The basic idea of a “Legends of the Hidden Temple” revival isn’t an offensive one. As long as every piece of media is getting rebooted, revised and regurgitated, why not a delightfully cheesy game show in which kids scrambled up styrofoam rocks and answered trivia questions about fake Mayan myths as a scarlet-eyed stone sculpture set their next challenge? For a certain subset of millennials, “Legends of the Hidden Temple” — which aired on Nickelodeon from 1993 to 1995 — was one of TV’s more entertaining distractions. Asking my friends at recess if they’d rather be a “purple parrot” or “silver snake” was, in retrospect, preparation for millions of internet personality quizzes to come. (I am, of course, a green monkey.) So when pressing play on a new iteration of the show, premiering Oct. 10 on the CW, I was open to the idea that bringing it back could be a fun enough time — but it didn’t take long for the first episode to change my mind.
Almost 20 years after “Legends of the Hidden Temple” first debuted, The CW has now revived it to appeal to my exact demographic and no one else. The contestants are still part of the traditional animal teams and take on obstacle courses very much like the previous version’s, though on a rather woeful set that evokes Party City more than Mayan ruins. And while comedian Cristela Alonzo does her best to keep the show’s energy up, there’s only so much she can do while narrating challenges that series like “Survivor” and “Wipeout” have been doing better for decades.
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The show’s struggle to distinguish itself from so many others on television might not be as damning, or at least not as immediately noticeable, if it were still about kids and for kids as the original “Legends” was. But this one, produced for a network aimed more at those who grew up on shows like “Legends of the Hidden Temple” rather than those who are still growing up, makes the fatal mistake of casting adults rather than children as its contestants. Watching people in their twenties and thirties struggle to remember details of a legend and assemble the once iconic silver monkey only highlights how basic this show really is. It’s probably just as well that the CW appears to be targeting an audience that already knows and likes what “Legends of the Hidden Temple” is about, since it’s hard to imagine anyone else tuning in for long.
“Legends of the Hidden Temple” premieres Oct. 10 on the CW.
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