By now, you, my loyal readers, will know that I tend to despise/loathe/abominate reality TV – which is why I am surprised when I find myself liking a reality series like Cha$e, where the format is more game show than anything else, and relies on contestants being capable of utilizing their intelligence [and some spiffy effects work]. Then there are the shows that stress endurance of the loathsome in the service of greed – like Fear Factor. Estate of Panic [Sci-Fi, Wednesdays, 10/9C] is such a show; a mix of Fear Factor and a haunted house.
Seven contestants are gathered in a spooky mansion where host Steve Valentine [Jordan’s Crossing] explains the rules as a Karloff-wannabe butler looks on. The rules are these: the contestants will enter three rooms/areas of the estate where they will find lots of money; these rooms/areas will be booby-trapped in some way and thus present a challenge to the contestants; the person with the least money and the last person in the room/area will be eliminated.
In the premiere, the tests/challenges/tortures are: snakes and flooding; walls and ceilings that close in on the contestants, while crabs and worms are freed from their aquaria by the ceiling dropping, and a garden area looped with wires that give the contestants varying degrees of electrical shocks. But wait! There’s more!
Following each challenge, two contests are dropped from the game [for the reasons described above] and the last person standing gets all the money collected – if they can overcome one last test – a vault with two hundred safety deposit boxes. There’s a timer that will lock the vault in a specified time, so the finalist must work quickly. As an added incentive to hurry, the finalist is shackled to the floor of the vault and must also look for keys or implements that help free them. There are also some less friendly contents in some of the boxes.
The challenges will, naturally, vary from episode to episode.
Estate of Panic might have worked as a one-off for Hallowe’en, but as a series, it would seem to be the logical successor to Fear Factor. If you like watching real people willingly being scared and/or tortured, this show will appeal to you. In spite of Johnson’s suitably creepy presence as the host – and Rupert, the butler – Estate of Panic revolted me. Not as much as Fear Factor, but close.
Final Grade: D