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Netflix Transforms A Childhood Game Into A Not-So-Serious Competition Show


Maybe when you were a kid, you played that game around the house where you had to get across the room without touching the floor. So you jumped from the sofa to the table to a chair. Maybe you threw a cushion down because, obviously, that was safe. You could not touch the floor, or you would be incinerated on contact. Well, that is the concept behind an obviously extremely serious competition show on Netflix, except the obstacle courses are exaggerated. They are enormous, a whole lot bigger than your living room, my living room. And the price for failure is that you fall into a giant pool of bubbling red liquid - that is, lava.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Oh, no, Talia (ph).




KELLY: Oh, my. The show is called "Floor Is Lava." And if you're having trouble wrapping your head around this, fear not - Linda Holmes is here. She's host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. Hey, Linda.


KELLY: Very Important programming. Just - I am having trouble getting my head around this. What does it actually look like?

HOLMES: OK, so I want you to envision an emptied-out old IKEA filled with red goo because that is, in fact, what it is. It is an old IKEA filled with red goo.


HOLMES: And they put a gigantic obstacle course in it. Like, they'll have a big giant table and a big giant couch and a big giant bed that'll be spinning. And you have to get across this thing by jumping from thing to thing. It's a little bit - it's slapsticky (ph). It's a little bit "Wipeout," which was kind of - the ABC show that ran for several years, where people would, you know, bounce off of inflated balls and stuff like that. It's a little bit that. It's a little bit "American Ninja Warrior" if it were a comedy. So that's sort of what the DNA is. It's got this host whose name is Rutledge Wood, who has this very - he's got a game-show voice.

KELLY: (Laughter).

HOLMES: And he gives you all that kind of commentary.


RUTLEDGE WOOD: The obstacle course is colossal. The leaps are epic. And you really, really want to stick your landings because the floor is lava.

HOLMES: It is extremely silly. It is - might be one of the silliest things I've ever watched.

KELLY: To be clear, for those of us who are literally minded, it's not actually lava. You're not actually going to be incinerated if you fall into it - no.

HOLMES: No, although you can tell from that clip that they have told everybody to really play it up. So people act - they have it edited so that if someone falls into the lava, you never see them again. And the people on their team, because their - it's three-person teams who try to get across this thing. And the people on their team will react as if they have actually fall into a pit of lava. And they scream, and they say, I will avenge you, and all that kind of stuff. It's very, very dramatic - very dramatic.

KELLY: (Laughter) The people who are into this show are really, really into this show. Is the appeal getting to relive our childhoods or just, you know, that (laughter) - watching someone you really didn't like fall into the lava? What is it?

HOLMES: It's not that for me. For me, it's just - it's ordinary people just kind of trying to do something that is weird and silly. And it's very - for me, it's like, when I want to shut down my brain right now, I have to shut it all the way down. And this is sort of empty of content. It's just very, very goofy and silly. It really is just like watching people do an obstacle course.

KELLY: Not a whole lot of plot unfolding here, you're telling us. Yeah.

HOLMES: Yeah, there's not a lot of subtext, no.

KELLY: It does seem like silly competition shows are having a moment right now.

HOLMES: Yeah. I mean, so in addition to this, the other two that I would mention are a show called "Holey Moley," which is basically miniature golf plus obstacle course, which is on ABC. Also on ABC - a show called "Don't," which is families competing in a very similar - like, you know, big inflatable things knock you over kind of obstacle course. That's sort of all - what all of these things are. You could call them the inflatable-stuff-hits-you-in-the-face genre. And if that's your thing, yes, there are a good number of things that you might enjoy.

KELLY: We've been talking about the new Netflix show "Floor Is Lava." Thanks very to Linda Holmes from NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, which - by the way - is 10 years old. Congratulations.

HOLMES: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOXYGEN'S "STAR POWER I: OVERTURE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.