"Ladies and gentlemen, this bonded security agent has just placed a certified check for $25,000, in one of these 30 surprise packages. Tonight, someone may win a fortune in fabulous prizes, or that grand prize of $25,000, on... ...The New Treasure Hunt!
— Johnny Jacobs' opening to the 1970's and 1980's revivalsGame Show
created by Jan Murray that originally ran from September 7, 1956 to May 31, 1957 as a nighttime series on ABC
. The show, which had a pirate motif, began each game with a two-player quiz: the challenger picked one of five categories (shown on a large anchor) on which Murray would quiz the contestants. Each player was asked five questions from the chosen category for $50 each, and the player with more money went on the treasure hunt (both
players in the event of a tie).
In the treasure hunt, the winner of the quiz picked one of 30 treasure chests, each containing either a series of prize packages, a booby prize
such as a head of cabbage or a pound of onions, or a cash prize of up to $25,000. After the chest was selected, the contestant chose an envelope from a wheel-shaped board, which contained cash amounts beginning at $100; s/he was then given a choice: take the sure thing, or the contents of the treasure chest. Regardless of outcome, the player faced another challenger.
On August 12, 1957, the show returned as a daytime series on NBC
with the only differences being that the questions were worth $10 each and the grand prize was a Progressive Jackpot
that started at $1,000 and went up $100 every time it wasn't won. Christmas Eve brought another nighttime version, which awarded $50 per question (like the ABC run) and offered a jackpot that began at $10,000 and increased by $1,000 per week until won; this version ended on June 17, 1958, followed by the daytime show on December 4, 1959.
The more famous version was syndicated, produced by Chuck Barris
from 1973-77 and 1981-82. A contestant from the Studio Audience
, always a woman, picked one of 30 (66 in the 1980s run) brightly-decorated and clearly-numbered surprise packages
. After host Geoff Edwards showed her the cash amount attached to that box, she was given the choice of taking the money or the box. As with the original series, the box could contain something good, a "Klunk" (now analogous to the Zonks
of Let's Make a Deal
), or a grand prize check for $25,000 (1970s) or a Progressive Jackpot
worth up to $50,000 (1980s).
The show became infamous in 1974 through a 60 Minutes
exposé on the series, which showed Barris' reaction (pride
) to Vera's faint
upon winning a 1937 Rolls-Royce replica.
Not to be confused with the British game show of the same name
- Big Win Sirens: Heard whenever the big check was won. Inverted whenever the check was passed up, as the same sirens were toned down and used as a type of Losing Horns at its reveal.
- Carried by the Host: It's more about Geoff's reactions and schtick than the actual "game".
- Confetti Drop: One of the earliest game show examples. In the 1970s-80s runs, a grand prize check win was accompanied by shrill sirens with confetti and balloons being dropped from the ceiling; later in the 1970s run, the contestant would be mobbed by models and show staff and given roses.
- Covered in Gunge: Geoff wound up with a Pie in the Face on several occasions (see below); other instances involving Geoff included getting coffee thrown on him or having to dig through a birthday cake with his bare hands.
- Home Participation Sweepstakes: For the 1950s run, at the end of each show, Murray selected an audience member to draw a viewer-sent postcard that had a number from 1-30 on it. If the grand prize was in that chest, it was given to the viewer; otherwise, s/he received a consolation prize (and in any case, the person Murray selected was given a prize). Rather than look in the chosen chest, Murray opened a safe (protected by a security guard) which contained a folded piece of paper that had the number of the grand prize chest.
- Let's Just See What WOULD Have Happened: Carried out to its extreme. Geoff and the contestant went through the entire skit anyway to see what she turned down.
- Mystery Box: The main premise of the game.
- The Announcer: Johnny Jacobs in the Barris-produced versions, with Tony McClay handling the last weeks of the 1980s run after Jacobs' death.
- Game Show Host: Jan Murray on the original, Geoff Edwards on the revivals.
- Lovely Assistant: Marian Stafford filled this role in the 1950s. Sivi Aberg, Naome DeVargas, Jane Nelson, and Pamela Hensley all handled these chores in the 1970s. Jan Speck took over in the 1980s.
- Studio Audience: Out of which a contestant would be found. Unique, in that the audience was split into two sections, one on each side of the studio, and one game per show was played with each section of the audience.
- Emile Autouri, the Edwards-era security guard and the man who hid the grand-prize check; hence, was the only one who knew where it was. This was all true, too — he was a legitimate security guard, he did hide the check (after picking a number at random), and he was the only one who knew where it was hidden.
- Progressive Jackpot: The 1950s versions are mentioned above, but on the 1980s version the grand prize check began at $20,000 and went up $1,000 every day it wasn't won until reaching $50,000, at which point it froze. However, for a short time it stayed at $20,000 after someone found the check just four days into the run.
- Rules Spiel: One for each part of the game, and repeated almost verbatim every episode.
- Zonk: The booby prizes of the 1950s run, the Klunks of the revivals.
This show provides examples of:
- As You Know: Geoff peppered the Rules Spiels with these, even though the viewing audience was probably well aware of said rules after about five episodes.
- Audience Participation: Contestants were selected out of the audience by opening boxes or popping balloons.
- And Ninety Nine Cents: Frequently added to the "value" of a Klunk.
- Bankruptcy Barrel: One of the Klunks in the 1980s version.
- Butt Monkey: Geoff himself, especially during the 1980s version; along with Covered in Gunge above and Pie in the Face below, some skits ended with him being hypnotized, the show being hijacked by a drunk, or him otherwise being taken advantage of by one of the characters.
- Catch Phrase:
- "Could be something good, could be a Klunk, could be [top prize] in cash..."
- "Yes, I did."
- Channel Hop: The original series moved from ABC to NBC in 1957.
- Fanservice: Natch. Jan Speck's wardrobe, especially.
- Heartbeat Soundtrack: Heard at the beginning of each show during the announcer's opening spiel: "Ladies and gentlemen, this bonded security agent..."
- Hollywood Giftwrap: Every surprise package in the 1970s-80s runs. Averted in the 1970s qualifying round, as potential players had to actually unwrap their gift boxes to see whether they would proceed in the game.
- A Lady on Each Arm: "President Treasure W. Hunt Sr." was escorted in this manner when he appeared by two models who also threw money around.
- Luck-Based Mission: The entire premise, except in the 1950s version and 1973 pilot where a short Q&A round qualified you to go on the Treasure Hunt. Only one man in the studio knew where the big check was, and he barely talked.
- Pie in the Face: Happened to Geoff on more than one occasion, and other show staff members as part of skits. There was also a character in the 1970s version named Pie-Face.
- Real Song Theme Tune: Somewhat; Barris composed all the music for the show, but the closing theme (see below) bore resemblance to an Elmer Bernstein-penned track for John Wayne's True Grit; as such, Bernstein is credited with the theme.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: In Barris' novel The Big Question, he (now old and long forgotten) relates to a young producer the story of a contestant on Treasure Hunt who both Barris and director John Dorsey thought had died upon learning what she had won, and that the two argued on whether the cameras should pan away (Dorsey) or stay put (Barris). Although the contestant had merely fainted, the incident led to Barris' last great idea (and the focus of the book) — The Death Game. It should be noted that one of the book's characters, an older lady who gets killed on live television at the very end, is named Vera.
- Running Gag: Geoff's many attempts to get Emile to smile, or at least say something other than "Yes, I did", none of which ever worked.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: For such a novelty-based show, the 1970s version really had a mellow, downbeat closing theme. This was changed in the 1980s version to a much more comical theme.
- The Stoic: Emile Autouri never spoke or even smiled on-camera, except to say "Yes, I did" when Geoff asked him whether he hid the check.
- Take That: Geoff would at times take a stab at Let's Make a Deal, at one point telling another character in a skit "Go see Monty Hall, he's got the small bills."