David Hurwitz described the precise moment his career as a television producer for the program Fear Factor began to take off when speaking with Joe Rogan. Hurwitz and his coworker Matt Kunitz realized they had sacrificed their “souls” to make something that America could not live without: gross-out television as they watched a woman consume worms from a martini glass.
“I think the glass had, like, three earthworms and a silkworm in it, We watched her try to drink them, and then her gag reflex kicked in. We looked at each other and went, ‘We’re going to hell.’” Hurwitz tells Yahoo Entertainment now.
Fear Factor premiered in June 2001, hosted at the time by podcaster Joe Rogan. The show was an instant success, and it began competing with the other major reality shows of the time, Survivor and Big Brother. The show was a huge success, rocketing to the top of Nielsen ratings, instead.
Hurwitz could not agree with his longtime collaborator anymore.
Kunitz started his television career with MTV, where he worked on the reality series Real World and Road Rules. Hurwitz was no longer able to concur with his longtime partner. “Everyone was saying, ‘All the networks are looking for the next Survivor.
Hurwitz said saying, his debut programs included the era-relevant reality series Before They Were Stars as well as The Man Show with Jimmy Kimmel and Joe Rogan. “At the time, it was really just Survivor and Big Brother, There was no such thing at NBC as the ‘reality TV department.’ Literally, the gentleman that oversaw specials like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was our executive!”
Hurwitz and Kunitz did not originate the concept of the Fear Factor. They took a concept from European reality television and gave it a very American spin. The Danish program Now or Neverland served as the show’s inspiration. In the original competition, contestants were forced to perform risky actions that endangered their safety. Hurwitz and Kunitz were aware that they have to go all out if they wanted to make this show popular in America.
From the very first day it aired, Fear Factor was a success.
Fear Factor solidified Rogan’s persona, with him gleefully narrating the heinous stunts. Kunitz says, “We were getting 18 million viewers — that would never happen today. The gross stunts were great, not only because they were visceral and offered something you’d never seen before, but it also helped with the budget.”
The event, however, was destroyed by one stunt that went too far. To commemorate the show’s tenth anniversary, it was brought back in 2011 after ceasing production in 2006.
“They said, ‘We want this to be bigger and better than ever. “We didn’t go rogue. Everyone signed off on every challenge, from the network to the studio,” Kunitz said. Rogan, Kunitz, and Hurwitz thereby presented donkey seamen to the network.
But when they chose to utilize donkey mariners for the resurrection of the play, they all made the incorrect choice. Despite the tragedy of it all, they compelled the crew to test the stunt, and Joe Rogan watched in terror as they performed it. “I remember that Joe felt so bad, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of $100 bills and just gave it to the poor guys,” Kunitz said.
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