- Game shows are a cost-effective alternative for networks to produce in order to keep their empires alive amidst the changing television landscape.
- Fox’s The Floor is a unique combination of a game show and a reality competition program, with 81 contestants competing throughout the season.
- The Floor stands out due to its unpredictable nature, with lead changes and contestants jumping from last to first place in an instant, creating engaging and thrilling viewing.
Game shows have been a reality television staple for as long as the medium has existed. They’re recognizable, quick, and easy to make and can change a contestant’s life if they’re successful. They’re also among the most strictly regulated shows, thanks to cheating scandals in the ’50s. Despite some large cash giveaways, game shows are also relatively cheap to produce. They don’t have to deal with the common fees of scripted series. As the television media landscape changes, networks are turning more to these cheaper, unscripted alternatives to keep their empires alive. Since game shows are so iconic, we can expect new entries to stand out and shake up the format.
This is where Fox’s The Floor comes in. Hosted by movie and TV star Rob Lowe, this show is unlike any other game show on TV. It’s a cross between a game show and a reality-competition-style program. Instead of one group of new contestants per episode, The Floor features 81 players who collectively compete across the season. 7 or 8 players leave the game each episode until one person is left standing at the end. But no one is safe in this game, and a contestant can jump from last place to first in an instant. So, just what is this show?
The Premise of The Floor
So, how does this game show work? Based on the same-named Dutch game show, the season begins with 81 contestants, each with expertise in a particular area of trivia. Each player is given one square of “territory” to occupy on a 9×9 life-size gameboard. At the beginning of the season, one contestant is selected at random to challenge an opponent. They may choose any opponent whose square shares an edge with their own.
The challenger and the opponent face off in a duel where they identify onscreen images within the opponent’s trivia category. They take turns identifying the images, with a 45-second clock for each player that counts down while they are actively guessing. Players may guess multiple times per image without penalty and pass if they do not know the answer. However, passing takes 3 seconds off your time. The first player whose clock reaches 0 is the loser and is eliminated from the game.
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If the challenger beats the opponent, they retain their original category. If the opponent wins, they take over the challenger’s category. Whoever wins also takes over the loser’s square on the floor. After a victory, a contestant may continue playing and challenge someone else or return to their territory on the titular Floor. If they return to the Floor, a new challenger is randomly selected. Whichever contestant controls the most squares of territory on the Floor at the end of each episode wins $20,000. If there’s a tie for most squares, the $20,000 is split evenly. The sole player remaining at the end of the season will walk away with $250,000.
Why The Floor Stands Out
As mentioned, The Floor feels more like a reality competition show than a traditional game show. It hails from executive producer John de Mol, the mind behind mega reality hits Big Brother, The Voice, Fear Factor, and Deal or No Deal. Rather than new players in each episode, the same contestants compete all season, with several eliminated per episode.
The random nature of the duel selection also means that anyone could play at any time. One contestant might play in the first episode and not again until the fourth or fifth. The sprawling field of 81 players means we meet contestants from all walks of life with their unique personalities and areas of expertise. You cannot pick the show up on any random episode as with other game shows due to the single season-long competition.
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Lead changes are also highly unpredictable. Players cannot build up insurmountable leads as with other shows. For example, a contestant controlling one territory could challenge another who is leading in total squares with ten. If the one-square challenger wins, they inherit all ten of the opponent’s and instantly jump from last to first by now controlling 11 squares. That ten-square opponent who was leading would now go home after just one duel.
Though the season’s only half done at the time of this writing, scenarios like that have already played out. If you can’t perform under the pressure of the 45-second clock, you could lose everything in an instant. That thrilling uncertainty makes for an engaging watch, as the show could twist and turn in any new direction. No one is safe. Building up the most territory is the goal, but each gain puts a bigger target on a player’s back.
The Floor and the Future of Network TV
It’s no secret that broadcast and cable TV are slowly losing the viewership wars to streaming services. Linear TV has had a rough few years, with the COVID-19 production shutdowns and dual WGA and SAG strikes impacting the industry. This TV season, in particular, is one of the hardest hit, as audiences wondered whether network TV could be salvaged.
Viewers have seen high-budget scripted projects canceled due to financial woes, with lower-cost reality fare taking their place on the schedule. On the other hand, streamers seem to have no problem continuing to churn out prestige scripted television. It’s obviously easier to watch these shows at any time and place versus the strict scheduling of network TV. Broadcasters seem to know they are losing the war and turning to these lower-cost games and reality shows to save cash while keeping themselves afloat.
Still, this doesn’t mean that audiences will watch just any game or reality show put out there. Networks still have to take risks and reinvent. The Floor represents a significant shakeup of the format and blurring of the lines between game shows and competition shows. We should expect to see more genre-bending shows like this in the future as network television looks to stay in a game increasingly dominated by streamers. Following an initial airing on Fox, The Floor is available to stream next day on Hulu.