Thursday, September 24, 2009
People grumble a lot about this current generation of children. They complain that they're too lazy, too unfocused, or overly dependent on technology. I, on the other hand, have a different theory.
Kids these days are suffering from a major shortage of children's television game shows.
I mean, think about it. Really think about it. We watched a lot of TV, too, but what was the differentiating factor that motivated us to get up off the couch and do something? I'm telling you, it's game shows. Watching kids on TV partaking in mild to moderately strenuous activities was enough to give us something to aspire to. Sure, their activities were strange, unconventional, and had little applicability in actual society, but they were real kids who were challenging themselves physically, academically, or super sloppily.
And to those of you who didn't have cable, well, you'll probably feel just as bad reading this post as you did back when you were taunted for being the only kid on the block without cable. Don't say I didn't warn you.
I might as well negate everything I just said up there about these game shows encouraging kids to be active. Nick Arcade actually encouraged them to be pretty darn inactive. Contestants battled virtual video game wizards in a green screen world, creating a mesh of animation and live action in a virtual Nick Arcade universe. You have to admit, that's pretty cool.
Now this is my kind of show. As the owner of an incredibly messy room that resisted all sorts of motherly intervention attempts, I was deeply envious of the kids on this show who were allowed to ransack the rooms in this fake house. Some kids have all the luck. The game was bisected into two rounds. In one round (the boring round, if you will), kid contestants identified hidden objects in pictures. In the second (the cool round), kids were unleashed in a makeshift simulated house environment finding object based on the host's clues. The best part was the bonus Room-to-Room-Romp round in which kids frantically and methodically ransacked rooms for cards that could grant them such mediocre prizes as a summer at space camp or a gift certificate to KB Toys.
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
Speaking of mediocre prizes, Carmen San Diego's offerings teetered on the brink of insulting. That didn't stop us from coveting the goods and being tricked against our will into learning the geography we so desperately needed. Plus Rockapella was there to provide us with their sweet, sweet in-house harmonious musical stylings. If you didn't take home the gold, though, your prize pickings were admittedly slim. We're talking Rand McNally atlases and Carmen Sandiego sweatshirts. Oh well. It's the thought that counts.
Legends of the Hidden Temple
Speaking of vaguely educational children's television game shows. Legends of the Hidden Temple was sort of educational, in a confusing, myth-heavy sense. It's kind of Incan or Mayan, or whoever it was that was heavy into talking stone head Olmecs. The game began with the moat, as partner-teams would race to cross a pool and ring their assigned gong. In the Steps of Knowledge round, our friends answered questions based on the tale Olmec had recounted for them. The Temple Games featured Guts-like stunt work. The real fun, however, came in the Temple Run. It was like ancient Incan Finders Keepers, but with incredibly frightening Temple Guards who would steal your hard-earned pendants. Tough break, kids.
You have to admit, just a little part of you wants to be a Silver Monkey or Purple Parrot for Halloween. Go on now. We won't tell.
Some things are better left unexplained. Like why exactly in the above clip these kids are pulling rubber chickens out of the birdcages perched on their heads. Really, who comes up with this stuff?
It was a nice touch to make Marc Summers the host, what with his cleanliness-demanding OCD and all. Whether it was Super Sloppy, Family style, or just plain old Double Dare, a lot of really confusing stuff went on. Confusing and messy. We didn't know why, but we just wanted to be a part of it.
Get The Picture
In the 90s, it didn't take much of a premise to get a game show off the ground. All you needed was Nickolodeon's buy in, Mike O'Malley signed on as a host, and you've pretty much got yourself a show. It was a sort of mix between a trivia game, picture guessing game, and physical-challenge filled excitement fest. All in all, not a bad run.
Figure it Out
Sigh. If only I'd had some sort of secret hidden talent or spectacularly interesting fact about myself. I never quite qualified as a contestant for this one. The kids on this show always won. It was pretty much in the script. We were supposed to let our Nickelodeon-grade celebrity guests make fools of themselves and get endlessly covered in buckets of green slime all so we could win our Nintendo 64s and Figure It Out t shirts and call it a day.
For some reason or other, the genre faded into obscurity by the late 90s, despite the syndicated push of reruns on the Nickelodeon cable Games and Sports channel. Like I said, these kids just don't know what they've missing. Maybe once they've ransacked a temple only to be accosted by a full grown man in full Mayan sentinel garb all while wearing a helmet and kneepads, they would know what it was all about. Maybe.