"The New Treasure Hunt" was a revival of the classic 1950s Jan Murray-hosted game show, this time produced by Chuck Barris ("The Newlywed Game," "The Dating Game"). Hosted by Geoff Edwards, this show offered a lucky female contestant the opportunity to win valuable prizes contained within mystery boxes placed onstage.
The series premiered in once-a-week syndication in September 1973, and ran until 1977. The show returned in 1981 (this time simply as "Treasure Hunt") in daily syndication, running one year.
During the 1970s run, the top prize was a check for $25,000; the 1981-1982 run featured an accuring jackpot, which began at $20,000 and increased by $1,000 per day until reaching $50,000.
Each game began with 10 female members of the studio audience opening their surprise gift boxes; three of them concealed the numbers 1-3. Those lucky audience members were invited onstage to open their choice of three more boxes; the one who chose the box containing a jack-in-the-box earned the right "to go on a treasure hunt."
The contestant then chose one of the 30 boxes onstage. Each box contained a cash amount, of between $500 and $2,000, and then she was given a choice: Keep the cash, or take whatever prize was contained inside. That prize, you see, could be anything from cars, trips, rooms of furniture, appliances, fur coats, jewelry, a larger cash amount (the aforementioned grand prize, or smaller cash prizes of $5,000 to $14,000) ... or it could be a worthless nonsense prize called a "klunk."
This is where the fun began. Edwards and the show's cast engaged the contestant in a comedy skit, all aimed at making her think she had chosen one of those klunk. Almost always, a klunk would be initially announced as the contestant's prize, but then the skit would continue and she would be shown the actual prize, which could be another klunk or (more often than not) one of the decent prizes. There was no skit if the contestant selected the $25,000 check, although Edwards as he did with boxes that did involve skits would often chat with the contestant before revealing the prize.
Two games were played per show, with a new initial field of 10 contestants playing the second game. If neither contestant found the $25,000 check (or if it were not found in just the second game), security guard Emile Autouri would reveal the whereabouts of the check.
Autouri, a member of the show's production staff and a member of Standards and Practices were the lone individuals who knew where the check was stashed; not even Edwards would know where everything was hidden. Security was tight at the studio; no cue cards were allowed, and Edwards had to memorize 30 skits for each program. Legend has it he never made one mistake, and often had to cover for those who did.
The 1970s show was known for its outrageous stunts and controversial moments. One infamous moment was replayed on "60 Minutes," where a contestant fainted onstage after winning a Rolls Royce (she had been led through a skit where she had been told she won various klunks, including 25,000 coffee beans). Barris reportedly fired Edwards shortly before the 1976-1977 season was to begin production, after a dispute over a skit involving a contestant winning "A NEW CAR ... WINDSHIELD!"; the skit was scrapped, and Edwards was quickly brought back.
The prizes were often very lavish. In addition to the aforementioned Rolls Royce, contestants could win exotic sports cars (including one 1973 episode where his/her Porsches were offered), elegant rooms of furniture, first-class trips to destinations such as the Orient and Europe (not to mention luxurious cruises), and much more! A typical show often offered more than $200,000 in cash and prizes.
The closing theme, credited to Elmer Bernstein, is an easy-listening instrumental similar to the musical score of "True Grit." Other musical cues, including the opening theme and grand prize win music, were written by Barris.
After a four-year absence from first-run syndication, "Treasure Hunt" returned in daily syndication. The main premise remained, and again two games were played per show. However, there were several significant changes, most notably:
* The accruing jackpot (mentioned earlier).
A returning champion played against a new contestant for the right to go on the treasure hunt. As before, the contestant earned her way onstage from the studio audience; she and other members were given balloons which they popped, and the one containing a large star earned its bearer the right to go onstage. The challenger then had the initial pick from one of two boxes, one of which contained the jack-in-the-box.
There were 66 boxes, again containing cash amounts ... and either prizes or klunks. The "sure thing" cash amount ranged from $500 to $1,000, and the prizes were of lesser value (although the most expensive prize was a first-class, 52-day South Seas cruise worth $18,000).
The biggest winner in this version was a woman named Rose Evans, who found the $50,000 check. Another well-known contestant found a $46,000 check ... only at her boyfriend's urging, she passed it up for the sure thing (he was disappointed, to say the least), while a $50,000 check was found on at least one other occassion.
In interviews, Edwards has often said he enjoyed this run of "Treasure Hunt" more than the 1973 run due to Barris' lack of direct involvement.
Both versions of "Treasure Hunt" have been rerun through the years, most recently on Game Show Network.