Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The top 7 Nickelodeon Kids' Game Shows

When Nickelodeon’s Games and Sports (GaS) channel was dropped from cable, we all lost something. Whether it was the chance to relive our childhoods of being babysat by sweet television, or kick back and giggle at pre-pubescent children thrust together on a team try to awkwardly high-five each other, GaS had something for everyone.

And then Comcast yanked it away from us, forcing it to only live on in our memories, and the occasional you tube video.

But that will never change how super awesome these game shows were. And so, to honor them, I have ranked the top 7 children’s video games as they appeared on GaS. With rumors of possibly streaming them online I wait with baited breath. Until then however, this is all we have…

7. Get the Picture

Teams took turns eliminating giant blocks that hid a picture of…whatever. It could be a rose, it could be Kid n’ Play. The reason to catch episodes of Get the Picture were for catching the ever elusive Power Surges that were sprinkled into the game play. Actually, the Power Surge wasn’t all that exciting when you got right down to it, but host Mike O’Malley certainly didn’t let that bring his excitement level down. I also loved that someone had to come out and lift up some sort of safety bar for the kids when they competed in Power Surges, as though they would hurl themselves into the giant video screen had there not been some sort of barrier to corral them.

O’Malley made this show what it was. Carefree in attitude, he blatantly acted as though he needed to get his contract voided so he could start on Yes, Dear a few years early. He openly scorned and mocked contestants for not knowing something. I guess the allure of being on television (and getting to compete in a Power Surge) kept the line of contestants coming, because it certainly wasn’t O’Malley’s amicability. But I like that in my kids’ game show host. These kids don’t need to be coddled, not even on Nickelodeon.

6. Finders Keepers

Finders Keepers had the distinction of switching hosts as much as Card Sharks did. Unfortunately, they never found their Bob Eubanks, instead winding up with 2 guys that were immediately forgettable. One hated his life and openly pined to get fired, the other had a ‘Black Hole Sun’ look to his face that had to scare the constestants on a daily basis.

Still, neither host could destroy the thrill of trashing a room – which was the object of Finders Keepers. Teams competed against one another to search one of the rooms in the Finders Keepers mansion for items that were “cleverly” hidden, usually in a faux Ming Vase or a vat of dirt (because you know, every house has a giant vat of dirt). The challenge at the end had the winning team traipsing through a variety of rooms looking for more hidden objects. I loved the dichotomy between many teams; some would take a Little House on the Prairie approach and daintily pick up bowls and what not looking for clues, while others got very Hunteresque in there, treating dishes and glasses like a perp with an attitude problem. It was always interesting to guess which way a team would go.

Unfortunately, Finders Keepers doesn't have a huge web presence, which is a crying shame. But here is another link that can give you an idea of how crazy this show really was.

5. Double Dare

The Jeopardy of kids’ game shows, Double Dare mixed standard trivia with manic, LSD-inspired “physical challenges” for the kids to opt for if the questions got tricky. The winning team then got a chance to take on the obstacle course, a series of messy, disgusting Mouse Trap-inspired activities. Each accomplishment in the obstacle course won you a truly awesome prize, whether it was a pair of roller blades or your very own karaoke machine.

And how awesome was it, years later, when we all found out Marc Summers had OCD? Now we had an opportunity to go back and check the old shows as though they were Zapruder films to see Mark flip out when chocolate frosting splattered across his face.

Please don’t get this confused with Double Dare 2000. Jason Harris didn’t have the natural geniality Summers had, and the show suffered.

4. Figure it Out

I could easily write 10,000 words about this show, and still might some day. I’d love a tell-all book about what went on behind the scenes on Figure It Out, from how funny Kevin Kopelow really is, to the sexual tension between a post-puberty Danny Tamberelli and the always sexy host, Summer Sanders. Unfortunately, I think I might be the only person calling for something like that.

A child’s version of I’ve Got a Secret, Figure it Out always turned up the bizarre quotient. Lori Beth had to have been hated by the contestants, as she always seemed to guess the answer at the last possible moment, sending the children home with a piece of the Aggro Crag, and not a cool trip to Space Camp.

I’ll stop now.


Oh how I miss thee, GUTS. Mike sending it over to Mo, Mo pretending she and the judges huddled together to confer about a rule discrepancy before making a final ruling… O’Malley’s complete sell of each competition as though it happened during the 1968 Olympics. He could have mailed it in, but ever the consummate professional (possibly the first time he’s ever been described like that) he took his job seriously and announced Ragin’ Rapids without a hint of irony.

I won’t go into a detailed account about what happened with Bebe on an episode of GUTS. What I will do is beg to start streaming these episodes online soon, so that I may one day share it all with you. And if you did see that episode with Bebe, you know what I’m talking about.

2. Legends of the Hidden Temple

A talking rock…a final obstacle course that truly went on forever that featured guys in skimpy clothing jumping out and grabbing pre-pubescent children…a host that rappelled into the arena to start the show…there are so many great things that Legends of Hidden Temple had going for it.

One of the more demanding kids’ game shows, Legends of the Hidden Temple also appeared to have the largest budget for a game show. Papier-mâché boulders cannot be easy or cheap to make – and Legends had an abundance of them. The other thing I loved about LotHT was how elaborate the entire show got. From starting out with 6 competing teams of 2 children, to 4 eclectic rounds highlighting different talents, I’m shocked it lasted 3 years. I mean, I still see no reason to have a talking, animatronic puppet delivering the “legend” when you had a perfectly decent host in Kirk Fogg willing and able to read a 3-paragraph story to the kids.

Silver Snakes was my go to team. They were always a safe bet to make it at least to the second round. Of course, it was next to impossible to accurately handicap a team at the beginning, since intelligence is not an easy trait to read in a 13-year old child.

And then there was that final challenge of recovering the ancient artifact from the temple…one of the hardest things I’ve ever seen a 13 year old child accomplish. The number of obstacles they had to overcome was astounding. I can only hope there were plenty of spotters behind the scenes to ensure the kids’ safety on the show.

Here's just an awful attempt at trying to do the Silver Monkey room. I mean this is simply terrible...

And I link to this awesome site because A. it probably has the most information about Legends of the Hidden Temple out there and B. because I had no idea geocities still existed.

1. Nick Arcade

On the surface, Nick Arcade is surprisingly ordinary. Kids playing video games against one another for points? Ho hum. So why does it deserve the number one ranking? Two words: Phil Moore.

Perhaps the greatest game show host in the history of game shows, Moore knew no equal. His classic early 90s wardrobe always matched the Japanese anime/rave décor of the set, and his classically manic dance moves, coupled with his scat (the jazz, not the porn) prowess made watching Nick Arcade a must. Just take a look at what I’m talking about here…

Remember when I said Legends had one of the hardest things for a 13-year old to accomplish? The end challenge of Nick Arcade was the hardest. Channeling their inner weatherman, children had to react to “video game” obstacles that came at them on a green screen. Remarkably complex, I might have seen it defeated once in my life. The producers could have listed the gold of Fort Knox as the prize, and still felt relatively confident that no one was coming close to getting their tiny hands on it.

Take a look...

And this was one of the easier final challenges!

Finally, this video, while not capturing the true essence that is Phil Moore, comes closer than anything else I can find. Enjoy...

So there you have it - unfortunately these are the best things I could find as examples of these shows...why youtube isn't peppered with more great clips of these shows I'll never know. Comments? Questions? Rants about the rankings? Give a shout in the comments.


Drew said...

Nice list, and of course Phil Moore is a legend. I have no complaints with your list but i might have added "Fun House" with legendary children's host JD Roth. And check out some of the "special guests" this show drew, Leonardo DiCaprio AND Danny Pintauro (Whos the boss) in the same show. what kind of budget did they have! Unfortunately enough for only a dozen gems.

STJ said...

I realize that I post on here with a severe change of being heckled for taking forever to create another post. That being said I had to right the terrible injustice you have brought upon the world wide web by leaving out Wild and Crazy Kids hosted by Omar Gooding, Donnie Jeffcoat, and Annette Chavez.

Seriously ranks right up there with Guts, Legends of the Hidden Temple, and Nick Arcade.

Cline said...

Who's STJ? The name sounds familiar, but I can't place it.

Also, how hard do you think Pintauro was throwing game at Leo backstage during that episode?

Goose said...

Stop it. Wild and Crazy Kids was an abomination. Does not hold a candle to any of the top 7. If I want to see a gang of silly little kids doing stupid things, I'll head over to Cline's basement.

STJ said...

That sounds an awful lot like the unhappy criticisms of someone who realized they made a mistake....

What would you Do? Also hosted by Marc Summers could crack a top 10 list, but not 7 (or 8 if we're now including WCK).

Goose said...

Absolutely incorrect - and I'm offended you would suggest that. While I can offer you no empirical proof, I can find a number of people willing to testify to the hours I watched that channel on a daily basis. Trust me when I say I've exhausted their programming, which includes Wild and Crazy Kids. And trust me when I say I've fattened my wallet betting on the outcomes of all these game shows.

I can also offer my notes which clearly shows the disdain I had for both Wild and Crazy Kids and What Would You do - a game show in Nickelodeon's mind only, but not by the true definition.

You're welcome.

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