Somehow, after vowing we’d never watch it again through two episodes, my girlfriend and I are nearing the end of the first season of Floor Is Lava. The “I have questions” blogging trope is a tired one, but this is a show that invites them by the dozen. For example, where do the people go when they fall? Anyway, once you’ve escaped the mystifying allure of Floor Is Lava, Netflix has a number of other game shows available to stream. I’ve long said that a streaming service merging Game Show Network and HGTV under one roof would win a subscription from me and millions of boomers. For now, here are the best game shows on Netflix.
Why not start with the best? Jeopardy!, the greatest, purest distillation of the game show format, is mercifully available in large quantities on Netflix. There's not much left to say at this point about Alex Trebek, the consummate professional who seems determined to host this show up until the very end. While new episodes are currently on taping hiatus with no hope of quick return during the pandemic, Netflix usually has a rotating list of 30 or so old tournament episodes on demand. Hulu has their share as well, with ads for the pure cable experience.
I can't think of too many shows that would lead to this much fun in the editing room. Headed by the endlessly charming Nicole Byer, Nailed It! is the rare cooking competition show that gleefully invites its contestants, judges, and producers to screw up with abandon. It flips the Ratatouille "anyone can cook" axiom on its head, into an environment where amateur chefs with minimal abilities can come up with some truly grotesque baking creations. When the show doesn’t shy away from its more patchwork qualities, it's loose enough to be a blast.
I always remember this as being like the Weakest Link, but turns out it’s just the British thing in common. A Game Show Network export, The Chase pits a beefy trivia expert dubbed "The Beast" (Mark Labbett) against contestants tasked with answering the same questions, and often more quickly than he does. I don't love the structure of this one, with three different delivery methods within each episode for trivia questions, but the final chase satisfies much in the same way as Family Feud's Fast Money.
Minute to Win It
This short-lived game show kind of sits at the intersection of more traditional trivia and stunt-based programs and the extreme combine-level skills contests that air on primetime. Although this series originally aired on NBC with the god Guy Fieri at the helm, Olympic speed skater Apolo Ohno inexplicably hosts the series later seasons that show up here on Netflix. Kind of like Floor Is Lava, it's hard to explain why you've endured Ohno's charisma void and the dozens of insufferable couples who grace the show after several episodes, but it pulls you right back in.
I remember seeing the viral tweets about a dystopian new Netflix show that might not be covered under the Geneva Convention, thinking it was a lock to be as big as Stranger Things. So what if that didn't quite happen, Flinch, in all its demented glory is still available to stream on the platform. File this one next to Love Is Blind or Too Hot to Handle as a morbid conceptual curiosity that you kinda just have to try for an episode. And like Floor Is Lava, you have to wonder how bad those shocks that drove off some subscribers really are.
Awake: The Million Dollar Game
According to the CDC, being awake for 24 hours straight mirrors the impairment of having a blood alcohol content of 0.10%. Of course, Netflix turned this conceit into another torturous game show, requiring contestants to stay up for 24 hours straight, groggily counting quarters (?) before completing a number of brain-teasers and physical challenges. It’s a strange premise that leads into some tiered risk-management and prisoner’s dilemma decisions, but also features a shocking workload for little payout. Yes, you can win up to $1 million, although it’s more likely to walk away with nothing. Brutal on many levels.