Ever since the reality competition first erupted in June 2020, viewers stuck at home during the COVID-19 lockdown fell hard for teams furniture-jumping through rooms without falling into glowing, bubbling – and entirely fake – lava.
Season 2’s five-episode run (now streaming) features a draw that will continue to rock their world: a two-story, lava-spewing volcano. Kaboom. (Cue igneous mic drop.)
“Season 1 was kind of the pilot season and we’ve made upgrades, some of them subtle,” says executive producer Arthur Smith. “But when you add a volcano, that’s not subtle.”
‘Floor Is Lava’ secrets: How Netflix series bubbles to the top in reality TV’s summer of silliness
It’s actually way overdue. “Lava” has flaunted its fake house filled with 80,000 gallons of faux lava. How did it get there? That question was debated during semi-serious postseason boardroom discussions.
“We said, ‘This lava has got to come from somewhere,’ ” Smith says. “Of course, it has to come from a volcano, a volcano that’s on the roof.”
The foam-block creation has much more to offer than spectacle and an awesome origin story. The volcano serves as the show’s final challenge, with the top two teams racing to climb the slippery craggy surface and cap the vent with rocks.
The volcano’s central lava flow provides a fun final humiliation for the losing team, whose members are forced to slide into the lava in ultimate defeat.
The lava lamp winner’s trophy emerges majestically from the volcano steam. “That’s just the cherry on top of all of this,” says the show’s dad-joke-hurling host, Rutledge Wood. “And that lava lamp trophy has become a thing. People want it. I was at my daughter’s school last week, and some kid yelled ‘I want a lava lamp trophy!’ out of nowhere.”
Other improvements spurting life into “Floor Is Lava”:
• New wild room platforms: The lava-filled rooms look like a “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” spinoff – a giant Rubik’s Cube and Connect 4 game in the game room, along with a huge spinning video joystick that knocks contestants into the lava. “There’s some sick stuff,” Smith says.
• Live team jeering: Participants watch their rivals from a new platform above the lava, leading to blood-lusty cheers when the opposing teams sink. Wood offers corny platform commentary. “The level of bad-dad jokes has improved dramatically this season,” he says.
• Upgraded lava: The lava mixture recipe remains top secret (Smith promises it’s “very safe”). But producers added more glow and goo to the mixture. “It’s just better lava. It’s more Elmer’s glue; it’s really gross,” Smith says.
• Improved contestants, greater falls: The new season benefited from a 2021 Netflix-wide reality show casting call. Besides the return of the hilarious Virzi triplets, the participants are sharper and playing for maximum laughs. Their slams and falls on slippery surfaces are addictive as well as wince-inducing. They are replayed, often in slow motion. Producers promise no one has been seriously hurt.
“That’s the real miracle,” Wood says. “We thoroughly test everything. We don’t want anyone getting hurt. There’s nothing funny about that.”
‘Too Hot’: Harry Jowsey’s miracle recovery led to epic wipeout
One new “Lava” episode features what Miller calls “the save of the season.” “Too Hot to Handle” Season 1 star Harry Jowsey spun upside down on the game room’s giant rolling dart board, yet recovered. “I’ve no idea how he didn’t fall into the lava. He was literally hanging,” Miller says.
“The wheel wasn’t moving so I put a little too much mustard into pushing it and ended up upside down,” says Jowsey, 25. “That was crazy. I thought it was the end for sure. It felt like I was hanging for an hour.”
Somehow Jowsey muscled his way out of the mess, only to wipe out jumping onto a slippery dance floor. His face-first, legs-out lava plunge is an instant ‘Lava’ classic.
“It was embarrassing, I’ve cut the memory out of my head,” Jowsey says. “The dance floor didn’t look that slippery, but it was. My team had vowed that if any of us fell, it would be big, dramatic. And there I was, slipping in like a sausage.”
Jowsey was covered in lava (“it’s gooey and jelly-like, kind of like watered-down glue”) but did not injure any “Too Hot” features. “Only my ego was hurt,” says Jowsey. “My face is fine and ready for another season.”
If lava escape is not entertaining enough, we offer more shows promising summer silliness:
- ABC’s “The Final Straw.” (July 10, Sundays at 9 EDT/PDT): From the mind of former quarterback and executive producer Peyton Manning comes the competition show where teams pull random items (including small kitchen appliances) from tipping towers. If the tower falls, they lose. Janelle James (“Abbott Elementary”) hosts.
- TruTv’s “101 Places to Party Before You Die” (July 15, Thursdays at 10:30 EDT/PDT): Comedian pals Adam Pally and Jon Gabrus travel the country and beyond looking for the best party places, from Miami to Maui.
- Netflix’s “Snowflake Mountain” (June 22): The new show takes pampered kids and puts them through a wilderness survival retreat with no running water and no Wi-Fi.