The lack of viable Nickelodeon game shows today is clearly the leading cause of childhood obesity. No one’s going to get inspired watching Jamie Lynn Spears in “Zoey 101.” Where’s the action? Where’s the risk? Nick’s old game shows were the stuff of legend, but all we have left are our memories as the channel that sired us fades into obscurity.
“Legends of the Hidden Temple” – Combining pagan worship with every kid’s desire to be Indiana Jones, “Legends of the Hidden Temple” was one of Nickelodeon’s most memorable competitions. Hosted by some douchebag named Kirk Fogg and, more important, Olmec (a faux-stone talking statue purported to be the Mayan god of all things extreme), “Legends” pit pairs of kids together in search of ancient “artifacts,” which ranged from the somewhat plausible (the jeweled egg of Catherine the Great) to the completely absurd (the walking stick of Harriet Tubman).
The teams were named by pairing a jungle animal with a color, which ranged from the formidable Red Jaguars to the incredibly lame Purple Parrots. The contestants competed in a series of rounds to earn “Pendants of Life,” which they would take into the Temple.
The Temple was probably the scariest place imaginable for an 11-year-old. Half Chucky Cheese pipe maze, half house of the living dead, the Temple was a labyrinth of puzzles standing between you and Harriet Tubman’s walking stick. The infamous Shrine of the Silver monkey, a simple three-piece puzzle, confounded an infinite number of preteens who could not grasp the concept that the silver monkey head went on top of the monkey body.
Hidden in rooms along the way were temple guards who jumped out at the kids who would literally crap their pants at the sight of a grown man in Mayan war regalia.
“GUTS” – “Guts! Do you have it?” Almost every kid in the ’90s answered this question with a defiant “Hell yes!” “GUTS” took extreme to the extreme as it warped your favorite sports into ridiculous contests with one ultimate goal: getting a piece of that glorious Aggro Craig.
After the highly informative “Spill Your Guts” segment told us that each contestant liked “baseball, pizza and playing with my friends,” the players would get busy dunking soccer balls into basketball hoops or spinning around on bats then trying to kick field goals. The points never mattered however as they headed into the final round: The big AC.
The contestants braved lighting storms (strobe lights), hurricane winds (fans) and avalanches (foam rocks), hitting “actuators” (buttons) along the way. You know you still want a piece of the Crag. Soccer state championship trophy? Volleyball tournament cup? Screw that. There’s nothing like a neon green hunk of plastic to rest on the mantle.
“Double Dare” – “On your mark, get set, go!” When Marc Summers shouted that somehow trademarked catchphrase, you knew it was on. “Double Dare” was more of a game show than “GUTS” or “Legends” since it actually involved questions and booths and money and such.
The rules were fairly simple. You get asked a question; if you don’t know it, you can dare the other team to answer it for double the points. If they don’t know it they can double dare the question back to you for four times the points. Then you could either answer it or take a physical challenge. Any self-respecting kid is going to take the physical challenge. This show isn’t “Kid’s Jeopardy,” and therefore has no 10-year-old tools who know the capital of Maine.
The challenges involved incredible amounts of “gross” substances like whipped cream or that infamous Nickelodeon slime. Filling up buckets with the crap, or catching pie pans full of the crap, were the large majority of the challenges ultimately culminating in an obstacle course involving all of them together.
Who cares if all 17 of Nickelodeon’s game shows were the same formula? Kids plus questions plus obstacles plus pies plus slime equals extreme. They were all fantastic and there’s nothing more representative of the Golden Age of Nickelodeon.