The entertainment industry can be a brutal beast. There's a reason why there are throngs of folks out there who ultimately decide to give up on their dreams of having their own talk show or becoming a stand-up comic or the world's greatest clown-themed rapper for a job at their dad's practice. That's because getting a decent job in the industry is by no means a done deal.
And even if you do manage to land a great gig, keeping it is another story. Countless high-profile pilots are never picked up and further developed even when they have top talent and directors attached to it. And if your show does get picked up, there's no guarantee it's going to last for multiple seasons. But NBC's Fear Factor did, and was one of the network's biggest shows. So why did it get canceled?
Why did 'Fear Factor' get canceled?
It was the early 2000s, and network television was going big into reality TV and they weren't afraid to dip their toes into the edge-pool in order to secure ratings. The WWE was selling D-Generation X T-shirts with the words "SUCK IT" on them. People hadn't found out Limp Bizkit sucked yet, and movie-theater goers cheered when they watched Anthony Hopkins feed Ray Liotta his own brains.
It was a wild time, and Fear Factor embodied that wildness.
Hosted by the podcast king himself, comedian/UFC commentator/tae kwon do champion Joe Rogan, Fear Factor was, at the time, a surprise success for NBC. The show, which launched in 2001, picked a handful of contestants and put them through a number of hair-rising and disgusting challenges to overcome their fears for the chance to win a ton of money.
Folks were dangled from zip lines that were attached to helicopters, ate bugs and boiled genitals of weird animals, and did a whole lot of weird and frightening things for a sweet cash prize.
Rogan at the time was mostly known for his recurring role on the popular sitcom News Radio. In a 2015 interview with Art Bell, Rogan said he didn't think there was any way that Fear Factor would stay on air.
"It was bizarre for me being there, being the host of it, as it was for anyone to watch it. Ninety percent of the time I would show up at work and I’d be shaking my head going, 'I can’t believe this is a real show,'" he said (per Gossip Cop), adding: "I thought it was something completely ridiculous. I’m like, ‘There’s no way this is going to stay on television.’ Then, 148 episodes later…"
However, like most shows with zany premises, it seemed as if the allure of Fear Factor began to wear off after multiple seasons. Ratings dwindled from year to year, although they were still fairly strong even up to the end of its sixth season, when it was canceled. The series reportedly earned the network a whopping $600 million in ad revenue for its first run on air.
While the show was successful, NBC noticed that fans weren't too interested in re-watching episodes of the series, as DVD box-set sales (which were big in the early aughts) of the first season didn't perform well sales-wise.
As Gossip Cop notes, some believe that "overexposure" could've contributed to Fear Factor's cancellation and dwindling audience interest, as new episodes were premiering on NBC at the same time that older episodes were airing in syndication.
After seeing that the reruns did well on NBC's sister network, Chiller, NBC decided to bring the series back in 2011. However, it didn't fare well due to production pushing the envelope a little too far with some of the challenges. Rogan told Bell, "The second time around we did it for seven more episodes… and then I was worried because there were some episodes… where they really kept upping the ante further and further and there was a few accidents. Nobody got hurt; [it was] nothing serious. But it was like wow. This is more risky than we ever did before."
One episode in particular, where contestants were challenged to drink either donkey semen or urine, ultimately put the kibosh on the series. Although it was never aired, the episode is available for those to watch who are interested.
The show was rebooted again in 2017 on MTV with Ludacris as host but was ultimately axed after two seasons.
Joe Rogan once fought a contestant on the show.
The scuffle occurred after Joe called out a female contestant — who appeared on the series with her husband — for physically assaulting another player. The female contestant's husband eventually charged at Joe. WWE's The Miz ended up breaking up the fight between the husband and Joe, saying, "And then all of a sudden they start going at it and I was like, 'All right I gotta break this up because Joe's gonna kill him.'"
The host can be seen keeping the contestant at bay as he fecklessly accosted the tae kwon do champion and BJJ black belt.
Seems like fear should've been a factor for that guy, seeing what Rogan's capable of doing to smack-talking average joes.