Search This Blog

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fear Factor

I think that one of the best things ever about Halloween is the fact that it can be really unpredictable. It's one of those holidays in which you never know what to expect. It is one of those holidays in which just as many tricks are played as there are treats given out at every house in the neighbourhood. Every October 31st, you would see dozens of creepy, crawly ghosts, goblins, zombies, and perhaps the scariest sight of all...a person in a Justin Bieber costume wandering the streets. But whether they were innocent young children eager to get their hands on fun-size Snickers bars, or devils in disguise waiting to transform your jack-o-lantern into pumpkin puree...well, it's impossible to tell. Halloween is one of those holidays in which it's impossible to tell the difference between the good people of society and the bratty ones just out to cause mischief.

Kind of a scary thought, isn't it?

But then again, that seems to be the premise for most horror films out there. The people who you're suspicious of usually saves your life at the eleventh hour, while the person who you thought that you could trust ends up being the serial killer who murdered all of your mutual friends.

Not suggesting that any of you reading this are friends with a serial killer. Just making a statement about just unpredictable Halloween can be.

I know that I've told this story on here before, but I'll tell it again since it's been a couple of years since I last mentioned it, and some of you may not have been around when I talked about it last.

It was Halloween 1991. It was a bittersweet Halloween celebration that year. The good was that I had one of my best Halloween costumes ever with my homemade Super Mario costume, and I ended up getting a lot of treats. But it was also a sad Halloween as my grandmother passed away two days before Halloween.

(On a creepy note, my grandmother's wake was ON Halloween.)

So, while the rest of my family went to the wake, the family agreed that going to the wake would be too much for me to see, so they arranged to have a friend of the family take me trick-or-treating that year while everyone else went to the wake. That way I would have had a little bit of fun before my grandmother's funeral was held the following morning.

But here's the thing about Halloween. Halloween is one of those days in which you never know what you could expect. And after I was finished trick-or-treating and my family picked me up and took me back home, we were all kind of in fear over the shocking scene that met us upon coming back home.

Imagine our surprise when we pulled up into the driveway and saw a couple of strange men crawling up our tree! My mom was worried and confused. She had just lost her mother, and on top of all that, she thought that someone was trying to break into our house!

But they weren't exactly breaking “into” our house. They were just breaking into our tree. You see, we had decorated our tree by stringing up fake ghosts, bats, and the piece de resistance – a life-size fake corpse hanging from the middle of our tree.

As it turned out, the “corpse” was the thing they desired. Of course, they didn't get very far. My sister's then-boyfriend tackled the dummy with the dummy and both ended up taking out one of my mom's rose bushes. It was only after the guys explained that they were doing a Halloween scavenger hunt for some fraternity party and that the dummy was on their list that we let them have it. It wasn't as though we were emotionally attached to the dummy, and it wasn't as though they were there intending to rob us of all of our valuables.

(Would have been a waste of time anyway. My family had NO valuables to be taken.)

Whatever the case, it ended up being a great story to tell, and nobody ended up getting hurt. And all the fears we had ended up being a rather comical misunderstanding.

But that's the thing with fear. Sometimes we fear something and we have absolutely no idea why we fear it. Sometimes our fear of something is brought out by a childhood trauma. And sometimes our fear is something that only we can understand, and makes other people question or even make fun of us because we have that fear.

In my case, it would be fear of failure, fear of drowning, and fear of popping balloons. In that order. And, please don't make fun of that last one. I'm tired of trying to explain it to people.

So, here's a question for all of you out there. What would happen if you were faced with your biggest fear? What if you were trapped inside of a car that was out of control, or faced with having crawl into a tank filled with scorpions and tarantulas, or having to swim through an underwater course without an air tank? Do you think you would have the courage and wits to get through it?

What if I sweetened the deal for you? How about if I offered you fifty thousand dollars in cash to face your fears? If you successfully did it, you'd get the money? Would you swim with sharks, choke down some balut, or allow yourself to be covered with thousands of fire ants then?

Well, as far as my own price tag goes, my price would probably be much higher. Like maybe to the tune of $50,000,000. But for several hundred people who appeared on a television series that used to air on NBC. It was NBC's very first prime-time reality television series, launched shortly after the debut of the hugely successful “Survivor”. And, when you stop and look back on the first season of “Survivor”, there were quite a few challenges which made the castaways face their own fears. They had to eat live bugs and perform physically exhausting challenges that tested their strength and stamina.

The only thing was that “Fear Factor” amped up the challenges in a HUGE way.

When “Fear Factor” debuted on NBC on June 11, 2001, it was a ratings powerhouse. And part of the reason why it was so huge was because it was a show that took ordinary Americans and forced them to confront some of their biggest fears – all for the chance to win a fifty thousand dollar cash prize.

Hosted by former “NewsRadio” actor and current UFC commentator Joe Rogan, the standard episode of “Fear Factor” was divided up into three parts. And each round of the game show from hell was more intense than the previous one.

But it's important to note that these stunts were not intended to be recreated at home. As Joe always said at the beginning of each episode...

I'm Joe Rogan, and this is Fear Factor. The stunts you are about to seewere all designed and supervised by trained professionals. They are extremely dangerous and should not be attempted by anyone, anywhere, anytime.”

So, let's make it perfectly clear. The show should really be called “Fear Factor: Don't Try This At Home”.

The vast majority of the episodes featured six contestants (almost always three men and three women), but there were special episodes filmed. On a “Best Friends” or “Family” episode, they would sometimes have four couples. Or if the theme was “Miss America Contestants”, all the contestants were female. And sometimes there would be celebrity competitors (usually from NBC television shows) that would compete in the show to donate their winnings to the charity of their choice.

But the common goal was the same. Get through three rounds. Win the cash.

However, it wasn't that simple. If contestants failed the challenge, were the worst performer in the challenge, or let fear prevent them from even attempting the challenge, they could be eliminated and walk away with nothing.

And just what were the challenges?

Well, the first challenge was one that was designed in such a way that even the most seasoned of stunt performers would have great difficulty. All of the stunts in the first round had contestants doing a physical stunt. Have a look at an example below.

Now, I'll tell you right now. I would be out the first round. There's no way that I could do anything like that. So, for those contestants who did get through those stunts, you have my absolute respect...even though I still think you're nuts.

Anyway, all the contestants would perform in the challenge, and the two worst performers (or worst performing team) would be eliminated from the game.

Then came the second stunt which tested the strength of comtestants'...erm...stomachs.

You see, the second stunt often involved creepy crawling things, eating disgusting objects, and chugging down milkshakes made of the most revolting ingredients. Would you like to have a look at an example of one of these stunts? Have a look...if your stomach is strong enough.

Wasn't that revolting? Again, I would NOT be able to do anything like that at all. I don't get creeped out by spiders, but I certainly wouldn't like to EAT one. Especially when it is still alive. But those contestants who could gather their wits and pretend that those icky, yucky bugs tasted like chicken, they would move on to the final round. In fact, there was a little bit of incentive for performing the best in that challenge. Those who did the best could win a vacation or a new car. So, I suppose that having a voracious appetite could work out in your favour.

And this leads to the final which you might only find in a stereotypical action film. Have a look at an example.

Ever wanted to run atop a speeding freight train? Some contestants during the final round could do that. Ever wanted to escape a sinking car? Some contestants did that. Ever wanted to try and disarm a bomb before it exploded? I believe that there was one stunt that did exactly that!

But I Fear Factor contestants ever died during any of the tapings of the show.

The contestant who performed the stunt in the fastest time would win the fifty thousand cash prize, as well as the opportunity to play in the Fear Factor Tournament of Champions at the end of each season for the chance to win a hundred thousand dollars.

The original series ran for five years, concluding its run in the summer of 2006 following a decline in ratings. However, the show was briefly revived for the 2011 holiday season, with new episodes airing until the show was cancelled again in 2012.

But all in all, the series was successful enough to be syndicated on several networks including outdoor life and game show specialty channels. And, I can readily admit that a group of people in our dorm rooms at university came up with a Fear Factor drinking game which all but ensured that we had half-drunk students stumbling around each night the show aired.

Of course, just to clarify...we drank alcohol...not cow blood.

No comments:

Post a Comment