5 Netflix Reality Competition Shows That Are Actually Good

Todd Van Luling

“Floor Is Lava” has been very popular on Netflix since the reality competition series debuted on June 19. As of Wednesday, it was still in the top five most popular offerings on Netflix, according to the service’s ranking system.

This continued popularity is perplexing, because “Floor Is Lava” is also unwatchable.

You’d think that a competition show about people trying to traverse a quirky obstacle course surrounded by pretend lava would be so inherently pleasurable that the show would be a pure comfort to watch. Instead, the episodes stretch to near 40-minute lengths with a terrible edit style that forces you to experience competitors spending many minutes traversing the same obstacle courses again and again. A skillful edit would have used the faster pace of “American Ninja Warrior” or “Holey Moley.” Instead, this show traps the viewer in hot, bubbling hell.

Thankfully “Floor Is Lava” is far from Netflix’s only reality competition show. And Netflix has actually had quite a bit of success in the genre, so you have many options to help you forget about the time you wasted with Netflix’s latest hit.

My favorite is the recently debuted “The Big Flower Fight,” which I started watching right after rage-quitting “Floor Is Lava.” That show is particularly charming, but read on for all of the recommendations.

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Streamline (Photo: Ji Sub Jeong/HuffPost)
Streamline (Photo: Ji Sub Jeong/HuffPost)

 

“The Big Flower Fight”

Premise: Professionals, hobbyists and artists compete to make floral sculptures in different mediums. Each team consists of two people, mostly from England and the United States.

The teams aren’t equally skilled, and a few teams stand out right from the start. But the joys from the show come less from the competition and more from the quirky ways each team approaches the tasks at hand.

Given the floral-heavy garden setting, there’s never a dull frame. Despite the show’s short season, multiple competitors become memorable characters worth rooting for by the end.

Setting: Garden in Kent, England

Debut date: May 18, 2020

Runtime: Eight episodes of roughly 40 minutes

 

“Nailed It!”

Premise: Although “Nailed It!” is technically a competition, the show is not about competitors performing on a high level. This is a show about hilarious failure.

To win the contest, amateur bakers ― often severely lacking skills ― try to make super elaborate desserts. The comedy tends to come from the desserts that feature “faces” as the amateurs accidentally create bizarro caricatures of humanity. 

The hosts stand out in this show. Watching comedian Nicole Byer and mild-mannered pastry chef Jacques Torres interact is a delight in itself.

Setting: Custom set

Debut date: March 9, 2018

Runtime: Four seasons with episodes of roughly 30 minutes, plus multiple spinoff seasons

 

“Rhythm + Flow”

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Premise: Cardi B, Chance the Rapper, and Tip “T.I.” Harris host this competition between unsigned rappers. The winner receives $250,000.

The three hosts scouted talent for the competition in their hometowns of New York, Chicago and Atlanta, respectively, along with Los Angeles. The show also features a long list of guest judges, including Snoop Dogg, Killer Mike and Teyana Taylor.

Unlike the popular music competition shows on network television, “Rhythm + Flow” didn’t have to go through a strict censoring process. That means the music is similar to what’s actually popular versus the more milquetoast music that comes out of, say, “American Idol.”

Setting: Across the United States

Debut date: Oct. 9, 2019

Runtime: 10 episodes of roughly 60 minutes

 

“Next in Fashion”

Premise: Talented designers compete to make different styles of clothes. The winner receives the prize of $250,000 and a collection with Net-a-Porter.

Tan France and Alexa Chung host the show. France has become a ubiquitous personality for Netflix, as he also hosts “Queer Eye” and the Netflix YouTube show “Dressing Funny.”

While other shows in this list feature competitors with a mix of skill ranges, “Next in Fashion” pits designers with extraordinary capabilities against each other. As such, the end products are always impressive.

Setting: Warehouse and runway sets

Debut date: Jan. 29, 2020

Runtime: 10 episodes of roughly 50 minutes

 

“Blown Away”

Premise: Glassblowers with varying levels of experience make unique pieces over short periods. A panel of judges determines the best and worst piece each round, with the glassblower who created the worst piece leaving the competition.

The visuals have a different color palette than the other shows on this list. While the others use the vibrant colors of flowers, fashion and sweets, this takes place in a drab glassblowing facility.

Still, watching the competitors work in a hellishly hot space to create a thing of beauty has a satisfying payoff.

Setting: Glassblowing facility in Ontario

Debut date: July 12, 2019

Runtime: 10 episodes of 23 minutes

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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.

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