If you can do nothing else but laugh when someone screams at the birth of a Satan baby in a seemingly ordinary medical clinic, then you'll be happy to know that the third season of "Scare Tactics" returns to the Sci Fi Channel tonight at 10:00/9:00c.
Likened to a scary version of "Punk'd" (the popular Ashton Kutcher prank series on MTV), "Scare Tactics" takes unsuspecting individuals and puts them in situations that are intended for no other purpose but to frighten them. With the new crop of episodes, "Scare Tactics" has a new host as comedian and "30 Rock" star Tracy Morgan steps in for departed host Shannon Doherty. Morgan and executive Producer Scott Hallock talked to The Futon Critic about the changes ahead in the new season.
Regarding Morgan's addition as host, Hallock said that, "It's a perfect marriage to get Tracy and 'Scare Tactics' together. We've always considered this a comedy show even though it's scary. It's really only scary for the one person in the bit and all the rest of us are in on the joke. So to have someone as funny as Tracy be the host, that brings the show to a whole new level right there."
"The bits this season are the biggest [and] best bits we've ever done," Hallock proudly explained. One bit that appears in the season opener is the Satan Baby, which has Hallock's all-time favorite reaction. Like most of the prank victims on the series, someone close to her set up this 'scare tactic'. Hallock recalled that victim Brittany, "was setup by her Mom to answer phones at this medical clinic... and then this woman comes into the clinic in labor and, moments later, gives birth to Satan's baby, this 28-inch tall actor... is painted red. He's got horns on his head. He pops out from under the sheet and attacks the doctor and the girl starts screaming."
Morgan was already a fan of the show before he was asked to host and revealed that he likened himself to another infamous host that has always been known for leaving more than a few people scared. "I was surprised when they asked me to do it... and, besides that, I'm a long-time fan of 'The Twilight Zone' so this is my rendition of Rod Sterling. I got to be Rod Serling. So I'm just excited to do it." When asked if there's anything that scares him in real life, Morgan quickly responded, "If you sent the IRS to my house for no reason I think I would be pretty scared."
Both Hallock and Morgan commented on the unpredictable reactions of the victims and were then asked if they ever worried about anyone getting hurt during the prank. "We take safety really, really seriously on our sets," Hallock said. "When the bit is at its height is when we're about to reveal anyway. We always sweep the area to make sure there's not anything people can pick up and use as a weapon."
The best victims, Hallock admitted, are, "People who are expressive. People who react. People who are verbal. We like people who when they buy into the story and they believe Satan's baby is in the room with them, we want them to react and say what's on their mind and, you know, if they scream, then that's fine."
Morgan admitted to not being much of a prankster himself. "I'm usually the one that everybody wants to pull a prank on." When asked if his family or friends would ever try to prank him, he deadpanned, "They don't want to prank the breadwinner so they pretty much leave me alone."
Like most series, the network and studio usually have something to say about the content of any series they broadcast. With "Scare Tactics," Hallock said, "the creative folks [at the Sci Fi Channel have been]... so supportive and really just love the show and so they actually take pitch meetings from us in person. Like we'll go over to them in person and tell them the stuff we want to do and most of their reactions [are] 'Great. I love it. Sounds good. Do it." Hallock did share that there is one department that is not as supportive. "The legal department, they're�that's another story. This show is very frightening to lawyers."
Hallock follows up by saying that the intention is never to leave the victims, "in quivering masses on the floor. People have to enjoy their experience on the show so we always keep that in mind. Yes, it's scary but at the end of it you have to say that was the coolest thing I've ever been through." Also, he adds, the pranks are somewhat tailored to each individual. "Like if someone is into vampires, you know, we might put them in a place where they find themselves in a vampire bit or something like that. But, on the flipside, if someone is terrified of spiders, we're not going to put them in a room and throw spiders on them."
When asked who was scarier - the notoriously difficult Shannon Doherty or Tracy Morgan, Hallock only had good things to say about Ms. Doherty, who they also worked with on an Oxygen series called "Breaking Up With Shannon Doherty." Speaking for the other producers he works with, Hallock summed up the experience by saying "We get along great with Shannon." As for his own scariness, Morgan joked, "I'm mostly affiliated with comedy so I'm not really a scary guy... I hope that people laugh more than they get frightened when they see me."
"Scare Tactics" premieres tonight at 10:00/9:00c with two back-to-back episodes on the Sci Fi Channel.