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Creepy Camera

Oct 27, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Allen Funt, TV’s original hidden-camera prankster, is probably rolling in his grave.
“Scare Tactics,” the Sci Fi Channel’s creepy hit, catches people in the act of being scared (figuratively) to death. Friends set up unwitting marks in terrifying, staged situations involving various freakish beasts, aliens and wackos who, for example, convincingly appear to dismember a person-and then the mark finds out it’s all a joke.
“It’s like an extreme hidden-camera show,” said Mark Stern, Sci Fi’s senior VP of original programming.
Bad girl and buzz magnet Shannen Doherty plays host. After she made a complete round of daytime and late-night talk shows before the series’ launch, the premiere took off like, well, a bat out of hell.
“Scare Tactics”’ premiere was the most-watched non-news cable program for the night among viewers 18 to 49, and Sci Fi’s best-ever original series premiere in that demographic.
The first season’s 22 episodes drew 1.2 million regular viewers compared with 1.14 million viewers in the same time period last year, when “Farscape” and various other programs aired. Even better, viewers 18 to 34 are mainly responsible for the growth spurt, up 31 percent, with women in that age range accounting for a whopping 45 percent surge. They represent a demographic “that isn’t normally cruising our channel,” Mr. Stern said. But more than numbers, he added, “Scare Tactics” is “part of a larger agenda. You want to do shows that take risks and are forward-thinking and you don’t find on other networks.”
“Scare Tactics” is the first big hit for creators Scott Hallock and Kevin Healey, who worked as producers on NBC’s hidden-camera format show “Spy TV.” Sci Fi approached them looking for “the craziest, most exciting show we can do in a half-hour,” Mr. Healey said. Ms. Doherty was, he added, their “dream choice” for host, and she has more than fulfilled their dreams. “She brought people to the party, and it was our job to keep them there.”
In part based on the success of “Scare Tactics,” Mr. Hallock and Mr. Healey have been given the opportunity to develop a follow-up show. That project, “Lab Rats,” envisioned as a companion to “Scare Tactics,” is in development.
They recruit most of their marks, generally age 18 to 25, in Las Vegas, where the show is shot, or via various Web sites. “People with car payments and mortgages and kids don’t like to be scared,” Mr. Healey said.
Scare Tactics
Network: Sci Fi Channel
Premiere date: April 4, 2003
Production company: Hallock Healey Entertainment
Time slot: Friday, 10 p.m. (ET), followed by a repeat of the previous week’s episode at 10:30 p.m. Last episode aired Oct. 10, 2003. A one-hour Halloween special, “Scare-Tacular,” will air Oct. 31 at 10 p.m. There will be no repeats, and the new season probably will begin in spring.
Cast: Shannen Doherty, host
Credits: Scott Hallock and Kevin Healey, creators-executive producers; Mr. Hallock and Mr. Healey, executive producers