SHOWS FOR YOUNGSTERS AND THEIR PARENTS TOO : Nickelodeon and the 'Temple' of treasure mix history and games


Indiana Jones may have found adventure in his "Temple of Doom," but today's kids are having fun their own way in Nickelodeon's Legends of the Hidden Temple, which caromed into its second season in June.

Boasting a huge, jungle-like set, complete with moat and temple filled with treasure and booby-traps, the show offers contestants a chance to demonstrate both physical prowess and mental acuity.

Teams of kids perform various tasks--starting with a challenging trip across the moat--and answer historical questions relating to "legends" told by the show's icon, Olmec. Through a process of elimination, two teams of two end up vying for the treasure at the end of the maze-filled temple.

The idea is to make history so exciting that kids don't even realize they're in the middle of an educational experience.

"We call it 'edu-tainment,' " say producers Scott Stone and David Stanley, who make up Stone Stanley Productions ("Funhouse" and "Shop 'Til You Drop").

"It's like 'Funhouse' at a theme park," says Stone.

"We just reached into the history of legendary people so we could base the show in fact and combined it with games and stunts that were fun to watch," says Stanley.

Each show sets up a hunt for a fabricated "legendary" item, such as the pig of Amelia Earhart, the giant nose ring of Babe (Paul Bunyan's ox), the golden pepperoni of Catherine de Medici or, the yellow snakeskin boots of Billy the Kid.

During each show, the contestants, age 10 to 14, plow through a maze of challenges--each of which changes daily--that include climbing, catching, throwing, running and a combination of all four. Mind-benders test how much kids remember of the "legends" recited by the 6-foot-tall head of Olmec. The Mayan god, made of foam rubber and brought to life with the voice of Dee Baker, explains the competitions and tells the stories the kids must remember to win the brain part of the game.

"You can get a real winning team if you have, say, a brainiac kid and a strong one, or kids who are a combination of both," offers host Kirk Fogg, who calls the play-by-play.

The sets and games aren't "just thrown together," assures Stanley. "We really want to make sure all things work, so we build prototypes, test with adults and then build it in final form, take it to Florida--since the show is shot at Universal Studios Florida--and test it again, this time with kids to see what the skill is needed to win. But there's agility needed, too."

"We really designed the show for channel surfers, for the MTV kid audience," says Stone. "That's why the temple changes, the games change, everything changes to keep their interest. Each of the games are only one minute long so something new is always happening."

Prizes on recent shows have included televisions and VCRs, sleeping bags and camping equipment and skateboarding gear.

Contestants come from the Orlando, Fla., area, and are sought in ads placed in local papers. Area schools also send young hopefuls and occasionally a contestant is plucked from the studio tour.

"Legends of the Hidden Temple" airs weekdays at 5:30 p.m. on Nickelodeon.

Another Family Show

If your kids are tired of parties at McDonald's, Chuck E. Cheese's or the local miniature-golf park, tune in to Monday's Home Matters (1:30 p.m. Discovery) for a feature on "Birthday Parties for Children." Marla Edelstein, associate food editor of Parents magazine, gives some creative ideas for having your child's birthday party at home. For parents.

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