Treasure Hunt

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents




Treasure Hunt (called The New Treasure Hunt for its 1970s run) is an American television game show that ran in the 1950s, 1970s, and 1980s. The show featured contestants selecting a treasure chest or box with surprises inside, in the hope of winning large prizes or a cash jackpot.

1950s version (Treasure Hunt)

The earliest version of the show first appeared in the U.S. from 1956 to 1959, first on ABC, then later on NBC. The original show was created, hosted and produced by comedian (and occasional game show panelist on other shows) Jan Murray. Two contestants played a quiz in which the challenger picked one of five categories (shown on a large anchor) on which Murray would quiz the contestants. Each contestant was asked five questions of the chosen category for $10 apiece on the daytime edition or $50 apiece on the primetime editions. The player who won the most money went on the treasure hunt. In the event of a tie, both contestants went on the treasure hunt.

In the treasure hunt, the champion picked one of thirty treasure chests, each filled either with a series of prize packages or a large cash prize. The ABC prime time version offered $25,000 as its top prize. On the NBC daytime edition, the grand prize started at $1,000 and went up $100 every time it was not won. On its prime time counterpart, the jackpot started at $10,000 and increased by $1,000 a week until won. There were also some booby prizes, such as a head of cabbage or a pound of onions. Before Jan would open the chest, the contestant would pick an envelope from a wheel-shaped board containing sealed cash amounts from $100 up. They were then given the choice of either taking the money or the contents of the treasure chest. No matter what the outcome, the winner got to play another game.

At the end of the show, Jan would select someone from the audience to draw a postcard from a home viewer that had a number from one to thirty written on it. If the cash jackpot was in the chest marked with the same number, the home viewer won the jackpot. If not, they were given a consolation prize. Also, the person who picked the postcard received a prize. Instead of looking in the treasure chest the viewer selected, Murray would open a safe, protected by a security guard, containing a folded piece of paper with the preselected number of the chest that actually held the cash prize.

The set of the 1950s version of Treasure Hunt had a pirate-influenced motif with treasure chests instead of big cardboard boxes used in the 1970s version. When the contestant picked a chest in the bonus round, the "Pirate Girl" (Marian Stafford), who acted as Murray's assistant, would put the box on a movable table that resembled a pirate ship.


1970s version (The New Treasure Hunt)

Producer Chuck Barris bought the U.S. Treasure Hunt format in the 1970s and revived the game in weekly syndication in 1973. This version, called The New Treasure Hunt, involved women (the producers did not allow male contestants; see below for reason; men were allowed to sit in the audience for support) competing to select one of 30 boxes (also known as "Surprise Packages"), with a top prize of $25,000 hidden in one of them. Jan Murray received a "created by" credit during the show's closing credits.

Geoff Edwards hosted the 1970s and 1980s versions. Johnny Jacobs was the announcer for most of the 1970s and 1980s versions until his death in 1982; Tony McClay, who had also worked on the 1970s run, replaced him for the remainder of the final season. Models on the 1970s version included Siv Aberg (who would resurface after the 1970s version's finale on Barris's The Gong Show), Naome DeVargas, Jane Nelson, and actress Pamela Hensley. For a number of reasons, the studio maintained extremely tight security, and thus did not allow cue cards for host Edwards to use. Therefore, Edwards, who had prior acting experience, was required to memorize every skit.

The opening theme, closing theme, and the klunk cue were composed by Chuck Barris himself (Barris is an accomplished songwriter). However, the melodic closing theme of the 1970s Treasure Hunt, also occasionally used as a winners' cue, is formally credited to Elmer Bernstein, because of its resemblance to an instrumental passage Bernstein composed for True Grit[citation needed]. Some of Barris's other music used on previous game shows, such as the unsold pilot for Cop-Out!, was recycled in order to save money; this was a common practice among packagers in the 1970s.

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Chuck Barris

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Milton Delugg on playing accordion on Treasure Hunt
Milton Delugg on the 1974 revival of the game show Treasure Hunt

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