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'Fear Factor' is Back, But When? And What's New? Producer Matt Kunitz Gives Details

by Maggie Furlong, posted Jun 2nd 2011 9:30PM
'Fear Factor'UPDATE, 06/03/11: Joe Rogan's "very high on the list" to host the new 'Fear Factor,' according to Endemol North America chairman David Goldberg. He told 'EW' that producers haven't made any decisions, but they'll sit down with Rogan and see if he's interested. Goldberg also confirmed that NBC has already ordered 10 episodes.

Today's news that 'Fear Factor' will return to NBC after five years off the air came as a bit of a surprise -- guess the new higher-ups at the network were fans back in the day.

But there was very little information out there to report on, other than the fact that NBC and production company Endemol USA were ready to start doing casting calls.

We had a lot of questions: What will the show look like now? Are there new challenges in store? Will host Joe Rogan return? And when will this new season premiere?

So we turned to executive producer Matt Kunitz to get the scoop. Before dishing about all of that and more -- including 'Idol,' 'The Voice,' 'Wipeout' and his new upcoming ABC show '101 Ways to Leave a Game Show' -- Kunitz giddily started the chat by saying, "I think you're the first person in six years that I've actually introduced myself to as Matt Kunitz from 'Fear Factor.' [Laughs] It's exciting!"

Keep reading for more, as well as scoop on their plans to make 'Fear Factor' 2.0 "bigger and badder."

What made you guys decide to go back to 'Fear Factor'?
It's something that when it went off the air, we always felt that we still had a lot of energy left. I think sometimes when shows kind of get to the end, you kind of feel like, you know what, we've been there, we've done that. But when we got into our sixth season, we felt like we really just started to get our pace. We'd brought in a new stunt coordinator, Pat Romano, who came from feature films, and so the work that we were doing was the best stuff we'd ever done.

So for us to be able to come back now and start it all again, with all the knowledge we have from those six seasons ... and what's really phenomenal is how far the stunt world has come in the last six years, technologically. Back then, if we dropped somebody, we'd drop them 8 feet to a line. Now we have the technology to drop them at full speed in freefall, and then stop them inches from hitting the concrete. It's things like that that excite us, because we know we can make it bigger and badder than it ever was before. And this was one of the baddest shows out there. For us to be able to take it to the next level is really exciting.

And this marks your return to working with NBC. I'm assuming the new brass is excited about the show?
Yeah, they're excited -- the new people are excited, but there's still a lot of people from the old regime that were there back in the day. The people in the online division, standards and practices, scheduling ... a lot of those people are still there. And market and promo ... this is like a dream come true for a promo department! So it's great to get a chance to work with the new regime, but also to work with old friends there.

And speaking of old friends, we're bringing back most of the creative staff from the firs go-round. My partner on this is David Hurwitz, who was with me every step of the way on 'Fear Factor.' He ate, breathed, slept 'Fear Factor' for six years, so it's exciting.

In the original article you guys put out, there was something about it being a lesser version -- I don't think that could be any further from the truth. Our mandate from the network is we can't bring it back unless this is going to be a better and bigger version.

Joe RoganSo the creative team will be back, but who will be hosting? Will Joe Rogan return?
You know, we just literally made the announcement of the show today, so that conversation hasn't been had yet with the network. We love Joe, and Joe was a huge part of the show, but we're not ready to ... we just haven't had the time to even sit down with the new brass and talk about that yet.

Is he something you would fight for? Or are you OK revamping that aspect of the show as well?
I think Joe's an incredibly important part of the show. I think Joe is somebody that ... he was there from day one. When there's the nostalgia of 'Fear Factor,' they think of Joe. He's definitely somebody that I would love to work with again.

Is there a target premiere date you're looking at?
All I know right now is that they're talking fall. So we're preparing for fall episodes, and we'll be ready.

Wow.
Yeah, the biggest thing for us is the development of a stunt takes months and months. There's so much research and development that goes into any stunt we do. You can't just say, "Oh we're gonna hang someone from a helicopter and drop them on top of a train and then the train is gonna go through a wall of fire." The amount of time, energy and money and resources that goes into that stunt ... you have to be planning those three months in advance. That's what makes this show particularly difficult, and I think that's why people were not able to easily copy it. I think I can honestly say there has not been another stunt show on television that's come even close to what we do on 'Fear Factor.'

You've been working on 'Wipeout' -- has its success made you want to go more family-friendly with 'Fear Factor' 2.0, or do you think it'll skew grosser and more headline-grabbing?
It's interesting because the reason Scott Larsen and I created 'Wipeout' was because we realized that 'Fear Factor' was an incredibly popular show with families. It's really rare. If you look at the TV landscape, there are very few shows -- you can count them on one hand -- that kids and parents actually want to watch together. It's 'American Idol' and 'Wipeout' -- what else is there? So yes, this is a family show. It will be crazy, it will be gross. The thing I always said about 'Fear Factor' then, and it's gonna be the same now, is that yes, it's crazy stunts, yes it's gross, but there's no violence, there's no cursing, there's no nudity, so it is a good, safe show for the kids to watch, too.

'Wipeout' hosts with creator Matt Kunitz (3rd from left)

I always loved the celebrity episodes -- I mean, Todd Bridges and G. Gordon Liddy onscreen together? Epic.
Wow ... you really were a fan! That was one of the first conversations we had with the network, was if we come back we should do a celebrity episode. We're in discussions on what that would be, and how we would do that, but that's definitely something that you can look forward to.

If you could hand-pick today, who you would love for a celeb episode?
I would love to have the Kardashian family on a celebrity episode. The whole family though -- it's gotta be the whole family. I think that would be fun. They're very relatable, and because that family is multi-generational, that would be fun to see that, too.

'American Idol'Besides your own shows, what reality shows do you think are doing it right these days?
Clearly 'American Idol' has figured out something, right? You can't complain about 'Idol' -- it's amazing the longevity of that show and their ability in the tenth season to come back stronger than the season before, so props to 'American Idol.' I started watching 'The Voice,' I enjoy 'The Voice.' I think it's really hard to do a new music show and be fresh and different ...

You've definitely tried it! 'The One' on ABC didn't work out so good ...
[Laughs] Exactly! Boy you do your research.

It's my job. Do you think you had bad timing with your take, and maybe 'The Voice' is just right show, right time?
But if someone said to me a year ago, "Do you want to do another music show?" I would've said, "No way! [Laughs] I'm not going up against 'Idol' with a music show!" So to see 'The Voice' do well, to me it was a surprise, and good for them. I'm a huge fan of reality shows doing well, because when reality shows do well, it's good for the business.

'101 Ways' host Jeff0 SutphenSo you have high hopes for your new show, '101 Ways to Leave a Game Show'?
Oh absolutely. You know, the thing about '101 Ways' is, to me, it's another big family show, but it's different. It's pretty unique in the sense that it is a traditional game show, so we have questions and answers, but if you get one question wrong, we have 101 ways to spectacularly eliminate you from the game show. I haven't seen anything like it ... it's the perfect kind of summer show.

I always liked Whammies. You know, no whammies, no whammies, stop?
Yeah, I would say that times a thousand. I'm at the set now and literally I'm standing on top of a 300-foot cliff where, if you get the question wrong, you're going to be blown off the cliff with a fire hose. And that's only one of 101 ways. Every single episode, every single elimination is completely different.

What's your biggest fear?
Hmmm ... I'm not afraid of heights. I discovered that on 'Fear Factor' when I would test stunts once in a while. I would say it's probably anything to do with water and drowning. When we do some of these water stunts, even on '101' ... you get the question wrong, and we have them all standing on the edge of a dock, and each of them has a 200-pound anchor sitting next to them. Whoever gets the question wrong, the host kicks the anchor, the anchor goes into the ocean and pulls them under ... that would freak me out! I don't care that I know of course there's safety mechanisms and underwater divers that are gonna release me ... none of that matters to me. Just the thought of being pulled underwater freaks me out. [Laughs]


Follow Maggie on Twitter @TheTVShowGirl

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Terry

Thank goodness fear factor is back on I love this show, don't take it off again even if I do have to leave the room sometimes.

December 09 2011 at 1:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jason Smith

I think they are going to go too far I used to watch the show but after seeing the trailer for it,I think I am not going to watch it.

November 18 2011 at 9:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Miguel

FEAR FACTOR WITHOUT JOE ROGAN IS BORING.

October 09 2011 at 2:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
donna

WE LOVED FEAR FACTOR IT WAS A WHOLE FAMILY WATCH.

June 06 2011 at 5:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
no

Dear Sir, Why keep showes on like this is stuipd. Half this showes are DUM. You guy sit behind a desk and you think you no what people like.You have no idea on any thing.What shoes you have on Cable nets works are TRASH.WHO wants to see some Guy look for a Wife.But then you take off Sosap Operas like ALL MY CHILDREN AND ONE LIFE TO LIVE. WHY? ANOTHER good show was BOSS CAKE but you dont see that either or Little People in a Bakery taken off the air.
YES THE RATING WERE DOWN WHEN WHAT HAPPENED OVER IN JAPAN AND ALL BUT THIS SHOULD NOT HAVE TO TAKEN OFF 2 SOAP OPEERAS. ALL MUY CHILDREN AND ONE LIFE TO. HAVENT YOU DONE ENOUGHT TO TV SHOWES. get them to stay they are good showes and the elder people enjoy watxh them in the afternnom i know i do. Betsey

June 04 2011 at 5:02 PM Report abuse -16 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to no's comment
dbrown3444

You call the shows dumb (not dum) and then you butcher the English language. Take a look in the mirror before saying other things are dumb.

June 04 2011 at 6:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lois

Sounds sick like another Jerry Springer or Maury show?? Don't know why they allow such trash on TV ?

June 04 2011 at 4:12 PM Report abuse -15 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Lois's comment
Samantha

Then it's pretty obvious that you've never watched an single episode of Fear Factor if you think it's some kind of talk show.

June 04 2011 at 4:41 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Lois

Dunno..sounds gross..It might put too much fear in kids??

June 04 2011 at 4:06 PM Report abuse -12 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Lois's comment
mlondeaux

The show is about facing your fears and has nothing to do with making kids afraid. I loved the show and was sorry when it went off the air. I'm so happy the network has decided to bring it back!

June 08 2011 at 12:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
You Sexy Beast!!

Well, I have to admit I will watch it. There are certain parts I can't watch (when they eat gross stuff it makes me gag so I literally have to leave the roo) but i LOVE the physical stunts. And you absolutely HAVE to bring back Joe Rogan as the host, it just wouldn't be the same without him, it wouldn't be Fear Factor!

June 04 2011 at 4:02 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
corsair807

WHAT A PILE OF GARBAGE.

June 04 2011 at 3:54 PM Report abuse -13 rate up rate down Reply
byrd908

I liked Fear Factor in the early days, until they started making people eat stuff so gross it was too difficult to watch. Since they're going to make it grosser this time, maybe they plan to have people eat actual excrement--either human or animal--which was about where they were when they cancelled the show before. Wouldn't that be entertaining....

June 04 2011 at 3:41 PM Report abuse -10 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to byrd908's comment
mlondeaux

I'm sure all the stuff that they eat has been researched by the show to make sure it wouldn't physically harm anyone. Eating poop would probably make people sick so I doubt if that would ever happen, although I love watching people do things that I'd be too afraid to do, such as being buried alive (I have claustrophobia) or walking on a beam 50 feet in the air (I'm afraid of heights.) There's no way I could do it, even for 50 grand.

June 08 2011 at 12:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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