NEW YORK – Think "Fear Factor (search)" is tough to take?
Try getting run over by a Hummer while lying on a bed of nails, pulling string out of your eye, or dangling by a helicopter — suspended by fishhooks in your back.
All in a day's work for daredevil magician Criss Angel, who takes his illusionist lunacy to the A&E reality series "Criss Angel Mindfreak (search)" and its requisite promotions.
First comes Oasis, where Angel will escape from a water tank after a 36-hour submersion — 12 hours longer than a similar feat he performed in New York City's Times Square three years ago.
The series begins Wednesday at 10 p.m. EDT — 16 episodes showcasing Angel's surrealist imaginings, original rock music, live street magic, celebrity guests and behind-the-scenes preparation to catch bullets in his teeth, pull razor blades from his mouth and get buried alive.
Not to mention the tender family moments.
Like when Angel flies his beloved mother to Las Vegas for her 70th birthday — then surprises her with a trick in which he sets himself on fire. Mom is not happy.
He's "Carnivale" meets "Six Feet Under" — a traveling circus with a death wish.
"Magic doesn't get the respect that cinema and musicians do," says Angel. "It just needs to be presented in the day and age that we live." It also doesn't hurt to look like a rock star with killer abs.
"Criss is a completely engaging character," says executive producer Michael Blum, who guided the grueling shoot over 10 weeks of 18- hour days. "People are not handed reality shows unless they have a certain 'it' factor that makes them compelling to watch no matter what they're doing."
Growing up Christopher Sarantakos in Long Island, New York, Angel has been a fixture around the New York magic scene since his teens, when he was pulling in $3,000 a week playing clubs and parties, and experimenting with an MTV sensibility that incorporated his original hard-rock music and magic.
His new direction sank in with his 2001 hit Off-Broadway show — also called "Criss Angel Mindfreak" — which led to appearances on MTV, Discovery Channel and ABC Family.
"I'm like an addict," says Angel. "I need to get the next idea out of my head and bring it to fruition."