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Why Was Fear Factor Cancelled?

When it comes to cringe-inducing reality TV, nothing beats Fear Factor. Following its premiere in 2001, the competition show made a name for itself as the only show that aimed to gross out their viewers. Fear Factor contestants completed a series of increasingly disgusting or terrifying tasks for the chance of taking home $50,000. However, the show's winning formula fizzled out in 2006 and it was canceled (for the first time) due to sagging ratings, according to The Hollywood Reporter; but it's actually the show's second cancellation that went on to become the stuff of reality TV legend.

Fear Factor was brought back with original host Joe Rogan in 2011, according to another THR report. This time around, however, the series only lasted for one year. The second cancellation all came down to a stunt that network executives decided not to air, as reported by TMZ. Fear Factor's death knell naturally involved something disgusting, and while that was part and parcel to the show's success, the producers finally went far enough to upset enough people. Of course, the series' cancellation wasn't officially tied to the episode, but the controversy surrounding it was clear. The episode entitled "Hee Haw! Hee Haw!" episode called for contestants to drink donkey urine and semen and, when news of the challenge leaked, the ensuing controversy did the program in.

Fear Factor was always a controversial show, but it finally went too far

Of course, following the 2012 cancellation, MTV rebooted Fear Factor in 2017 with rapper/actor Ludacris hosting. Showrunners promised a less-gross and more-fun series this time around, according to The Hollywood Reporter, and it lasted for two seasons. Still, it's hard to forget the show's lurid past. The stunts often involved things like eating bugs and also incorporated physical feats of bravery, but it was their gross-out antics that got them into trouble. A viewer in 2005 tried to sue NBC for $2.5 million, claiming that an episode where contestants ate rats was so disturbing that it made him vomit and get so dizzy that he injured himself, according to a Cleveland 19 News report. However, a judge ultimately threw out the suit.

Still, the donkey challenge is hard to beat. Two of the contestants who performed the feat — twins Brynne and Claire Odioso — said during a 2012 radio interview that it was "the hardest 15 minutes of [their] life," Fox News reports. "If you vomited you would have to start over. I ended up just vomiting in my glass and drank that. The camera men were vomiting," one twin reportedly said. "It smells. It's so bitter, and it has a little hint of hay."

The donkey episode was so gross that it's what killed the series altogether, host Joe Rogan said during an episode of The Joe Rogan Experience. "So hard to imagine that that was a real show," Rogan added.