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So help me God, had I not seen this with my own eyes (albeit nearly squeezed shut in horror), I wouldn’t have believed that anyone could be this desperate. This devoid of integrity. This pathetic.

First, let me ask you: What is the price of your integrity? What line(s) would you never cross for money? Fifty thousand dollars, let’s say. Would you drink dog urine? Cut off a finger? Leap into a vat of maggots?

As for me, no, no and no. In fact, I could easily list about a thousand things that’d be too cruel, too disgusting, too painful or too degrading to do for any amount of money. But apparently there are people whose No Way bars are set way lower than mine.


I discovered this by accident one night after watching a TV show I’d recorded on the DVR. When it ended, I hit “delete” and as the show disappeared into oblivion, it left the television running on the last channel I’d watched: Channel 3 (NBC).

It was a segment of “Fear Factor,” which I’ve never watched. I don’t enjoy watching people endanger themselves any more than I enjoy these so-called “reality” shows in which people do and tolerate all sorts of humiliation for a chance to win money, fame or affection. If that’s reality, you can keep it.

So, at the exact moment that I was unfortunate enough to have this sewage splashed into my brain, the show’s host was explaining the next challenge to three swimsuit-clad couples in their quest to win $50,000: jump into this plexiglass tank filled with cow’s blood.

Eww, right? And if you’re a normal person, you’re already balking. Me? I’d have tapped out right there. But wait — it gets ever so much worse.

Once in the tank, continues the host (who apparently has an Olympian gag reflex), one person will dive down to the bottom of the tank and feel around for several raw cow hearts, pick them up one at a time and place it in his or her partner’s mouth (are you throwing up a little yet?), then wade through the blood and spit the heart into a container sitting just outside the tank. The couple with the most cow hearts in the container wins.

I absolutely, positively could not believe what I was seeing and hearing, and the only reason I didn’t switch to another channel, any channel, on the spot was because I was sure that at the last minute, just before anyone’s toe dipped into the blood, that a buzzer would sound, and the host would say, “Just kidding, guys! Ten points for your team just for being willing to saturate yourselves in blood and sink your teeth into a cow’s heart! Well done!”

The host didn’t.

And the contestants did.

To my horror, the first couple slid into the blood as the timer started and the man dove beneath the surface. Within seconds, he popped up completely covered in deep red blood, looking like he’d been skinned alive. He handed his partner the heart (which is about as big as a tri-tip roast), and she sunk in her teeth, sloshed to the side and spit it into the container.

And the crowd went wild.

I quickly channeled up to the QVC station for an emergency psychological detox. Sadly, you can’t un-see something like that. And it’s not just the image, but the whole concept, and all its ramifications: How many cows did they slaughter to fill up a hot-tub sized tank with blood? How much suffering does that represent?

How long would it take to get your body clean after being saturated in cow blood? How long would it take for your soul? Would you ever really feel clean again? What sort of people even think this kind of thing up? And what sort of people would subject themselves to this level of degradation for a relatively small amount of money? And what sort of people watch this for entertainment?

The last time I was this disgusted with something on television, the same thing had happened. I was switching between recorded programs, and I was snagged by a segment of “The Biggest Loser.” I was snagged by the car wreck phenomenon: Shock and disgust seized me and I was unable to look away.

There was some sad, sweaty chubby-wubby, red and panting, desperately plodding on a treadmill while that screechy little strip of beef jerky, Jillian Michaels, verbally bullied him and shrieked at him to keep pushing. The guy was clearly dangerously winded, and the sheer irresponsibility of it all astounded me.

As one who has endured sports injury after sports injury, and in every case from ignoring my body’s cues (read: pain) that I was pushing my limits, I wondered if Ms. Michaels would be paying for all the physical therapy required for that guy’s ruptured Achilles tendon or blown-out knee. Moreover, does she know how to do CPR if Fat Albert keels over from a massive coronary? And if not, will she bother to send his family a sympathy card?

I found myself thinking, “What reward could be worth subjecting yourself to this level of humiliation?” and for myself, I could only thing of one: the opportunity to punch that smug, scrawny little rat queen Michaels right in the teeth.

Honestly, I didn’t think “reality” TV could be any worse than that. Clearly, I was sadly mistaken. “Fear Factor” sinks us to a new low. And, how shall we entertain the roaring masses when they’re bored with blood-diving for cow hearts? Are those lions I hear?

— Email Debra at; read more of her work at, and

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