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A&E, GSN Bring the Fear Factor to Game Shows

A&E and GSN have each tapped major horror film producers to scare up viewers this month within the competition/ game show arena.

Eli Roth (Hostel) will team with A&E on a special to help contestants face their fears by burying them alive on live television, while Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity) will look to thrill contestants with grizzly and gruesome tasks as part of GSN’s new game show series Hellevator.

With the two shows, A&E and GSN will join other networks celebrating Halloween with programming stunts seeking to deliver frightfully good ratings.

A&E’s Oct. 26 special Fear: Buried Alive will feature three contestants who will be placed in underground coffins as part of a psychological experiment to test the limits of their fears and their strength to conquer them. The live special, produced by Roth, will take a more psychological approach to fear rather than delivering full-fledged scares to viewers.

“We wanted to get to the psychology of what’s going on around fear,” said Elaine Frontain Bryant, executive vice president of programming for A&E. “There’s no cash prize — they’re really volunteering to see if they can push themselves in a psychological social experiment conquering fear.”

Bryant said, though, that viewers will undoubtedly tune in to see how people react under scary and stressful situations.

“Some people maybe drawn to this because it’s thrilling to watch people be scared on live TV, not knowing the nature of what might happen, while others might be drawn to the psychology of it,” she said. “Certainly the live nature of it — and being in the week of Halloween — may attract either adrenaline junkies or those viewers that like the horror genre.”

She said the network is already exploring another show within the format that tackles a different common fear. “I don’t know yet if we roll it out as a series or keep it as an event,” she said. “I certainly hope there are more.”

GSN’s Hellevator is more in line with a traditional game show/competition series. A team of friends ride a haunted elevator into various level of an abandoned slaughterhouse where they encounter frightening challenges.

The series, which debuts Oct. 21, is the brainchild of Blum, who told Multichannel News that he was looking for a vehicle beyond movies and television series to tell a horror story.

“The scary genre is not the first thing you think of when you’re thinking about competitive game shows,” said Blum, who professed to be a huge game show fan.

“We have a lot of other outlets to do horror, but doing it through the game show format, we thought, was very unique.”

The series joins GSN’s lineup of original, non-traditional game shows/competitions that include the body-painting series Skin Wars and fashion design show Steampunk’d.

Buried Alive and Hellevator also join a list of specials and stunts cable networks are developing leading into Halloween. A partial list follows.

FX will air a special six-hour marathon of Fox’s thriller/drama series Scream Queens Oct. 31.

Nickelodeon is running several Halloween themed original movies and premieres from such shows as Blaze and the Monster Machines, Wallykazam, Dora and Friends and Bella and the Bulldogs.

ABC Family today (Oct. 19) will launch its “13 Nights of Halloween” stunt featuring special episodes of its procedural drama Stitchers.

Syfy will launch a new original movie, The Hallow (Oct. 24), as well as Halloween-themed episodes of Ghost Hunters and Paranormal Witness on Oct. 28 as part of its Halloween “spook-a-thon.”

Destination America’s Oct. 30 special Exorcism: Live will air a televised exorcism from the house that inspired the film The Exorcist.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.