We offer some helpful hints that could reveal the hidden strengths of ''Treasure Hunters''

By Michael Slezak
July 03, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
Treasure Hunters: Bjerke
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”Treasure Hunters”: How to fix the show

I’m not the world’s angriest writer; I swear it on my mom’s good hip. And to prove it to you, I promise that next week, no matter how dull or inept or infuriating I find the fourth episode of Treasure Hunters, I’ll deliver a TV Watch that’s filled to the rim with positivity — and doesn’t contrast NBC’s summer scavenger hunt with CBS’s far superior Amazing Race.

To ease myself into such a sunny state of mind, this week I’m taking a page from Paula Abdul and couching my putdowns in the form of constructive criticism. To that end, here are four ways NBC could make Treasure Hunters a better show.

1. Replace host Laird Macintosh with something resembling a human life form To be fair, it might not be Macintosh’s fault that he’s only allowed to appear via Motorola cellphone screen (further blurring the already unclear man-machine perimeters suggested by his computer-y surname), but seriously, what’s with the total lack of warmth and spontaneity in his line readings? For all he’s bringing to the show, I’m surprised the Treasure Hunters team didn’t choose a leading brand of voice-recognition technology for the job. (Imagine the product-placement opportunity!) Conversely, if the network is committed to Macintosh (the man), why not have him reshoot all his scenes before next week’s episode? It’s not as if the guy ever has to actually interact with the contestants, like a Jeff Probst or a Phil Keoghan, and maybe if he didn’t deliver each clue like the world’s least enthusiastic middle-school history teacher, I might be able to retain some of the things he’s saying.

2. No more sharing! This isn’t kindergarten; it’s reality TV. When Ex-CIA, Miss USA, the Geniuses, and the Southie Boys all arrived at the Boston lighthouse together, alliances should’ve been forgotten, instead of everyone singing ”Kumbaya” and helping each other crack the code to unlock the boxes. (Of course, the fact that Genius Charles had to climb the lighthouse to solve said puzzle was pretty much a tip-off to the other teams, anyhow.)

Similarly, while it was kind of fun to see six of the teams unite against the Fogals and Air Force, it didn’t make sense strategically. Didn’t any individual from the band of 18 consider that if the Fogals and Air Force pulled ahead, they’d be part of a six-way scramble to avoid elimination? The fact that all these players seem so susceptible to pack thinking suggests to me serious flaws in casting the show. Where are the rogue personalities? Where are the quotable crazies? Would any of you viewers be able to select a member of team Miss USA out of a lineup this morning?

3. Speaking of personalities, show us some intra-team tension already! With eight groups of three racing massive SUVs through the seventh circle of hell that is Boston traffic, I find it incomprehensible that the show’s producers didn’t catch the special kind of vicious squabbling that comes from folks getting lost while reading directions to anxious loved ones. I kid you not: I experienced more conflict maneuvering my shopping cart through the bakery section of Wegman’s this afternoon than any of the teams did rushing to the Boston lighthouse under threat of elimination. Clearly, the show’s producers need to start depriving these treasure hunters of food, sleep, and air-conditioning if we’re going to be treated to the joys of road rage.

4. And finally, make the puzzles more compelling to the viewing audience First of all, am I the only one who didn’t see much connection between the clue at the old Burke School (”Look until you can see no more”) and the solution (hitting the light switch in a classroom to see a black-light message on a chalkboard)? Instead of a solution based almost entirely on blind luck, why not challenge teams with word scrambles, or riddles, or mathematical equations, the better to be impressed when they solve them (or to be amused when they’re stuck for hours scratching their heads). Heck, the show could even break for a second and show us how each code or riddle was solved once the first team succeeded.

What’s more, the fact that teams get a Motorola message every time they correctly solve a puzzle pretty much ensures that no one is going to stray too far off the course. When Air Force headed off to ”the shot heard round the world” and didn’t get a Macintosh moment, it should’ve been all the warning they needed that it was time to go back to square one and start the hunt over.

Anyhow, with the Grad Students bowing out because of one team member’s injury (kinda sad, but I got over it in 10 seconds), the Brown Family returning to take their place (I’m not entirely sure any team should get a return ticket after being eliminated, but at least these guys aren’t entirely boring), and the Wild Hanlons’ lack of reasoning skills finally catching up with them (loved watching Papa Hanlon determine the Roman numeral L stood for 12, because it’s the 12th letter of the alphabet), we’re now down to seven teams with two or three players who’ve made an impression that extends beyond their physical appearance. Perhaps with fewer folks to focus on next week, we’ll get to know the teams better and get more emotionally involved in their journeys. That way, I’ll be a little less stupefied by comments like Papa Hanlon’s parting shot: ”This is not just a treasure hunt. It’s a hunt for your inner soul.”

What do you think? Do you have any suggestions for the show? Should the Browns have been allowed back? And are you finally starting to pick out a favorite team?

  • TV Show
  • 06/18/06
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