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NBC's new 'Treasure Hunters' reality series to premiere June 18

By Reality TV World staff, 04/11/2006 

NBC has announced that Treasure Hunters, its new reality series that will feature multi-player teams embarking on a global search to solve a puzzle, will debut on Sunday, June 18 at 8PM ET/PT with a special two-hour premiere.

After its special Sunday night premiere (which will follow NBC's broadcast of the final round of the PGA's U.S. Open), Treasure Hunters remaining episodes will air in the show's Mondays at 9PM ET/PT regular time period.

According to NBC executive Craig Plestis, Treasure Hunters' broadcast delay -- NBC first announced the show over a year ago and was originally reportedly considering airing it as early as last August -- was part of an intentional decision to postpone the premieres of some the struggling network's more promising new television programs until the less competitive (but also less watched) summer programming season.

"This summer's alternative lineup represents all the high-energy and fun-filled programming viewers crave," Plestis stated about NBC's summer programming, which will also include America's Got Talent, a new American Idol-like reality talent competition created by Simon Cowell and Idol's FremantleMedia production company, and a fourth edition of Last Comic Standing, the Emmy-nominated reality series that the network unceremoniously dumped in September 2004. "We purposely intended to showcase these promising projects during these months to allow them to cultivate a dedicated audience." Hopefully that will mean that unlike its third season, NBC won't pull Last Comic Standing 4 when it has only a single episode left to air.

While Treasure Hunters' global format invokes obvious comparisons to CBS's long-running The Amazing Race, NBC says that unlike The Amazing Race, Treasure Hunters will focus on the solving of its puzzle rather than the race itself -- a description that makes the series sound more like a reality version of 2004's National Treasure hit movie that starred Nicolas Cage (and like The Amazing Race, was also produced by Jerry Bruckheimer.)

"It's inspired by the success of books like The Da Vinci Code," NBC executive Jeff Gaspin told Daily Variety when the network first announced the series. Instead, the show is perhaps more similar to The Mole, another modestly-received "first generation" reality series that unlike The Amazing Race, limped through several editions before ABC canceled it due to low ratings. "As opposed to focusing on the race, the show will focus on solving the puzzle," he said. "The challenge will come as they try to put the puzzle together."

Billed as "the smartest show on television" during its run, The Mole nonetheless struggled to attract viewers, with ABC eventually airing two "dumbed down" celebrity editions in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to broaden its audience. Seemingly undeterred by ABC's experience, Treasure Hunters will apparently feature a mystery that's even more complex than those of The Mole.

"We'll use iconic locations, with a mixture of real history and folklore along with our own fantasy elements we use to create this puzzle," Gaspin told the trade paper at the time. "It's vital to have a puzzle with complexity, so that in addition to their own brainpower, contestants will have to use the Internet and library as resources for research."

The first team to solve Treasure Hunters' puzzle will receive a grand prize that NBC is describing as a "treasure beyond their imagination." Like The Amazing Race, Treasure Hunters teams will be eliminated as their journey progresses.

Hosted by Laird Macintosh, an actor who also serves as the host of ESPN2's Ultimate Playground series, Treasure Hunters is executive produced by Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz (the same folks behind Bravo's Project Runway, and Project Greenlight, and Top Chef reality shows) and produced via their Magical Elves production company.

Joining Magical Elves on Treasure Hunters' production team are NBC Universal Television Studio, Imagine Television, the television arm of Ron Howard and Brian Grazer's Imagine Entertainment, and Madison Road Entertainment, a 2-year-old "branded entertainment" (ie. memorable product placement) marketing firm that has begun to branch into producing its own unscripted programming. As a result, the show's credits will list no fewer than seven executive producers, with Imagine's Grazer and David Nevins and Madison Road's Tom Mazza, Danica Krislovich and Jak Severson adding their names to those of Cutforth and Lipsitz.

Similar to Dreamworks Television's involvement with Mark Burnett's The Contender reality boxing series (the second season of which will premiere on ESPN on July 18), Treasure Hunters will mark Imagine Television's first foray into the world of reality television.

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