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The Floor’s clever visual duels separate it from typical game shows

The Floor’s clever visual duels separate it from typical game shows
Sid and Zai face off in The Floor's very first duel, in which they had to identify tools from photos like this one (Photo by Fox)

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.

People stand in rows on a platform that has some lit rectangles
Some of The Floor’s 81 contestants stand and watch a duel on episode 1 of Fox’s adaptation of the game show (Photo by Lorraine O’Sullivan/Fox)

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.

A man in a tan suit and t-shirt stands with his hands clasped
Rob Lowe is host of Fox’s The Floor, an adaptation of a Dutch format (Photo by Lorraine O’Sullivan/Fox)

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!

Two people stand at opposite sides of a large podium, while another stands between them; the word FLOOR is on a screen behind them
Kathleen and Jasper chat with The Floor host Rob Lowe before their duel (Photo by Lorraine O’Sullivan/Fox)

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

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

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Happy discussing!

Martin Pal

Saturday 24th of February 2024

Why is it filmed in Ireland? (Rob Lowe's Mental Samurai was filmed in Spain.)

Ms. Melissa

Friday 16th of February 2024

There’s what you pointed out plus all the errors in the game itself. Last episode, they displayed a cantaloupe image and flashed that the correct answer was honeydew. Some answers they are sticklers and others they let slide like just the last name to identify people or showing a Raggedy Andy doll and accepting Raggedy Ann as the answer.

Id like to see them flash an image and if answered wrong the other person has a chance to steal. But they’d have to improve, to your point , the ability to know whose turn it is.

There are some good bones to this game show but it definitely needs some tweaks. And the make a home version on all gaming system vs AI or online. I’d play for hours.

Michelle Olkonen

Friday 26th of January 2024

How many categories are on each season in total?

Janet Engle

Tuesday 23rd of January 2024

After watching this week's latest episode I have come to the conclusion that one doesn't have to have much knowledge of their category. The last two players category was sports equipment. One of the contestants didn't bother to answer many questions due to not being very knowledgable or realizing that if you don't answer as many as other player no points are taken off. This game doesn't make sense, the person who correctly answers the most questions should be the winner. They need to fix this . Thank you, Janet


Saturday 6th of January 2024

I gave it a watch because a girl I follow on Tik Tok from the city I live in is on the show. She wasn't featured in episode 1 but she's been in the previews pretty prominently so I'll keep watching till it's her turn.

I enjoyed the show from the first episode. The concept seemed simple enough for me to follow. I didn't take into effect the poor graphics or it not making sense to take the loser's category. I think they did that because if the winner kept challenging people in their own category they would possibly steam roll the competition.

I believed it was randomized until the last duel. When the guy who was winning a few duels in a row went back to the floor with only a few minutes left, he was tied with the other guy in the beginning that won a few duels. So they needed someone to win the $20,000 for the episode. Then the "randomizer" picked a person near one of those guys to get a winner for the episode.