Treasure Hunt - 1950s TV Game Show
By Billy Ingram
The 1950s version of the Treasure Hunt was broadcast from 1956 to 1959, initially on ABC before moving to NBC (the version you'll see here). It was created, produced and hosted by comedian Jan Murray.
Jan Murray was a popular standup comic, I can only assume he was funny, I never saw any evidence of it. Watching this clip it's painful to see Murray trying to be genial and likable.
In the late-fifties, especially in daytime, TV was so new people would watch just about anything. I get the feeling that Jan Murray was looking for opportunities to insert jokes from his act into this live program.
When Murray was unavailable other comedians filled in, including Buddy Hackett.
The game was simple enough - two contestants squared off against each other answering random questions, each right answer earned them $10 ($50 on the nighttime version). The contestant with the most cash advances to the 'Treasure Cove' to select one of 30 treasure chests that are linked to valuable prizes like vacations, refrigerators, furs, new cars, and diamond rings. Or the chest could contain a booby prize like a head of lettuce. If there was a tie, both contestants advanced to the final round.
On the NBC daytime edition of Treasure Hunt, the grand prize was a cash amount that started at $1,000 then went up by $100 every time it wasn't won. (On its prime-time counterpart, the jackpot started at $10,000 and increased by $1,000 a week until won.)
What makes the game interesting, before finding out what's in their chest the contestant selects an envelope with a cash amount. They can keep the cash or what's in the treasure chest. If they choose the chest, Murray would stall and fool around before the big reveal.
In an early attempt at interactive TV, before the program concluded Murray would select a postcard sent in from a viewer who selected a chest number. If the big money was in that numbered chest, the viewer at home got the cash. If not, they received a consolation prize.
Not to be confused with The New Treasure Hunt that aired in syndication in the 1970s/early-1980s but the game was similar.
Host Geoff Edwards presided over a stage full of packages. Contestants selected from the studio audience pick a package, then decide whether to take the money that came attached to the box or the contents of the package.
If they chose the package, Edwards proceeded to torture the contestant for half the episode until he reveals the prize. Top prize was $25,00 (later $50,000).
This was my fave game show of the 1970s, a decade with dozens of exciting games like $10,000 Pyramid, Match Game, The Price Is Right, Concentration, Hollywood Squares, and so many more.
Unlike Jan Murray, Geoff Edwards was not only one of the funniest game show hosts of all time, he was genuinely likable. And... wait until you see what the second contestant won on this episode!
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