THE CHOICES ARE YOURS… October 2, 2021

First Impressions: Legends of the Hidden Temple

The CW's attempt to bring back the show seems to be faithful to the original in a lot of ways.

The legacy of Legends of the Hidden Temple lives and dies mostly from the memories of its fans. There are a number of elements of the show that those fond of the show keep in mind—the menacing Temple Guards, the stone-faced Olmec, the Hidden Temple itself. This revival of Legends of the Hidden Temple, executive produced by Scott Stone of the original Nickelodeon Legends, keeps all those memorable elements and enhances them, both for the 21st century and for an extended hour-long time slot.

I’ll say this right off the bat—watching a modern Legends is a lot more entertaining to enjoy as an adult, than it is to watch a classic Legends episode as an adult. The extended time slot and talking head cutaways allows the viewer to feel more connected to the teams; having grown-ups do things makes the proceedings far more relatable to watch. I don’t know how to explain “it’s less frustrating to watch adults fuck up than it is to watch kids fuck up” better than that, but that’s how I feel.

Photo: Adam Rose/The CW

The format is the same as it ever was: Olmec and host Cristela Alonzo present a story (in this iteration of the show, the stories aren’t famous historical tales; rather, they’re famous mythological tales from cultures throughout history) to four classic teams, who then go through the entire rigamarole: the Moat Crossing is first, with a three-part water-logged challenge.

In the screener sent by the CW, teams had to paddle on a raft to a specific point and use a slingshot to knock a bird totem into the water; swim to the totem and bring the totem’s pieces to a floating platform; solve a puzzle with the totem’s pieces; use that puzzle to determine which two marked bottles of liquid are needed; then grab those bottles to the end of the moat and pouring the liquid on a monster, before hitting the gong. The first three teams to survive move on to the Steps of Knowledge.

Olmec continues to explain the legendary tale then quizzes the remaining three teams on not just the story, but general knowledge related to the myth at hand. The first two teams to descend the steps move on to the Temple Games.

The two Temple Games feel very much like the games of old, except larger. Lots of physical challenges, lots of teamwork required. No more half-Pendants of life—winning a Temple Game gives you one Pendant of Life, and winning two gets you into the temple. If the teams split winning the Temple Games, Cristela and Olmec give the teams a tiebreaker question on the buzzer.

Finally, the winning team makes it to Temple Run. Just making it to the Temple banks the team $2,500; if the team can grab the artifact hidden deep in the Temple, the team banks $10,000. If they make it out of the temple with the artifact before time runs out, the team banks the top prize of $25,000.

Tina Thorpe/The CW

All in all, if you’re a fan of Legends of the Hidden Temple, they haven’t changed a whole lot here with regards to the format of the program. Cristela Alonzo has big Camp Counselor energy as host, which feels very on brand for the show as a whole but slightly off-tone for an adult competition show. Small details that hearken back to the original production will make super-fans smile, including the familiar friendly buzzer jingle at the Steps of Knowledge, or the unique buzzer podiums that teams use to signal the end of their Temple Games runs.

The Hidden Temple feels smaller than it was in Nickelodeon’s heyday, with decidedly fewer rooms and seemingly only one or two definitive routes to the treasure in question, but improvements in camera technology makes watching the Temple Run feel more intense. I appreciated watching the grown-ups maneuver deftly through the physical aspects of the Temple, but even adults continued to get flustered at the more mental or detailed-oriented tasks the Temple required. And yeah, the Temple Guards are still there and still pop out creepily from behind hidden doors.

I noticed a few very disappointing details, not unlike pettily complaining about low-quality trim in a luxury vehicle—the bottles in the moat were very clearly plastic juice jugs with hand-sharpie lettering; and in one of the Temple Games, some of the props were very much just painted cardboard boxes. These are super minor complaints but for a primetime network show, I was taken aback at that small lack of polish.

Adam Rose/The CW

Overall, I enjoyed the hour watching Legends of the Hidden Temple. It has a lot to offer fans of the Nickelodeon show, especially if those fans have kids around 10-12 to appreciate the culture of the myths on offer. If you’ve never watched an episode of Legends before but appreciate shows like Floor is Lava or Frogger, you’d probably appreciate an interesting twist on the physical competition show. I’m definitely setting a DVR reminder for this one.

Legends of the Hidden Temple premieres on Sunday, October 10 at 8 PM ET on the CW.