When Fear Factor was released in 2001, it was never supposed to be a show the whole family sat down to watch together. It was made specifically for men. But then something else happened.
“We thought that people who like sports would like this show,” says Jayson Dinsmore, the executive at NBC who was leading the show at the time. “Kids showed up first—they just found it so funny. Then parents heard their kids giggling in the other room, so they went in and watched it, too. Before we knew it, the show was a giant hit [with] all demos.”
Fear Factor was at the tail end of an all-family viewing trend that played out at the turn of the millennium. Content swings like a pendulum, and in the ’90s—when families were beginning to broaden their TV set collection—the main goal was bringing everyone together in primetime to watch programs like Full House, Fresh Prince of Bel Air and The Nanny.
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