Of course, the target audience here is younglings, and they might enjoy the dazzle and din. Part of the thrill we felt watching those ’80s and ’90s game shows — like Double Dare and Fun House — came from putting ourselves in the players’ shoes and getting frustrated when we felt like we could complete the challenges faster. It’s hard to see how children of this era might do the same with this series when it feels several layers removed from the audience, but it’s certainly possible.Conceptually, Jedi Temple Challenge works well. Focusing on the core Jedi principles — strength, knowledge, and bravery — three teams of two (kids who are either BFFs or siblings) start off by swapping out though three Forest Moon-situated obstacle courses that help them build their lightsaber. They swing, pull, jump, and climb their way to assemble their weapon, with the team in last place getting bounced out of the mix before they all head into the Knowledge Trial. Here the remaining four players listen to a Star Wars-centric story containing numbers, colors, shapes, and other details that they promptly get quizzed on afterward while flying a ship (one team member is the pilot while the other is in the cargo bay). The winning team then enters the Jedi Temple.
Legends of the Hidden Temple had a shockingly low win count (darn that Shrine of the Silver Monkey puzzle!), and those stakes really helped sell the difficulty of the final trial and it made the teams who did reach the end feel even more accomplished. With only 10 episodes in its first season, it’s unclear whether or not Jedi Temple Challenge will have a similar failure rate, but from the first two episodes, it’s clear that not every team is going to make it to exalted Jedi status. Plus, in the middle of the Temple, the “Dark Side” will try to tempt the duo, though it’s unclear how the initial leg up they get in puzzle-solving, by giving in to the Dark Side, hurts them later. Perhaps the time goes faster or something else gets shuffled around difficulty-wise, but it’s not overtly explained.
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The glue here, which works very well, is Star Wars Prequels star Ahmed Best, who’s now transformed from the voice of Jar Jar Binks into host Jedi Master Kelleran Beq. Best, as Beq, really provides the lion’s share of energy and personality for the series and Beq’s asides and interactions with humanoid droid AD-3 (voiced by Veep and Blunt Talk’s Mary Holland) are light distractions that help offer some momentum during the trudge of some challenges. There isn’t really time or space for the contestants’ personalities to shine through aside from general Jedi platitudes, so Best remains the series’ finest asset here.
Star Wars lore works really well when combined with a rollicking, physical Legends of the Hidden Temple-style concept, though the show’s isolated feel, away from an audience, distances the contest, and the contestants, from the viewer. To make up for the lack of crowd support, a soaring score plays over almost the entire show, creating a sameness throughout. Fortunately, Ahmed Best’s Jedi Master host is a charismatic leader capable of moving things along.