Today’s installment of Hollywood! Adapt This is all about fun and games. One of the best parts of growing up in the 80s and 90s was the wealth of game shows on TV that were aimed at kids. The shows were exciting, energetic and often even informative as they combined contests of physical activity with brain teasers and trivia challenges. While there were plenty of game shows to choose from for possible reboots or adaptations into other another medium, only one stands out from the pack…mostly because it featured a giant talking carved stone head. Hit the jump to get reacquainted with Olmec. Hollywood! Adapt this: Legends of the Hidden Temple.
Nickelodeon was the absolute mecca for children’s programming in the 80s and 90s (and probably still today). A huge part of their schedule was devoted to a variety of kids game shows that entertained tykes and were arguably doing their part to combat childhood obesity and illiteracy. A great example of a show that combined both physical and mental challenges was Legends of the Hidden Temple, a cult favorite that ran for 120 episodes from 1993 to 1995. Hosted by Kirk Fairbanks Fogg (who dressed like Dora the Explorer before Dora ever existed), the show started off with six teams (can you name them all?*) each made up of one boy and one girl. Two teams were immediately eliminated in the first challenge, which required both team members to cross a moat on an inner tube one at a time.
From there, the four surviving teams were whittled down to two via the “Steps of Knowledge,” a round of trivia that was based on a historical lesson supplied by the giant carved stone head, Olmec. Voiced by the prolific Dee Bradley Baker, Olmec orated the tale of the day, be it “Blackbeard’s Treasure Map” or “The Electrified Key of Benjamin Franklin.” These brief history lessons not only gave players the necessary information to answer the trivia challenges, but clued them in to the item of the day that they must eventually seek in the Temple itself.
After two teams made it through the knowledge portion of the game, they were each subjected to three physical challenges that were tied in to the theme of Olmec’s story. The Temple Games also allowed each team to earn halves of Temple Medallions (more on that in a minute). The victor of the Games earned the right to assault the Temple where the day’s item awaited them and promised great rewards (ranging from a box of Nerds to a trip to the Cayman Islands). Lurking inside the Temple itself were muscle-bound and barely-clothed Temple Guards who would hide in dark alcoves and literally snatch up the players if they didn’t placate them with a shiny Temple Medallion. Terrifying.
Before I get into a rant about the dearth of game shows for kids today, I’ll make my case for why Legends of the Hidden Temple deserves a return to form in either its original vision or, stick with me, in a kids action-adventure movie franchise. It’s a sad day when I can only think of the Spy Kids movies as the most recent series aimed at entertaining kids in an action-adventure fashion. Sure, that market has recently been dominated by superhero fare, but there’s definitely room for a kid-friendly return to good old fashioned adventure films.
The Indiana Jones series has, in my opinion, run its course. Percy Jackson is making an attempt. I’ve already suggested making a push for Carmen Sandiego. There are plans to reboot the Tomb Raider film franchise, but it’s too early to tell just how family friendly that will be. Enter Legends of the Hidden Temple, a story about a brother and sister who happen to be the children of archaeologists. After going against their parents’ instructions and exploring a recently-unearthed subterranean temple, an entry passage collapses and traps the siblings inside. They soon find that the ruins contain both physical and mental challenges that have very deadly consequences should they fail. They must work together to put all of their survival skills and historical knowledge to the test if they hope to make it out alive.
I also appreciated Legends of the Hidden Temple‘s attempt to try and educate the kids, who were so jacked up on sugar and adrenaline that they likely had no clue as to what Olmec was saying 90% of the time. There’s no reason the movies couldn’t be based on legitimate historical evidence regarding, say, the ancient Egyptian pyramids or ruins of the Mayan or Roman empires, just to name a few (ie franchise potential).
I’m of the opinion that Legends of the Hidden Temple is an untapped source of action-adventure movie fun that could take kids on a thrilling adventure through history while educating them about a number of the world’s civilizations.
As for the state of game shows, this could be an entire topic of discussion in itself so I’ll just say this. In the 80s and 90s, we had: Double Dare, Wild and Crazy Kids, Guts, Nick Arcade, Think Fast, Finders Keepers and more that I’m surely forgetting. While not all of them focused on intellectual stimulation, most of them had a combination of physical and mental challenges that encouraged a healthy spirit of competition. Today, we still have game shows but most of them are reality-based competitions aimed at and featuring adults. Sure, the kids of the 80s and 90s are now adults who want to relive their childhoods without actually getting up off the couch and running around playing tag. Maybe I don’t know about current game shows for kids because I simply don’t watch children’s programming. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that in today’s world of 24/7 connectivity, there’s definitely room for a game show that will actively engage children and encourage them to be both physically and mentally active. End rant.
Check out the first episode of Legends of the Hidden Temple below if you missed out on this cheesy fun-fest:
Be sure to get caught up on our previous installments of Hollywood! Adapt This and tune in next weekend when we head back to the land of the literati. I’ll be talking about a dystopian future tale where androids exist mostly in the flesh trade, crops have failed on a global scale, rare fossil fuels are available to only the elite military and the exceedingly wealthy, and a power struggle in one country threatens to upset the balance of the entire world.
*Red Jaguars, Blue Barracudas, Green Monkeys, Orange Iguanas, Purple Parrots, and Silver Snakes