Fox’s new game show The Floor excels exactly where it should: the game play.
Two players face off in a duel, taking turns answering questions. Yet there are no actual questions, nor are players awarded points for correct answers, replacing those with creative ways of quizzing its contestants and keeping score.
The Floor (Fox, Tuesdays at 9) begins its season with 81 players who face off two at a time. The loser goes home, so the group thins in each episode, and the last player standing will win $250,000.
The face-offs are called duels, and instead of giving answers to written clues or spoken questions, the players must identify items in a category—tools, celebrities, car logos—from an image. (Some of those images are not the best photographs available, adding a layer of challenge.)
While there are also some fill-in-the-blank answers, those are also delivered visually, making this game not very accessible to people with limited vision or blindness.
Instead of accumulating points for correct answers, the players just keep answering questions until one of them runs out of time.
Each player starts with 45 seconds on their clock, and the only way to stop the time from ticking away is to answer correctly. That’s when the other player’s clock starts.
It’s like hot potato, with the potato changing hands after each correct answer. The first player whose clock runs out is out of the game completely.
During the duels, players are not penalized for incorrect answers, though they can opt to pass on a clue and lose three seconds. That injects a bit of strategy: rattle off possibilities in the hope of landing on the right answer within three seconds, or pass?
The duel winner claims the other player’s space on the floor, whether that’s one tile or 10. They choose whether to challenge a nearby player and attempt to expand their area, or to return to their space, adding another moment of strategy.
At the end of each episode, whoever has the most floor space gets $20,000, which is an obvious incentive to keep playing or to challenge a player with more territory.
As territory expands, the options for duels also increase—or are limited, for those players who are boxed out on the edges. The possibility of more territory, the episodic bonus, and the time limit all increase the tension. It’s a smart format.
Despite having a solid game at its core, the smaller decisions are curious.
I’ve left out a key part. Every space on the floor is labeled with a category, and The Floor host Rob Lowe tells tells the 81 players, “Each of you came here with your own category of expertise.”
But he also tells us that “when a player is selected, they must challenge a neighbor in their field of expertise.” So we have experts who must prove themselves in another field?
The Floor’s insistence upon pretending the contestants are all experts in their areas falls apart immediately. One of the first two contestants’ expertise is “tools,” which she says she knows because her boyfriend uses them in his job.
When a contestant successfully defends their own category, Rob Lowe tells them, “You have used up your area of expertise.” Their space on The Floor then gets labeled with their opponent’s area of expertise.
This just doesn’t make any sense: if someone is an expert, why do they have to prove themselves by challenging a player in another category? And why then do they own a category they know nothing about?
The answer is because Fox’s version of The Floor changed the game from “one hundred quiz fanatics take each other in quiz duels,” as Talpa describes the format, to “a spectacular battle of the brains.”
The Dutch version, which premiered in the Netherlands one year ago, also had a 10×10 grid; we only get a 9×9 grid, so we’re shortchanged in more than one way.
It took me too long to just realize labels were just quiz show categories, and the expertise part was an unnecessary layer. (That said, my husband happens to know one of the players, who definitely is an expert in their category.)
All of this just complicates things unnecessarily. Why not just 81 contestants, each standing on a randomly assigned category? Easy!
The Floor is hosted by Rob Lowe, currently of 911: Lone Star and previously of Mental Samurai. He is as deadpan and affable as always, and while he occasionally lands a good joke, his banter needs some work (“Good Midwestern boy. Us Midwestern boys gotta stick together, we gotta represent”).
When it’s time for the actual game, Rob Lowe literally walks off-stage, because there’s nothing for him to do. The editing occasionally cuts to him grimacing or blinking in horror so he can earn his paycheck and/or a hosting Emmy.
Contestants are selected by “the randomizer,” and unlike Guy Fieri’s wheels, I don’t believe these selections are random. I was willing to trust the show, until the final random selection of the first episode, which was the most-dramatic possibility.
(Update: A person I know and trust with knowledge of the production told me the selection is, in fact, random.)
I think the production spent all its money flying contestants to Ireland—The Floor was filmed at Ardmore Studios outside of Dublin—because the on-screen graphics are just bad.
As dueling contestants go back and forth, the only visual indicator for us about which contestant is answering is the color of their timers: they change from yellow to white. Once I figured that out, it was still difficult to figure out who was supposed to be answering.
Also, the show’s logo looks like it was created in Microsoft Word WordArt, but at least that does not affect the game play.
Considering how inexpensive those parts of the production look, it’s remarkable the winner will receive a quarter of a million dollars.
But that prize should keep the drama of the duels escalating throughout The Floor’s season. Even the simplest image might be hard to identify quickly when there’s so much pressure to claim or defend a large area on the game board.
I’ve already been both stumped by some images, and shocked at players’ lack of knowledge of others, and that’s just in the first episode, and that’s what a game show needs to do to keep my interest.
The Floor has great quiz-show game play but some rough edges. B
What works for me:
- Clever twist on the usual question/answer/timer format
- The minor elements of strategy
What could be better:
- The graphics, to indicate which contestant’s turn it is
- Skipping the whole “expert” nonsense
- Less filler, more duels