I’ve by no means been a lot of a sports activities fan. Sure, I really like enthusiastically yelling, consuming exterior, and dressing to a theme as a lot as the following particular person. I watch the Super Bowl and attend a couple of Minor League baseball video games annually. But repeatedly watching video games on TV has by no means appealed to me. The closest I’ve come to getting swept up in sports activities mania is in the course of the Olympics, thanks largely to the charming pageantry of the opening and shutting ceremonies, mixed with the novelty of watching athletes on the high of their sport in sports activities I’d by no means heard of. (Looking at you, race walking.)
But with the 2020 Olympic Games postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve discovered that one other type of sports activities leisure is giving me all the pieces I would like from the Olympics and extra. I’m speaking, after all, about summer season actuality competitors reveals.
As I wrote in our summer season preview package deal, summer season is usually the time when networks launch their wildest, fluffiest, popcorn-iest actuality programming. And in recent times, the subgenre of gimmicky competitors reveals has seen an enormous growth. From American Ninja Warrior to Wipeout, audiences love watching individuals make their means by way of ridiculously difficult (or simply plain ridiculous) impediment programs.
Much just like the Olympics — and aggressive sports activities typically — the enjoyment of these kind of reveals comes from a mixture of spectacle and athleticism. But the place the Olympics solely characteristic a splash of absurdity (once more, have you ever seen what race walking looks like?) the perfect actuality competitors reveals lean into their ridiculousness. Without an International Olympic Committee regulating guidelines and eligibility necessities, networks are free to get utterly bonkers with these video games, making them extra enjoyable to observe than another aggressive sport on tv.
This summer season, two reveals have discovered that formulation: Fox’s Ultimate Tag and Netflix’s The Floor Is Lava. Both reveals flip acquainted childhood video games into elaborate obstacle-course-based competitions. In Ultimate Tag, three males and three ladies are chased round impediment programs by “Professional Taggers,” solid members with WWE-style identities like “Banshee” or “Dynamite.” The Floor Is Lava duties groups of three with making their means throughout a room flooded with faux-lava by shifting throughout floating objects. (“The Planetarium” is stuffed with planets and rocket ships, the bed room set incorporates a spinning mattress, and many others.)
While these premises are, after all, patently absurd, they’re a delight to observe as a result of the contestants, hosts, and different solid members take the competitors critically at the same time as they’re leaning into the absurdity. Most of the Pro Taggers on Ultimate Tag are skilled athletes, together with parkour specialists and observe stars. It’s genuinely spectacular to observe them do stunts — backflipping off obstacles, for instance.
And it’s genuinely pleasant that they’re staying in character on the identical time. The Floor Is Lava contestants all play into the fiction that the ground is actually molten rock that can kill them. Some go as far as to faux to be burned when the orange combination splashes up on them. The present additionally takes care to not present the fallen contestants rising from the pool of dyed liquid that’s passing for lava. In the fiction of The Floor Is Lava, they’re gone eternally. This steadfast dedication to such foolish premises is a part of what makes The Floor Is Lava and Ultimate Tag such compelling reveals.
With skilled sports activities, a lot of the enjoyable comes from rooting for a selected crew or participant. That’s additionally the case with this type of competitors present. The most charismatic gamers instantly stand out, and it’s enjoyable to cheer them on. But whereas it’s thrilling to see your favourite contestants win, it isn’t devastating to see them lose. In the fourth episode of Ultimate Tag, the perfect episode I’ve seen but, competitor Chekesha taunts the Pro Tagger pursuing her, pausing to “take a break” whereas on the opposite facet of an impediment from her. While Chekesha finally didn’t win, she was by far probably the most enjoyable to observe on that episode, as a result of she introduced a lot playfulness to what’s finally a really foolish sport.
The Floor Is Lava options groups of three, and it’s much more enjoyable to take heed to their banter on the course than it’s to observe them leap and climb over obstacles. In episode 3, a crew of former school roommates, Jordan, Jerrold, and LaJuan, are probably the most charming rivals I’ve seen but. Upon seeing a desk formed just like the earth, Jordan jokes, “I told y’all the earth was flat!” Later, Jordan encourages LaJuan by telling him to leap “for Nipsey,” invoking the rapper Nipsey Hussle, who was fatally shot in 2019. LaJuan responds by shouting “The marathon continues!” (a reference to Hussle’s 2011 mixtape) earlier than making a powerful leap. Their crew did find yourself profitable the $10,000 prize, and I cheered like my hockey crew had received the Stanley Cup.
Pierre de Coubertin, founding father of the trendy Olympic video games, mentioned, “The important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win, but to take part; the important thing in life is not triumph, but the struggle; the essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well.” That can simply as simply be mentioned about Ultimate Tag, The Floor Is Lava, or any of the numerous different competitors reveals flooding the airwaves (or, extra precisely, streaming-service platforms) this summer season. The necessary factor is participating in one thing so joyously absurd.
Games are purported to be enjoyable to play! Watching contestants on Ultimate Tag and The Floor Is Lava embrace that sense of play is infectious, one thing I can’t say about skilled sports activities. I’ve by no means watched a basketball sport and thought, “I’d love to get out there and shoot a few hoops with Kyrie,” however watching The Floor Is Lava and Ultimate Tag does make me need to attempt my hand on the course. Why? The contestants appear to be they’re having a blast.