While it has been a show people have either loved or loved to hate during its run, "Fear Factor" certainly still gained a following during its first few years. The show (which is currently finishing up its last season) tried to push the envelope further and further during its run, but there's something more appealing and fresh (less-is-more, in other words) about the early going, seen in this first season, where contestants (and audiences) didn't know what kind of absurd stunt the show would pull out next.
Hosted by former sitcom actor and stand-up Joe Rogan ("Newsradio"), each episode of the show took a group of average people from different backgrounds and threw them into three different challenges that saw the group facing different fears, whether it be bugs, snakes, rats or an assortment of physical challenges. Although the balance of the series has changed over the years, the early seasons have a gross-out stunt in-between two physical challenges. The remaining contestant at the end of the last challenge wins $50,000.
The fascination of watching the first season after all this time is to see how sharply "Fear Factor" has changed since it first hit the airwaves. The contestants now often look like models, while the contestants from the early seasons looked more like a mix of everyday people plucked to compete for the $50,000. Additionally, while there are some major stunts in the first season, the stunts here are less epic and more low-tech than the stunts that the show offers up today. Additionally, while host Joe Rogan offers the occasional wisecracks and other dialogue the contestants, he doesn't seem quite as comfortable and chatty as host in this first season as he seems now.
However, all of this works in the show's favor in some ways. The first season isn't as slick, but the rather rougher quality of this season actually is appealing in comparison to more over-the-top recent seasons. Additionally, contestants here aren't as aware of what to expect and their reactions seem more genuine in comparison to contestants in more recent seasons, who generally know the kind of things that they might be up against. Later seasons have offered up the enjoyable "gimmick" shows (celebrities, twins, couples and the true train wreck that is "Fear Factor: Family Edition"), but I still think that this season (and the early seasons in general)'s lack of flash and better mix of contestants work better than the more ridiculous recent seasons.
Note: the first season of the show was a short run, with only 9 episodes.
1. 1- 1 11 Jun 01 Horse Drag; Rat Pit; Slippery-Car Crawl
2. 1- 2 18 Jun 01 Truck Jump; Worm Coffin; Catapult
3. 1- 3 25 Jun 01 Jet Ski Leap; Beetle Bowl; Rope Crawl
4. 1- 4 2 Jul 01 Net Jump; Wormtinis; Tunnel Crawl
5. 1- 5 9 Jul 01 Dog Attack; Snake Pit; Beam Walk
6. 1- 6 16 Jul 01 Sub Dive; Cricket Crunch; Speed Drop
7. 1- 7 23 Jul 01 Hotel Jump; Sheep's Eyes; Water Tank
8. 1- 9 30 Jul 01 Wrecking Ball; Testicles; Baby Rescue
9. 1-10 5 Sep 01 Trapeze; Pig Feast; Traverse
VIDEO: "Fear Factor" is presented by Universal Home Entertainment in 1.33:1 full-frame. The presentation quality actually looks quite good here, appearing crisper and fresher than some of these early episodes look when I've seen them recently in syndication. Sharpness and detail are superb in most scenes, but especially during the brighter/daylight stunt sequences. Even in some of the dark/low-light scenes, however, the picture still looked crisp and clear. Aside from some minor shimmering at times, there were no major concerns. Colors looked bright and vivid, with no smearing or other issues.
SOUND: The episodes are presented in stereo and sound perfectly fine, with crisp, full sound and clear dialogue.
EXTRAS: The box lists the set as including a preview for season 2. This is actually a full episode - it's the "best of" episode for the second season. While the bonus episode is a nice extra, one gets the feeling that there had to have been more material to add: deleted scenes, interviews with the stunt coordinators, audition tapes and more seem like they could have been dug up for this release.
Final Thoughts: "Fear Factor" is currently in its final season, but fans can relive the first (and quite different) season on this DVD set. Image and sound are quite good, but the extras section seems rather lackluster. Still, a recommendation for fans.