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'Fear Factor': Call Out the Instigators, Because There's Something In the Air
December 14, 2011  | By David Bianculli

NBC's Fear Factor is back on the air -- and, at the same time, polluting it. During Monday's two-hour comeback premiere, Fear Factor presented an outrageously gross stunt that showed everyday people, eager to do just about anything for money, wallowing in a giant vat of animal waste. And then I thought -- wait a minute.

I've seen that before.

In a movie...


The vat in Fear Factor was filled, according to host Joe Rogan, with "3,000 gallons of cow's blood." It also featured, at the bottom of this metaphorical barrel, a collection of cow's hearts. The contestants, working in pairs, were tasked with submerging themselves in the vat of bovine blood, dive for hearts instead of pearls, and -- in a final exercise in indignity -- taking turns inserting hearts into their partner's mouth, so that the cow hearts could be spit out of the tank into a smaller container.

I could describe this scene, and this show, in greater detail -- but I find my heart's just not in it.

I did, however, write a fuller article, putting the series in greater context, for CNN.com, which you can read HERE. And you should, if only to read some of the 200-plus comments posted by readers of the CNN site.

The majority of those readers, by my casual but amused count, sided with Fear Factor. One sample reader's comment, in its entirety: "The column lost my interest when the writer's bio said 'NPR' in it."
(Which, I think, says less about my article, or me, than it does about that particular reader.)

I should add that my writer's bio came before the article. And, at this point, I should also add, as I do often, how grateful I am for the high level of intelligence and politeness displayed by readers who post comments to TV WORTH WATCHING, whether to agree or disagree.


My CNN column ended by making a comparison between the cow's-blood stunt on Fear Factor and the climactic scene of 1969's The Magic Christian, the hilarious Terry Southern satire starring Peter Sellers as Sir Guy Grand, a wealthy eccentric who spends money just to prove that people will do almost anything for enough of it.

Sir Guy befriends a homeless youth, played by Ringo Starr (back when The Beatles were still together), and the two of them spend a fortune proving the absurdity and depths of human greed.

One of the songs on this movie soundtrack is Badfinger's "Come and Get It," with its perfectly applicable lyrics: "If you want it, here it is / come and get it /But you better hurry / 'cause it's going fast." But it's at the end, to the tune of Thunderclap Newman's "Something in the Air," that The Magic Christian depicts its most unthinkable stunt.

"Free money," promises the crudely written sign hung on an outdoor giant vat. Then, as Sir Guy shouts "free money" into a bullhorn to tempt people passing by, trucks from a local slaughterhouse fill the vat with animal blood, urine and solid waste. Then, after paper currency is sprinkled on top, the gathering crowd is invited to wade into the vat and help itself.

I don't recommend you watch Fear Factor -- in fact, quite the opposite.

I do, however, urge you to see The Magic Christian, which predicted this sort of insane behavior more than 40 years ago. You can buy the DVD HERE.

Or, as a taste and a teaser, you can see the clip in question by watching below.

Just don't say, back in the Sixties, that The Magic Christian didn't warn you.

The Magic Christian - Free Money (Final Scene) by Tushratta



Mara said:

Fascinating! I know I shouldn't be surprised that a movie predicted this kind of unthinkable stunt, but I am. There really is nothing new under the sun, but it takes a long memory and a sense of history to put things in their proper perspective. Thanks for doing that.

And as for the comments on your CNN article. all I have to say is that I have to restrain myself from reading comments on articles at every other site but this one. People seem to see a comments section as an invitation to belch forth all of their most hateful, mean-spirited sentiments, and I lose a little bit of my faith in humanity every time I scroll down. I don't know what protects us, but I hope it lasts!

[What protects us, here at TVWW, is the intelligence and good manners of readers like you. So thanks, again! - DB]

Comment posted on December 15, 2011 11:55 PM

Ed Q said:

I'm with Mara. Even the Times is littered with Howard Stern like crank callers filling up the comments page.

The anonymity and anger of the internet- some tv show or movie of the 60's or 70's must've predicted that too, right?

[I can't think of one, but it'd be great if one work of art did just that. Can anyone think of a contender - something from the past that predicted our current climate of anonymous rudeness. And no, you can't count Lewis Carroll's "The Hunting of the Snark." - DB]

Comment posted on December 16, 2011 12:11 PM
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