In Search of TV 'Treasure'
New NBC series sends teams on a different kind of race
But in blending the puzzle-solving elements of "Code" and "Race's" globe-trotting exploits, the show's producers think they've come up with something fresh.
"One thing that's different about this show is that there's a connective tissue that takes it through from the first episode all the way to the last," says Jane Lipsitz ("Project Runway"), who executive produces the show with Dan Cutforth. While each episode will feature clues that take the players to their next destination, "there's an underlying story that people can play along at home and try to figure out what is the ultimate secret that unlocks the treasure."
"Treasure Hunters" premieres at 8 p.m. ET Sunday (its regular timeslot will be 9 p.m. Mondays) with five teams of three beginning their quest for the unnamed treasure ("It's a mystery," Lipsitz says). What they don't know is that five other teams are also in the hunt, starting in Hawaii. They meet up in the middle of the country midway through the premiere.
The meeting is a surprise to everyone, as is something that emerges through the course of the competition: a willingness among most of the teams to work together, at least to a degree.
"I think we were surprised how cooperative the different teams were with each other," says Matt Zitzlsperger, who's part of the "Air Force" team with his friend Matt Rillos and Rillos' wife, Brooke. "If somebody got a piece of information, it was spread to most of the teams really quickly. There really wasn't a case of where somebody is not going to help another team because of something that happened in a previous episode."
Which is not to say that everybody held hands and sang campfire songs. The teams were, after all, trying to win.
"Everybody helps each other until they know that, hey, look, there's only one team going to win this thing," says Texan Patrick Hanlon, who with his son Josh and brother Ben form the "Wild Hanlons." "So at the end of the day, you know, you've got to play to win."
Winning "Treasure Hunters" will take more than just the physical ability to get from point to point first. Once there, the teams engage in some rather cerebral challenges.
"We get there," Patrick Hanlon says, "and we get a clue that tells us ..."
"To go get a clue," Ben Hanlon finishes.
Although the clues in "Treasure Hunters" aren't strictly about finding real-life treasures, a number of them are based in some way in the history of the United States. That connection to the past, Cutforth says, is something the show hopes to take from "The Da Vinci Code" (the movie's producer, Brian Grazer, is also an executive producer of the series).
"One of the things [that] really caught people's imagination about 'The Da Vinci Code' was that they got to see things that they knew very well ... in a completely different way," Cutforth says. "There are some elements of American history that we were able to kind of integrate into these challenges that I think will reveal things that people maybe didn't know ... that's hopefully really, really exciting and interesting."