Did MTV Cancel the Reality Show Fear Because a Contestant Died During the Filming of the Series?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV URBAN LEGEND: MTV canceled the TV series Fear because a contestant was killed during filming of an episode.

In 2000, MTV debuted a new “reality” series called Fear, where six young adults would be taken to various “haunted” places at night and forced to perform “dares.” If they perform all the dares given to them, they each receive a sum of money (the first episode it was $3,000 but by the time it was picked up for a series, it was $5,000).

The dares often involved some pretty scary stuff, especially for the era, which was pre-Fear Factor and shows of that ilk.

For instance, in an episode set in a penitentiary, a “dare” was to go into this dark room where many prisoners were raped and murdered and stay there in radio silence for 15 minutes.

Naturally, some folks had a hard time with this situation…

The show, visually, was very well put together (look at this scene from a Season 1 episode…


and it soon became a hit for MTV. Two seasons were produced. However, six episodes into the second season the show was canceled, even though it was MTV’s second highest-rated program at the time.

Rumors started up right away that it had been canceled because a contestant had died in one of the episodes (even dumber rumors involved a cast member being possessed by a spirit). What is the truth?

The truth of the matter was that the show was not making enough money for MTV to continue it.

Yes, it very well could have been the second highest-rated show on MTV at the time, but that was not saying much, as most of MTV’s programs at the time were roughly in the same vicinity of each other (this was pre-Osbournes, pre-Punk’d, pre-Laguna Beach), so if you’re getting a 1.7 rating when everything else is 1.5, then that’s not saying a lot. If you check out the Top 15 Cable Ratings for the time, once you get past the Top 2 shows (which were wrestling programs at a time when wrestling was doing extremely well on television), #3 and #15 are separated by less than 600,000 viewers!! And only one MTV program was making the Top 15 at the time Fear was on, Real World, which was barely cracking a 2.0 rating. So if it WERE true that Fear was MTV’s second-highest rated show (and I do believe that), it was not doing so well that it was even cracking Cable’s Top 15.

Meanwhile, the show’s costs were high for the time. It was a bit of the trouble with being at the forefront of this genre – it was expensive because no one else was doing shows like this. At the same time, Jackass was getting good ratings for MTV (by 2001, Jackass was cracking 2.0) with extremely LOW production costs.

So I believe MTV’s explanation at the time that Fear was canceled because of the high costs not being outweighed by the ratings, not because of any contestant dying. Plus, you know, no contestant from the show died, so there’s also that.

The legend is…


Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

19 Responses to “Did MTV Cancel the Reality Show Fear Because a Contestant Died During the Filming of the Series?”

  1. kind of thought for so long that fear got canceled due to the costs of mtv having to take the contestants to the places. not because some one died. though given how scary the locations were would not have been surprised if some one sadly died of fright on fear.

  2. There was a ‘dare’ type show in England, hosted by well-known (in England) former radio personality Noel Edmonds that WAS cancelled due to the death of a contenstant.

  3. what did he/she die from

  4. @ excronimuss, that could be the confusion.

  5. The Show was the “late late breakfast show” and the contestant died in a botched practice for a bungee jump stunt


  6. Candy Monroe on May 9th, 2015 at 11:16 pm

    is there a way that MTV will give it anther chance and see if the rating do go up again i was a big fan of fear and would love to see it come back for anther session at least try it witch lots of people ether looked it up on YouTube and more people have seen it want want to see it now i believe you guys would easily make way more rating now then before so i would love for the show fear to come back thx candy Monroe =)

  7. If the show were having financial issues, why did they raise the reward from 3 to 5k? From a buisness perspective, why didn’t they take and fold assets one of the number 3 through 20 garbage shows they had to keep this one going?

    If the equipment and production expenses for all scifi and destination channels ghost hunting shows still running, how would this production be any more expensive?

    Surely the ratings for fear would be higher than those scifi or destination ghost hunter shows. Was there some major lawsuit that caused “production costs” to be too high for the series?

  8. I enjoyed watching MTV fear I wish they would bring it back I’d love to be a contestant on there

  9. Steven Wasilenko on March 3rd, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    Wish it was on again. I was a big fan! Love to be a contestant too!!

  10. Hey everyone, I’ve started a campaign to bring back this show and give it a 21st century makeover! Come support!


  11. I thought Fear was a great show.. Scary but hysterical too. Wish it would be back.

  12. Beth Marie Micks on April 19th, 2017 at 9:51 pm

    Bring it back!

  13. We used to watch Fear in college. It was amazing. Very well put together, interesting and fun to watch. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the scares were fake (such as the figure underneath the electric chair – if anything was faked I don’t think any of the cast was ever in on it) but even if some of it was it was one heck of a fun show.

  14. Fear was an awesome show..wish they’d bring it back

  15. It was a fun show to watch, I knew it was expense I mean you have what 20-25 grand in prize money (although not many teams made it whole so less than that in some), they flew them to locations all over, rooms, food, transportation of equip etc it adds up for a small at the time (and now really, ain’t much going on there)cable network. The locations were NOT what the said they were (see MTV FEAR in wiki for the rundown on where the REAL locations are). It was more of a psychological/dare sort of show. YES some locations are notoriously haunted, they were in Eastern State which was a prison although they called it something else. But some of the locations there was no haunting, one was shot at a scout camp where nothing had happened. They (production) told them this big story about satanist and all these outside locations they had to go to in the dark. Most of it was just conquering FEAR hence the name. Still enjoyable and a cool study in how suggestible people can be if you plant a seed of a story and let their mind run with it.

  16. A couple of contestants have now told their story and they have reported to experience anxiety and unsettling after appearing on the show. Brandon’s story is here, just scroll through the comments: http://www.paraseek.com/discus/messages/24/310.html?FridayMay320021028pm
    I’m certain the producers were screwing with these kids on set, they certainly orked to traumatize them from the moment they got to the airport. I also believe the rituals they took part in were very real. There is an episode where a guy goes missing and the contestants are told he will no longer be joining them. My guess is that he probably had a mental break. The whole thing was suspicious and nevet explained on the show. Gabrielle and Sunshine have commented on YouTube as well. I think the show stopped because of something other than funding . MTV certainly had money for the other ridiculous shows on the channel.

  17. It wasn’t that they couldn’t afford it, but rather that the ratings weren’t good enough to justify the money spent on it. That said, I do believe that it was a trying mental experience for the contestants, which is a shame.

  18. This always bummed me out. I was to be a contestant during the first half of the second season, and was informed of the cancellation days before the taping. That’s one of the few things I regret, it was going to be a ton of fun.

  19. That’s a shame, Verlon. Did they tell you where you would have gone?

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