Legends of the Hidden TempleThe CW. The CW. Sunday October 10, 2008, 8:05 p.m.
Legends of the Hidden Temple began life nearly 30 years as a kiddie game show on the Nickelodeon Network. Then it morphed into a TV movie, also on Nickelodeon. From there it became a board game. Now, my horror! It is being offered on The CW to compete for adult audiences. If we ever have a Scopes trial on the existence of devolution, Legends of the Hidden Temple is going to be Exhibit A.
It is my hope that your thoughts weren’t offended by the use of the term “adult” just a few short sentences ago. Jejune wordplay in full. There is no competition to see who can be the first one to fornicate in a den with snakes. This version of Legends has the same silly stunts as all the others—the same soporifically juvenile dialogue. It even has the same stone-face talking head Olmec (you doubtless remember him from the Patty Hearst trial), delivering the same stentorian warnings that contestants are about to be slaughtered by hordes of vampire bats, which, sadly, turn out to be as false as ever.
According to The CW, millennials who are nostalgic about childhood will flock to Legends; I think they’ll react more like baby boomers taking a long swallow of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill: You mean we actually Get a glass of water this swill?
Legends aspires to be a sort of game version of Raiders of the Lost Ark, except without Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford or any of those playful Nazis. Each team consists of two contestants racing for one hour around an unfinished Mayan temple mockup, in which they try to retrieve a ball that was lost during the Mayan game pok–ta-pok. You will need to throw stuff and collect things. Then, you have to fall down.
The show’s Nickelodeon DNA becomes fully visible when contestants appear 20-ish up until the moment they start speaking. One pair is from a punk band while the other is made up of former cheerleaders. The pilot episode shows that one couple is part of a party group “playing to pay our rent”. According to one host, the grand prize is $25,000 divided between the teammates. It’s “a king’s ransom.” Maybe in Elbonia. The 1950s.
The winner is eventually decided by the other team. (Don’t take this too hard, but I’m not allowed to tell you which one, even if I say “spoiler alert” first.) This is an extraordinary moment. It is our time. Legends of the Hidden Temple has definitely been relatable to a journey in life,” solemnly declares one of the players. That is indisputably true, if your life consists mostly of firing slingshots at cutouts of birds, chasing plastic balls around with sticks, mixing fake poison, being chased by giant spiders made of pipe cleaners, and throwing knives at paintings of animals.
It might be helpful for the rest of us if Legends of the Hidden Temple introduced a little more anthropological authenticity. Pok-ta’pok is a Mayan-based game. What nobody talks about is Legends is that in the Mayan version of the game, the losers were put to death. The thrill of winning and the pain of losing are two different emotions.