The Mystique of Obstacle Course TV

Raise your hand if you grew up playing “Floor is Lava” with your siblings. Keep your hand raised if you’ve subsequently broken something or hurt yourself playing. Queue little brother crying for Mommy.

Netflix recently released their game show version of this classic game last week and I have mixed feelings about it. One one hand, they did a great job of sticking to the roots of the game. On the other, they put too much thinking into the game which causes the episodes to drag.

What makes a great obsticle course show anyway? Is it the color commentary? The courses? The slams and falls? Short answer, you need all three.

NBC’s Wipeout, for example, had all three. They had ESPN alum John Anderson calling the plays, insanely fun and unique courses, and most importantly… this:

The only reason anyone watches these shows is to see people get ragdolled by giant bouncy balls right?

Big Balls GIF | Gfycat

Or to get clotheslined by a wall…

Tv Show wipeout, abc, network, tv, television, obstacle, course, race, contestants, competition, funniest, moments, smackwall, smack, wall, big, balls, Wipeout (TV Program), Big Red Balls, Jill Wagner, John Henson (TV Personality), John Anderson (TV Personality), Reality Television (TV Genre) GIF

Or suckerpunched in the face by an enormous fleshlight…

Total Wipeout: Satisfaction guaranteed - GIFs - Imgur

Floor is Lava just doesn’t pack the same punch. The course is a puzzle that requires the contestants to stop and think before making a move and this puts the pressure on the shows host, Rutledge Wood, to keep the audience engaged. After the first group goes, the following teams are essentially doing the exact same thing so there is no variability and the commentary will get old quick.

Another great example is SpikeTV’s wonderful dubbed delight, MXC. The story behind this show is just as awesome as the show itself. The original show Takeshi’s Castle aired in Japan in the late 80s and included a wonderful cast of characters that were obviously renamed for the American re-dubbing. We had the hosts Kenny Blankenship and Vic Romano, the onfield reporter Guy LeDouche, and the Marshal Captain Tenneal. It was all about the comedy with this show, as the producers and voiceover actors would simply try and make each other laugh as they were recording the scripts.

Check out some of the best here:

While a tad more PG-13 than Wipeout, it absolutely checks all three boxes. Floor is Lava Just can’t keep up with the action. That being said, it would be a fun course to tackle in person, watching just doesnt give you the excitement factor.

Until next time


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