a comparison in game shows; and the global stage

Once upon a time there was this weirdo game show that dumb kids like me could watch called Legends of the Hidden Temple. Perhaps some of you remember this from your glory days of childhood football, candy, school lockers, and bad 90’s pop bands. This was during the highlight days of Nickelodeon, 1993-1995. A simpler entertainment era before the crushing reality of the Internets would consume all our lives.

The show featured six teams of two kids (one boy, one girl) who competed in some type of fake Mayan temple. They had to conduct physical feats, answer riddles, and generally do hard stuff. The show apparently had tough tryouts. Hosted by game show robot Kirk Fogg, it also had a second quasi host in a large stone talking head, former Simpsons basement dweller, five time convicted sex offender, Indiana Jones veteran, and jai-li extraordinaire Olmec. Olmec talked to the kiddies and gave them a background on the history of the artifact they had to find in the actual hidden temple challenge at the end of the show.

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Olmec tells Kirk that his glowing red eyes are actually a brain tumor.

I enjoyed this show because it was different, entertaining, had history, and was extremely competitive. In only 22 minutes of air time they had to cull the flock with 10 of 12 children summarily dismissed from play. In the first two minutes of the show four kids are eliminated in the moat challenge. In all their lives these kids might be on national television only once, and they’re gone in only two minutes. The knowledge test was next, that milled an additional four young ones. After a quick third round they got down to the final two who competed in the temple. I’m not sure if I’m remembering this right, but I seem to recall that the temple itself was hard, a substantial portion of participants lost. Turns out I’m right, the Huffington Post says only 32 of 120 teams (26%) actually won the whole thing.

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Would they ever make a kid’s game show again that required the use of helmets and mouthguards?

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Kirk explaining to these two, that since they made it this far, it indicates their likelihood of becoming future billionaires has increased by 723%.

It was a neat show, but it couldn’t have made much money because they cancelled it after only three seasons. Nobody would never make such a show again. After more than two decades, the following factors are disqualifying in our modern newfangled era:

– The show would be deemed racist for its cartoon depiction of various Amerindian cultures.

– When about 1/3 of American children are chronically obese, I’m not sure they could roll out a game show that required this level of childhood physical brutality.

– Nobody knows anything about history anymore, so those knowledge questions are out. I figure at least 78% of American children today think we fought the Redcoats in the Civil War.

– They would never get away with that level of competition, cutting 10 kids in 22 minutes. Today they would only drop 2 kids and both of them would still get trophies or some other kind of big consolation prize.

In other words, several key skills which I consider essential to a reasonably functioning society are lost from a modern kid game show. Specifically:

1) Physical fitness

2) A decent knowledge of history

3) The ability to comprehend that life is a vicious mill fest of suck, and while knowing that, still press on and do great things

Nickelodeon currently broadcasts only one game show. It’s called Paradise Run, and is made by the same production company that did Hidden Temple. I give you this description from Wikipedia:

At the Hilton Waikoloa Village in Hawaii, three teams of two children race around the Hilton Waikola Village competing in three different challenges that are given to them by Daniella Monet through the tablets that are provided for them. The teams are sorted by Team Makani, which is Hawaiian for “wind”, Team Nalu, which is Hawaiian for “wave”, and Team Ahi, which is Hawaiian for “fire”. The first team to complete all three challenges wins a four-day, three-night trip at the hotel while the runner-ups receive consolation prizes. During the completion of the challenges, they must take a selfie on a tablet and send it to Daniella. Once all three challenges are completed, they must solve a riddle. The riddle’s answer is a suite where Daniella and the parents of the teams are waiting, and the team must race there.

I’ve not seen this show, so I suppose it could be awesome. But I doubt it. Note these key points that make me want to vomit in my mouth:

a) Naked corporate sponsorship in a game show made for children

b) Only six children compete, instead of twelve, thus reducing the elimination factor by 50%

c) They use fucking tablets, which they use to take selfies, …, for fuck’s sake

d) The losers receive prizes

e) The game’s end state is nothing more than a hotel room prize directly related to said sponsorship

f) The limp wristed title

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Note the difference in contestant attire between this and Hidden Temple.  Specifically the lack of helmets, mouthguards, gloves, elbow pads, knee pads, and anything else requiring the children to do more than tap a tablet.

[claps hands in an empty room]

Where am I going with this, I mean other than to rant about game shows? Well, two places. In case you haven’t noticed, the world is a shit show right now. Two things in particular yesterday and today, the Israeli-Palestinian quagmire, and Syria.

You’ve got Kerry out there giving a speech on Israel. And you’ve got a Syria cease fire done today where Turkey, Iran, Russia, the Rebels, and Syria basically did a deal without America in the room.

You know, I kind of agree with a lot of what Obama and Kerry preach. Some of Kerry’s comments on Israel’s potential darkening religious nuthouse path are spot on. And you can make a valid and reasonable argument that Obama’s path of non-intervention in Syria was the best course among all the terrible options. But you know what doesn’t help, the messengers. Obama and Kerry have to be about the worst people to deliver this tact in American foreign policy.

Kerry comes off on the podium like that pretentious uncle who always complains too much and nobody listens to. Obama’s professorial pauses are enough to elicit yawns from even the most jaded of international diplomats. These two guys would have hated Legends of the Hidden Temple. Paradise Run seems right up their alley.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is not a thank god they’re leaving so Trump can fix things message. Trump wouldn’t watch Legends of the Hidden Temple because it would require him to sit still for 22 minutes and not run his mouth. Trump is not the answer to this, and in any case, he’s such an outlier to the general American leadership psyche.

So I guess where I’m going is this is a lament. Obama and Kerry I think are more along the lines of the leaders that American culture is inclined to produce in the future. A bunch of ultimately weak people unfit to deal with the dangers of this planet. If you believe in a planet that should walk a path of growing freedom and democracy, that should be enough to trouble you, because nobody but America can guide that path.

Would they ever make something like Legends of the Hidden Temple ever again? I think not. Will America ever return to the global stage as a strong leader again? I hope so. But I fearfully wonder, what if not?

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Don’t dial America, it won’t answer, it’s too busy watching the delights of Paradise Run.

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