If "Fear Factor" was too tame for your taste, you're in for a treat. A new reality show called "Panic Button" premieres this week, and it goes way beyond making participants eat bugs.
In each episode, participants arrive at a lab-like "Free from Fear" facility, gear up in red jumpsuits and black helmets, and then enter a stark white room equipped with just a desk and a computer. (Each person goes through the experience alone.) An omniscient voice informs them that they're about to encounter the things in the terrifying images being flashed across the computer screen. "We put them through a 'slow boil' first," explains producer Jonathan Dueck.
Next, they're blindfolded and directed into a metal coffin, which flips around and flings them through a ring of fire. They're then ushered into a room where they're given their panic buttons, which are attached to their suits. "Guys are walking through [the entire thing] with their hand on the button," says executive producer Kevin Healey.
From there, it's on to the most frightening maze you've ever seen, where participants have to crawl in dirt, slime, rodents and reptiles. "Fifty percent of people don't get past the maze," says Healey. Even if they make it through, it's not home-free for the participants. They have to complete two more levels that are tailored to confront them with their own individual fears.
In the first episode, blonde realtor Ruth has to face her fear of spiders by taking off her shoes and standing near a roaming tarantula -- all while being forced to eat maggot-covered strawberries. Meanwhile, Vanessa the bubbly young teacher who's afraid of snakes has to retrieve items from a giant snake's mouth before she can carry on. Things get even crazier beyond that, but we won't give away the grand finale.
To help brace you for this extreme new show, we've compiled a list of 10 freaky facts about "Panic Button."
1. There's no prize -- people are motivated purely by the desire to overcome their fears. "A lot of people say, 'Thank you, this was one of the greatest days of my life,' says Healey. "When people lose on 'Fear Factor' they're mad because they came to win money."
2. There are four levels, each more terrifying than the last. "They say 'What? How many levels are there?'" says Dueck. "They think they're trapped in 'Saw.'"
3. A lot of participants don't make it past level 1. "Women are managing the stress better [than men]," says Dueck.
4. Each participant faces different challenges. "We call it a thinking man's reality show, because we don't repeat an experience twice," says Healey.
5. The rats, snakes, cockroaches and spiders are all real. For one participant, they even threw in a Doberman.
6. The course includes a "malfunction" curveball, where an alarm goes off and the lights go out. That's when people really start to freak out. "Nothing competes with the darkness," says Dueck.
7. Expect screaming. Lots of screaming-from the men and women. You may want to keep the volume low so your neighbors don't think you're being murdered.
8. The participants drop more F-bombs than you can shake a stick at. "Our bleep budget is off the charts," says Dueck, laughing. The next most common things you'll hear them say are "Omigod," and "No, no, no, noooo!"
9. There are 43 cameras to catch all of the freaky moments.
10. Over 50 percent of applicants are rejected. "Anyone with a phobia is screened out," says Dueck, adding that they're also assessed for fitness levels since the maze can be quite physically demanding.
"Panic Button" premieres on Space Channel on Tuesday, April 30 at 10 p.m. ET.
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