I was forced to toss my dinner down the drain after I flipped through the channels and accidentally came across Monday night’s “Fear Factor,” NBC’s latest addition to the reality TV craze. NBC has really hit rock bottom with this one. The network known for its safe, middle of the road programs like “ER” and “Law and Order,” shocked viewers while ruining their appetite with “Fear Factor’s” buffalo testicle challenge. In order to win the $50,000 prize, contestants had to eat two very large buffalo testicles. I don’t think twice when Fox introduces a couple trashy shows each season, but I expected a little more from NBC. With the addition of the upscale, educational “West Wing,” I thought NBC would continue to strive to be a network that offered “quality” programs.
After the success of “Survivor ” on CBS last year, the popularity of reality television began to skyrocket. Each of the major networks tried to outsmart their competitors with something more creative and shocking. I didn’t think anything could get sleazier than Fox’s “Temptation Island,” or more confusing than ABC’s “The Mole.” But, unexpectedly NBC seems to have outdone them all with the rat and snake burial stunts of “Fear Factor.”
You used to only be able to see this kind of stuff on Pay-per-View. What happened to the good old days when families were able to watch shows like “The Cosby Show” and “Family Ties?” The irony is that all these reality shows are the same. “Fear Factor” is just an imitation of “Survivor” with added nauseating stunts that supposedly add to the show, but only diminish the appetite of viewers. NBC’s second reality TV addition, “Spy TV” is almost too similar to “Candid Camera,” and even uses small children to get a laugh out of viewers.
Instead of another reality show, NBC could create a program where you wouldn’t have to change the channel when your parents or younger sister walked in. “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” is the only show I can think of where the whole family can sit down and watch a program together. It would have been impressive to see NBC come up with something new and improved like ABC did with “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.”
Maybe the creators of “Spy TV” and “Fear Factor” were feeling less ambitious because the shows only act as a summer interim before the next season of “Survivor.” Whatever the reason, NBC has failed to compete with the other leading networks this summer. As I watch people try to steal someone’s boyfriend, and contestants being submerged under water locked in a car, I can only imagine how soon it will be until someone gets hurt. Either a contestant will get caught up in winning the prize and hurt someone in the process or a stunt will backfire. It does not take much to accidentally let something fall through the cracks. I feel bad for the network that finally goes too far and has everything blowup in their face.