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'Legends of the Hidden Temple': Remembering the Nick show

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“The Blue Barracudas always won,” insisted some deluded college friends of mine, as we browsed through this amazing website looking for our favorite team’s T-shirt. “It was the Silver Snakes, you guys. The numbers don’t lie,” I would typically reply.

You see, long before The Hunger Games made the spectacle of sending teams of children into an arena filled with deadly, dangerous obstacles fun again, us ’90s kids were getting our daily dose of televised youth blood sport on Nickelodeon via the Indiana Jones-inspired Legends of the Hidden Temple. Okay, so maybe the stakes weren’t quite as high in good ol’ Olmec’s Temple, and the winners walked away with family vacations and super cool skateboards instead of, well, their lives. But there is no arguing that for the six rainbow-colored teams of fresh-faced youths waiting to face the treacherous waters of The Moat, the drama was ever so real. The same goes for daily viewers like myself, my brother, and my aforementioned college chums, who spent countless valuable hours of our youth witnessing the Temple Games, wondering how we ourselves would fare should Nickelodeon ever give us the precious opportunity. Did you ever scream at the TV when some idiot kid couldn’t put together the Shrine of the Silver Monkey, or feel a tad bit anxious waiting for a Temple Guard to pop out? Yeah, we were right there with you.

I’ll take a second to break it down for those of you who may have forgotten, or any readers out there who happened to be “that kid” — that one unfortunate youth on the block whose parents wouldn’t let them have cable. No one wanted to play at your house, and I’m sorry for that. But Temple went a little something like this:

A monkey screams. The camera pans over a lush tropical rainforest until … yes, there he is. No, not the frequently double-denim clad host Kirk Fogg, but Olmec himself, with those red burning eyes and full lips framed between two pillars of smoke. Olmec lets us know what sort of “historical treasure” the kiddos will be seeking today (The Moccasins of Geronimo? The Broken Wing of Icarus? It never really mattered, but the stories were pretty hilarious looking back), and Kirk meets the teams in front of the narrow swimming pool known as The Moat. Four teams tackle The Moat (rarely the Orange Iguanas — sorry, but according to my extensive research, your team usually sucked), and the other two walk away with bruised egos and a really cheap participation prize.

The surviving teams move on to the aforementioned Steps of Knowledge, where Olmec reads the legend while the brainiac kids memorize the trivial details that will get them through to the next round. Usually two teams (the Silver Snakes and Blue Barracudas, in my biased mind) breeze through the questions, while the other two painfully freeze at the top of the Steps with nothing but blank stares and the knowledge that they have been defeated by nothing but themselves. Too much focus on gym class and not enough on history, you guys. Anyway, two teams defeat the Steps and move on to the Temple Games, a series of three physical challenges somehow themed to that day’s legend that earn the players their Pendants of Life, which are golden but probably plastic tokens that could be life savers in the main event. The team with the most Pendants moves on, and that’s where the real fun begins.

See, the coolest part of Legends was always the Temple Run. The poor kids were pretty much set up to fail — most were defeated by the meager three-minute time limit, or by not having enough Pendants when confronted by the Guards — but the whole thing played out like a video game in a fairly elaborate and definitely nifty setting. I mean, no offense to the Aggro Crag, but no other show had a 12-13-room themed obstacle course guarded by petrifying men in Mayan garb. That single camera following the kid as he or she ran through the Temple let us feel the same sense of urgency and anxiety that they were feeling, knowing that a wrong turn or poorly chosen door would mean defeat and disappointment, while the right choice would lead to the elusive Moccasins of Geronimo and a killer vacation.

There was so much to love about Temple, for those of us growing up in the Double Dare golden era of reality competition television. For one, it took a fairly equal combination of brains and brawn to even reach the entrance to the Temple, let alone conquer it. All of those cocksure, football-playing Green Monkeys who easily crossed The Moat were toast when the Red Jaguars trumped them in the trivia department over on the The Steps of Knowledge. And for budding feminists like myself, the fact that female players were frequent victors gave Temple the edge over some of the other, entirely brawn-based games that often left female competitors in the dust. The ladies rarely stood a chance on all of those upper body strength challenges on Guts, but Temple? Yeah, we could totally win at Temple. (Well, I, for one, would probably have had a panic attack when confronted by the completely terrifying Temple Guards before I could muster the courage to hand over my hard-earned Pendant of Life, but it’s not like I over-thought this or anything.)

So now that I’ve laid out the intricate details of the various Temple Games for you, PopWatchers, could you kindly let us know which team you think matched up best against Olmec’s Temple? Do you have the strength of a Red Jaguar, or the cunning of a Silver Snake? Vote in our poll below!