Treasure Hunters, NBC

Mix in equal parts of TV's The Amazing Race, and the film National Treasure, simmer with a pinch of The Da Vinci Code, and we have the recipe for this summer season's newest reality show: Treasure Hunters.

Unlike The Amazing Race and most other reality shows, there are groups of three contestants. This gives it more of a team feeling, and should avoid the significant others duking it out that inevitably happens midseason. While some of the teams are family based (like a quite ruthless and less than Christian pastor, wife and child), other teams are based on another commonality such as the particularly well suited ex-CIA, and Air Force teams that got off to an early lead.

Treasure Hunters
successfully recaptures the excitement and intrigue that the first season of The Amazing Race had, but subsequent seasons lacked. So far, the challenges are about half physical, and half mental. Clues are provided along the way to solve varied puzzles. I like that the show has brief segments explaining the solution to the puzzles along the way. I found that this allowed me to play along, and involved me more deeply into the show. Thankfully, there was no bungie cord jumping, or eating of insects that has been more than overdone at this point.

In the film, National Treasure, Nicholas Cage has to follow a series of clues across America, finding hidden artifacts to unlock the secret to a treasure. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer was also involved with that film, and Treasure Hunters bears more than a passing resemblance to it. There is also an Americana theme, with some historical trivia thrown in for good measure.

In the first episode, we traveled to Alaska, Hawaii, South Dakota's Mt. Rushmore, and Nebraska. I also like that one team took a detour to Colorado, and were given an enigmatic clue to get them back on the right path. While they never figured it out, they used their cell phone to call another team- now this is a high tech reality show! This side adventure made the whole affair feel a lot less like a carefully structured reality show, and more like a real quest.

On the downside, while I realize that product placement and marketing makes this kind of thing profitable, I'm sick of it already. We really don't need to mention the brand of cell phone, notebook computer, search engine, or credit card more than once per episode. I am intrigued that there is an internet connection and tie in for the players and am curious to see how that develops.

Broadcasting companies seek to connect with their viewers online, and Treasure Hunters is a good example of this. There is an online game for us viewers to play. There is a new puzzle for each week; it took me about fifteen minutes to go through this week's, including a short registration process (hint: click on the clock until the raven appears). The plan is for a winner to be chosen from those that complete the online puzzles that will join in somehow for the season finale with 200 G's at stake. I'm only mildly optimistic at my chances, but hey, you never know so keep your fingers crossed.

Treasure Hunters is a great new reality show. Check it out on Mondays at 9 p.m. this summer on NBC.

Overall Grade: A-

If you're looking for info to solve the online challenges to find the treasure, then head on over here.

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