It’s hard to make history, mythology or geography appealing to anyone, let alone children and preteens. Nevertheless, Nickelodeon made it happen with its mid-1990s game show Legends of the Hidden Temple. On March 1, Variety reported Nickelodeon will do it again when it revives Legends as a live-action TV movie, expected to air on the network later this year.
At a time when Nickelodeon’s lineup overflowed with game shows both starring and aiming at kids, Legends stood apart from the rest for its emphasis on learning instead of sliming.
In every episode, a talking Olmec head (simply named Olmec) would present the six two-player teams with a legend that involved an important artifact that had “found its way” into his hidden temple. Sometimes the series focused on fictional stories, as seen in a season 1 episode surrounding Blackbeard’s treasure map. Other times, its legends were actually based on historical facts, such as a season 2 episode in which contestants searched the temple for Benjamin Franklin’s electrified key.
Between physical challenges that involved crossing a shallow pool of water (“The Moat”) and navigating Olmec’s temple to find the artifact (“The Temple Games”), the teams needed to answer questions about the episode’s legend on the “Steps of Knowledge.”
Legends only aired from 1993 to 1995, but I watched the reruns religiously growing up, encouraged by some of my older cousins who watched the show during its original run.
I remember making up legends myself and setting up obstacle courses in my living room in an attempt to recreate the ruins I saw on TV.
I envied the winning teams that went home with amazing prizes, from Nerds candy to yo-yos to portable CD players.
And long before I was mentally sorting myself into Hogwarts houses, I wondered about which Legends team I belonged on. Did I have what it took to be a Blue Barracuda? Or was I more of a Silver Snake?
But most importantly, Legends really did instill an interest in learning in me. Furthermore, the stories Olmec told stuck with me for years after Nickelodeon stopped airing old episodes. In elementary school, I was already well informed at the start of my teachers’ lessons about King Tut and Amelia Earhart, among other important historical figures once featured on my favorite game show.
Despite the plethora of unnecessary 1990s reboots of late, introducing Legends to another generation, even in a different format, is exciting and hopefully will be as meaningful to its new audience as it was to me almost 20 years ago.