Treasure Hunters Is Brought To You By… (Episode 1-2)

I commend the producers of Treasure Hunters for making
adjustments to the show format since last week. Gone are the previews
for upcoming show segments and endless repetitions of prerecorded
clues. Still, the show feels more like an hour-long commercial than a

After the Outer Limits-inspired show intro, teams
were woken up at 2 in the morning by the ringing of their (insert brand
name) cell phones. The clue: drive your (insert brand name) SUV to the
Lexington Mines in Montana, making sure to read the (insert brand name)
billboards you’ll pass along the way.

Most of the teams used
onboard GPS systems to find their way to the mine; the Hillbillies,
formally known as The Wild Hanlons, preferred to let Pat Hanlon invent
some nonsensical method of navigation.

Producers seem determined
to make the Hanlons look stupid. I’m sure they have plenty of flaky
moments, just like the other teams, but any time the Hanlons are shown,
they are doing something that ranges from moronic to insane. Only at
the very last second do they seem to display anything approaching
coherence. More on that later.

At the mine, two members of each
team piled into a coal car that took them through the mine. The car
could only hold six people, so three teams entered at a time. Inside,
contestants found a bucket inside a pit of snakes. Staying true to
stereotypes — which is one of the tenets of this show — every woman
who approached the pit squealed at the site of the snakes.

words “bend the light” were inscribed on the outside of the bucket.
Inside the bucket was a glass lens, concealing a clue that could only
be read when water was poured onto the lens, refracting a light which
shone from above. As soon as the first team figured out how to read the
clue, the other teams noticed the wet lens and the solution was obvious.

clue directed teams to drive 150 miles to the Wood Bottom camp site,
along the Missouri River in Montana. Team Air Force, the first team
out, used their (insert brand name) laptop computer to search (insert
brand name).com for directions to “Wood Bottom, Missouri.”

Air Force arrived at the correct location (Hey, that must be a good
search engine after all!), they were told to paddle a canoe during
daylight hourse, looking for 14 star-shaped symbols along the river
bank. Their next clue was 40 paces behind the 14th star.

As it
was already dusk when they arrived, Air Force had to wait with the rest
of the teams until the next morning before heading out. Everyone
enjoyed a steak dinner before turning in for some much needed rest.

except the Hillbillies, that is. Josh and Ben, normally the two more
capable Hanlons, spent 11 hours looking for the clue in the mine.
Considering how quickly everyone else solved the riddle, it seems
strange that they could take so long — unless they were nudged to take
their time, knowing that the other teams wouldn’t be able to get much
of a head start on them. Again, more on this later.

Hillbillies finally got to camp at 3:30 a.m., where they spent about
six hours sleeping in their (insert brand name) tent. They finally left
camp nearly four hours after the lead team.

But the Hillbillies
were by no means out of contention. The Brown family capsized their
canoe, and briefly contemplated walking all 20 miles along the river
bank. They got back into the canoe, only to be passed by the Hanlons.

the Grad Students, got into trouble when Jessica stepped in a hole and
twisted her knee. A medic bandaged her up and gave her crutches, but
they, too, were passed by the Hanlons.

Meanwhile, everyone else
found the next clue: a journal containing a key for decrypting a code
designed by Thomas Jefferson and Lewis & Clark. Along the way,
pastor Fogel and his family acted devilishly, and Miss USA talked about
snack food while bouncy, ditzy music played in the background.

then drove to Tower Rock State Park, where they decoded a message using
their key. The message instructed them to look under a dark rock on a
hill, where they found a compass — the show’s second artifact, to go
with they map they found last week.

The Hanlons were the seventh
team to arrive, but spent they four hours trying to crack the code
before giving up and going to get hamburgers. While they were gone, the
last two teams reached Tower Rock.

The Grad Students found their
compass and finished in seventh place. Miraculously, Josh Hanlon was
able to crack the secret code immediately after the Hanlons returned
from their burger run, and the Hillbillies found the final compass just
minutes before the Browns.

It is impossible to watch the Hanlons
blunder about, only to figure things out in the nick of time, and not
suspect that on-site producers or camerapeople coached them to take
their time or ham it up. At the very least, much of the Hanlon footage
feels like it was reshot, all in a futile effort to make the Hanlons
into the funny regular guys that viewers are supposed to root for.

whole cast seems like a collection of the worst reality show cliches:
bumbling Southerners, bubbleheaded babes, un-Christian Christians,
stupid geniuses, and the ever-popular black men who can’t swim. Get
some girls with eating disorders and some gay guys, and we’ve got
ourselves a season of the Real World.

The cliches, the forced humor of the Hanlons, and the excessive product placement make Treasure Hunters
feel like nothing more than a money grab by NBC. This project isn’t
somebody’s baby, a creative idea long in the hatching. Instead, NBC
said, “Let’s capitalize on the popularity of The Da Vinci Code and throw together a reality show. Just use the formula.”

all shows are designed to make money. That’s why they get aired. But
they’re not supposed to seem to us watchers like that’s their only goal. Treasure Hunters feels formulaic and soulless–and the lack of passion behind it is obvious.