Fear Factor

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Fear Factor TV Poster Image
Sensationalism and greed mark stunt-filled reality series.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 12 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 11 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Greed is central to the participants' motivation in putting themselves through the show's outrageous challenges. Contestants bicker and trash-talk each other in an attempt to throw their opponents off their game, even poking fun at their body types (a heavyset competitor is encouraged to "drop a few" and two attractive blondes are called "too pretty" to win) to get under their skin.

Positive Role Models & Representations

There's no sportsmanship or camaraderie among the players, and even the host gets into the action of stirring up rivalries and making crass comments about their performances and their likelihood of winning.


All of the stunts are dangerous in some form or another. Contestants crash through barricades strapped to the front of a truck (wearing protective gear in that case), race to free themselves from submerged cars, and eat vile (and potentially hazardous) things like live scorpions and animal eyeballs. Occasionally there are minor injuries or illnesses from the experiences.


Female contestants' skimpy tops reveal a lot of skin, and guys bare their chests to show off their physiques. Some couples kiss, and others talk about their "sexy" bodies.


"Ass," "damn," "hell," "piss," and the like are frequent players, and anything stronger is bleeped.


Some episodes award big-ticket prizes like cars throughout the course of the show, in which case their brands are visible.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this reality series is a compilation of gross-out and potentially life-threatening stunts like ingesting habanero peppers, eating animal body parts, and jumping off buildings. The show relies on sensationalism and controversy among its contestants to keep the content edgy, so expect plenty of trash-talking, some of which hones in on the participants' body types ("fat," "skinny and pretty") for ammunition. Greed and ego are big players in the contestants' motivations, which leaves little room for sportsmanship, and the host often stirs animosity by pitting the players against each other. The bottom line? These aren't good models of healthy competitive behavior for kids, and the challenges themselves might inspire some similar stunts from ill-advised viewers.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byLowe's man March 25, 2016

for no one, especially children

Although I've never seen this show, I've seen it advertised. Some of these stunts are so ill-advised that they are far beyond pathetic, such as verti... Continue reading
Adult Written byTimTheTVGuy October 22, 2012

YES! It's back on TV!

Wow CSM,how overprotective can you get?I was so angry when it got canned it 2006,THANK GOODNESS it returned it 2011! This is so addicting and fun!
Kid, 10 years old March 5, 2018


Holy crap DO NOT let your kid or teen watch this show. EVER. I watched this when I was 7 and holy guacamole after I watched that show I think I started puking a... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byjgstyle14 January 28, 2018

Entertaining Show

This show is very entertaining. I love the new host Ludacris because he makes the show more interesting to watch and he switches it up every week. He does crazy... Continue reading

What's the story?

FEAR FACTOR is a reality series that puts its participants through a series of challenges that test their physical and mental strength. Contestants compete either solo or in pairs, and they face potentially life-threatening and gross-out tests like being covered in bees, lying in a bed of snakes, and swimming in a vat of cow blood. One contestant (or team) is eliminated after each challenge, with the ultimate victor taking home a $50,000 cash prize. Hosted by Joe Rogan, the show originally ran from 2001 to 2006 before leaving the air, only to be revived in 2011 with the same host and a similar format.

Is it any good?

The first thing you'll hear when you tune in to this extreme reality series is Rogan's voice-over warning viewers of the danger factor in what they're about to see and instructing them not to replicate the stunts. That goes without saying for grown-ups who recognize the real-life danger in these stunts, but if you're a kid and someone tells you not to do something, your natural instinct is to do just that, right? In other words, this show could have the opposite effect on kids, inspiring them to try even scaled-down versions of what they see. Couple this curiosity factor with some strong language and generally obnoxious players, and keeping kids away is a no-brainer.


While there is something to be said for witnessing people conquer their fears and emerge stronger from the experience, it's hard to say that that is what Fear Factor is all about. The show values sensationalism over personal achievement, and its contestants are chosen as much for their strong personalities as for their willingness to put themselves through such extreme stunts for the sake of greed. There's no denying that it's entertaining, but quality substance isn't a factor for this show.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about greed. How does our desire for money and possessions drive our actions? What role does it play in our choice of a career or hobbies? Is there an upside to these motivations? If so, what?

  • Teens: Have you ever faced an "I dare you" situation with your peers? How did you handle it? Where do you draw the line when it comes to challenges? Is it difficult to walk away from confrontation?

  • Why do you think reality TV appeals to so many people? Is there anything realistic about shows like this one? What other reality series do you watch that seem more relatable to you?

TV details

  • Premiere date: June 11, 2001
  • Cast: Joe Rogan
  • Network: NBC
  • Genre: Reality TV
  • TV rating: TV-PG
  • Available on: DVD, Streaming
  • Last updated: September 20, 2019

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