Six teams of two children (one boy and one girl) would compete in challenges to retrieve historical artifacts hidden deep inside the temple by answering questions related to history, mythology, and geography.
The show was hosted by Kirk Fogg, assisted by the most notable item from the show, a talking Olmec Head simply named Olmec. These guides led the six teams – Blue Barracudas, Green Monkeys, Silver Snakes, Purple Parrots, Red Jaguars, and Orange Iguanas – through each round of the game.
There were three rounds leading up to the fourth and final round named the “Temple Run”.
First, the six teams would have to cross “The Moat” in a described manner, which changed frequently. Whichever team got both teammates across the moat would then hit a button on the other side showing completion of the task. Only four teams would advance from this challenge to the next round.
I always dreamed of going on this show, but – as uncoordinated as I can be sometimes – I was sure I’d be the first kid drowning in that moat instead of crossing it.
The four teams who made it through the moat challenge the fastest advanced to the next round, known as the “Steps of Knowledge”. Olmec would tell the episode’s legend – or story – featuring an artifact. At the end of the legend, Olmec told the teams what room the artifact could be found. Then, he asked the teams a series of multiple choice questions to test their memory.
A team signaled to answer a question by stomping on a button on their step, which caused the front of the step to illuminate. If the question was answered correctly, the team moved down to the next level. If a team answered incorrectly, or ran out their three seconds’ time limit, the other teams were given a chance to answer. Each team had to answer three questions correctly to get down the stairs, and only two teams advanced to the third round.
The third round was where competition got tense. Simply named the “Temple Games”, it featured three physical challenges for the two remaining teams. The games changed to reflect the episode’s legend, with most games lasting a maximum of 60 seconds. After each challenge, the winning team received some portion of a protective “Pendant of Life”. The first two challenges put single members from each team against one another, and were worth one half of a pendant. However, the final challenge of the round included both contestants on both teams, and was worth a full pendant.
The team that earned the most pendants earned entry into the final round. If a tie happened, the two teams stood behind a tiebreaker pedestal while being asked a question. Fogg asked the tiebreaker question originally, but in seasons two and beyond Olmec asked them. When a team hit the buzzer, they had three seconds to answer, and an incorrect answer meant the other team instantly won. This was later changed, in that the opposing team must answer the question correctly to enter the final round, named the “Temple Run”.
In the final round, the last team would face a temple of twelve rooms. Olmec would first describe the rooms, and the challenges in each. The goal was to get through the challenges of the temple and recover the artifact described earlier in the show. Each room had a different theme, some having guards that would capture the contestant. If a this happened, a “Pendant of life” that they had acquired in the previous round could be used to continue, but only a full pendant allowed this.
Each room had a locked door, and upon completion of the rooms task it would open. If the first member of the team was captured, or ran out the three-minute time limit, the second member of the team was then given a chance. The doors that had been opened remained open, and any guards that had been awoken did not return to their rooms either, giving an advantage. If either contestant made it to the artifact, all remaining temple guards vanished and all locked doors instantly opened, regardless of the time left on the clock.
Teams that made it to the final round automatically won a prize, and if they could get the artifact won a larger prize. If a team reached the artifact and escape the temple within the three-minute time limit, they won a grand prize, in addition to the two lesser prizes.
I loved this show, and was surprised to find out that it was originally conceived under a much different premise. It was originally thought up under the title Secrets of the Haunted House, and was going to have monsters jump out and scare contestants while they tried to complete challenges. As awesome as that sounds, I can’t imagine how it would be educational, but either way I bet those actors loved their jobs.
Stranger: “What do you do for a living?”
Actor: “I scare the crap out of little kids.”
The show won the award for best game show at the Sixteenth Annual CableACE awards in January 1995, but stopped producing new episodes by April 1996. Reruns ran for three years, until February 28, 1999, when the program stopped airing on Nickelodeon. It made a return on March 1,1999 on Nick GAS, running until that network ceased operations December 31, 2007.
In March 2016, Nickelodeon announced a TV film version of the game show was in production. It revolves around three siblings who break away from a lackluster tour in the jungle, finding themselves immersed in a high-stakes adventure involving obstacles that they must complete in order survive. The film premiered on Nickelodeon on November 26, 2016.
Though Legends of the Hidden Temple no longer runs, I still reminisce about it from time to time. I can’t help but have the show pop into my thoughts when I see something like Indiana Jones, from which the show’s theme was based. The idea of learning through discovery, and actually having fun, is a great idea, and I’d love to see a return of this show for today’s youth!
Did you enjoy this read? Have any memories you’d like to share? Leave your comments below!