of one of four animals. She got the longest one and the other contestants pulled her tactic on her, and she had a weak stomach. When she got a taste of what she dished out by getting heckled, she asked them to stop.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: In the first stunt of the Season 3 Championship, one girl loans her competitor her lucky shoes for the stunt, where 2 contestants would go head to head in a suspended box trying to unlock a case and pull a lever to drop their opponent. Said competitor gets it on the first key.
  • Non-Gameplay Elimination: If you were too afraid to complete a stunt.
    • Jonathan and Victoria were removed from the Reality Stars edition for inappropriate behavior. Specifically, Victoria punched Johnny Fairplay and Jonathan got in a fight with Joe Rogan immediately afterward. This is a bit of an iffy example though, since they had just failed a stunt and were likely going to be eliminated anyway.
  • Primal Fear: Heights, restricted space, drowning, many and numerous things you do not want in your mouth, etc.
  • Reluctant Fanservice Girl:
    • One stunt involved being dragged across a lake by a helicopter, and contestants had to hold on to their rope as long as possible. All three female contestants lost their bikini bottoms while being dragged. The first two were a bit embarrassed by it but the third one, didn't seem to mind.
    • A stunt early in the show forced contestants to become this in a "Fear Factor Fashion Show" to confront "fear of public nudity"; they had to go through a fashion runway routine completely naked.
  • Sore Loser: Tony from Season 4 Episode 12 failed the first stunt and he not only blamed the boat for supposedly stalling but even tried to make Joe do the challenge himself and said he owed him 50 grand.
    • Rob from the Mother & Son episode, who threw a screaming tantrum when his mom made a mistake on the final stunt.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The car stunts.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • In a Season 1 episode one female said "There are a couple of martinis with my name on them" after beating the first challenge. The next challenge was drinking a martini made of worms.
    • In Season 2, Episode 3 one stunt involved riding bulls and before going up a contestant said after the challenge the only cow he wants to see was on his plate. The next day for the second stunt he did get cow on his plate, cow brains.
    • In Teams #1, an anomalous team does an impressive job on the last stunt, being dragged by a helicopter across asphalt, and when the last team goes, they notice that Joe hasn't declared them the winners so they think the other team beat them. As soon as the other team returns, said anomalous team is declared the winners.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Adam from "Couples Fear Factor" was only slightly better than Meg their first time around. When he came back with Meg for "Couples Reunion", he actually became somewhat nicer, even saying in the end that it was this time around he actually got around to seeing the contestants as pretty cool people and was happy he had gotten to come back. Interestingly, the two had broken up between the two episodes and Meg was just as nasty as before which could make you wonder.
  • Traumatic Haircut: One episode gratuitously featured a challenge involving contestants having one of these randomly chosen for each of them, ranging from a complete head shave to "the patch". Previews for future episodes include another woman being shaven bald. Once she got over her fear, the woman in question got the shave and looked quite good, rather like what happened when this was done on The Amazing Race. She and her partner went on to win the whole thing.
  • Viva Las Vegas: Several special episodes were filmed in downtown Las Vegas, featuring stunts at its various locales and the winner wagering their winnings at a Blackjack table.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: The "Fear Factor Chuck Bucket", whose use almost always resulted in elim.... err, forfeiture of the "gross stunt prize".

"And evidently, fear was not a factor for you."
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