September 1973-September 1977


Weekly primetime syndication


Johnny Jacobs


Chuck Barris Productions
based on a format created by Jan Murray

"Ladies and gentlemen…this bonded security agent…has just placed a certified check…for $25,000…inside one of these…thirty surprise packages…tonight, someone may win any one of our fabulous prizes…or that grand prize of…$25,000…on…The New Treasure Hunt!"


Sometimes a game show, sometimes a parody of game shows, and always a funny half-hour, "Treasure Hunt" was one of a kind; Geoff was the devilish emcee of this suspenseful & controversial game from Chuck Barris.


Two games are played on each show, and here's how they went…Geoff starts by going into a section of the studio audience and having ten randomly-selected women (men were absolutely NOT allowed to be contestants, for reasons we'll explore later) open the gift boxes that were given to them before the show. Seven have empty boxes, three have a number hidden inside, either a 1, 2, or 3.


The three women with numbers come to the stage to choose one of three jack-in-the-boxes. The woman with #1 gets the first pick of the three boxes, the lady with #2 chooses from the remaining two boxes, and #3 gets whatever box is left. The three women then open their boxes. Two are empty, one contains a pop-up surprise (either a jack-in-the-box or a bundle of flowers). The contestant with the surprise went on a Treasure Hunt, the other two take their empty boxes back to their seats and could redeem them backstage for smaller prizes after the show.


Geoff gives the contestant a look at three prizes that could be won, often the more extravagant prizes, such as vintage cars, cabin cruisers, and furs. Geoff also takes a moment to warn them that a "klunk" could also be in any box. After that, the contestant chooses, by number, which of the thirty boxes she wants, and one of the show's models brings it to the display podium.


Before opening the box, Geoff opens an envelope attached to it revealing a cash award between $500 and $2,000 (later in the series, between $1,000 and $2,500). The contestant could take this cash and give up the contents of the box or give it back and take the box. Either way, this decision was then followed with a nerve-racking comedy skit.


Now, if you've never seen this show, you're probably thinking, "nerve-racking comedy skit???" What does that even mean? Go here for more.


And after the prize was revealed and Geoff confirmed that "There's nothing left in the box!," well, that was it. The contestant returned to their seat, simple as that.


By the way, if the $25,000 check was found, there was no skit involved, Geoff simply revealed the check, although he was allowed to improvise whatever he wanted before the reveal if the mood struck him.


At the end of each show, Geoff would take a moment to chat with Emile Autori, the security guard who randomly placed the $25,000 check inside one of the 30 boxes before the show and was the only one who knew where it was hidden…I know, that description sounds like a cheesy overblown game show-style gimmick, but guess what? Emile Autori was a real security guard who really did place the check in the box before the show after randomly drawing a number, and he really was the only one who knew where the check was hidden.

GEOFF REMEMBERS: EMILE AUTORI'S BIG BREAK You know how he was found? He was the guard at the ABC parking lot. And Chuck Barris said, "You're a security guard, right?" Emile says, "Right." Chuck says, "You want to go on TV?" That was the beginning of Emile's career.


A few things you may not have known about "Treasure Hunt": As you may have noticed, some of the skits were rather torturous, and while that was the show's charm, and producer Chuck Barris' intention, it was a concern from the beginning about how certain contestants may react to being tricked. THAT'S the reason men couldn't be contestants. Women were willing to put up with more than men, and there was a fear that a man who got klunked after five minutes of being tricked into thinking they won a bigger prize would react with violence. A contestant beating up the emcee is NOT good p.r. for a game show, after all. Of course, neither is admitting that when asked why your game show won't allow male contestants. When asked about it, the show's official line on the matter was that with the skits involved on the show, it would be easier to coordinate the props in the boxes for one sex, and since women made better contestants, they just geared the show toward women. There might have been some truth to that, but concerns about Geoff being punched were the primary incentive.

Of course, as with many other shows, Treasure Hunt started out life as a pilot - and we here at Game Show Utopia have unearthed the pilot. For the first time, learn about the first episode of Treasure Hunt ever filmed - with special guest star James Brolin?!

Treasure Hunt - Pilot

Apparently, the the nature of the game was too much for some people, prompting "60 Minutes" to investigate the series in an expose segment, the highlight of which was Chuck Barris taking pride in a contestant passing out when learning she had won a car. Hey, it's not evil---mainstays like "The Price is Right" and "Jeopardy!" have seen overexcited contestants pass out. It's just a chance you take when you build a TV show around the premise of making people excited.


The suspenseful nature became a bit much for Geoff eventually. As Chuck Barris began trying to top each successive episode, it reached a point where his ideas for skits began making Geoff feel uneasy. The last straw came when Chuck told Geoff about a skit for an upcoming episode where a Rolls Royce was wheeled out to the contestant, and after she came down from the excitement, Geoff would reveal that she won the rear-view mirror, not the entire car. Further, Barris wanted to start a whole series of running gag payoffs that involved putting some small ten-dollar trinket on the roof of, say, a Rolls Royce or a Cadillac, and when the excitement died down in the studio after the curtain opened, Geoff would reveal that her prize was the barely-visible trinket sitting on the roof. That did it; Geoff quit. Chuck Barris, not wanting to risk finding a sub-par replacement for Geoff, simply cancelled the show.


This show is not for everybody, I'll say that right off. My mother hates it; one of my former roommates was openly horrified by it; and a disc jockey I worked with in Huntington loved it so much, he almost named his son after Geoff. But if you have a good sense of humor and you're willing to accept this show on its own terms, you'll find a one of a kind comedy/game show that you're not likely to see again. It's just too hard to get the right elements together like this more than once.


Geoff, handed an impossible task in hosting this show, got to exhibit all his skills as a broadcaster and comic actor. "Funny game show host" is a tall order, but Geoff made himself truly irreplaceable on this show with wit, timing, and talent that the best performers will only dream of during their life.

GEOFF REMEMBERS: A TREASURE OF A JOB I didn't know we were going to do sketch comedy at first. That part sort of evolved. But the thing about "Treasure Hunt" that worked for me--that made me love it so much--was that I was free to do things that I wanted to do. Nobody was there to say, "Oh don't do that!" or "Wait a minute!" And I had done a lot of improv before that.

A Geoff-less photo of the models awaiting his entrance on an unaired pilot.

Game shows from other producers have models. Game shows from Chuck Barris have cheerleaders in go-go boots.

"The bucks or the box?"

The most awkward staging for a prize reveal I have ever seen.

You might recognize this from the album cover for "Chuck Barris Presents Themes from TV Game Shows."

One last shot from the pilot. If you're wondering, the principal difference between the pilot and the series was that a Q&A game was used to decide who went on the hunt, as opposed to the series' pop-up surprise game.

The series has landed! Geoff arrives with models in evening gowns, probably the most normal thing about the show.

Geoff with the contestants on the first episode taped; Edith Perez, the lucky contestant in this photo, went on to win a $3,679 ski boat.

This is why Geoff always reminded the women to wait for his signal to open the boxes. One woman jumped the gun and made this a very anticlimactic game.

Geoff shows the contestant a few of the things that COULD be in her treasure box.

"You can have the $1,000 or you can have what's in the box; could be something good, could be a Klunk, could be $25,000 in cash..."

I have a hunch that this one wasn't a Klunk.

Jumping ahead a few years, we close the gallery with this shot of Geoff from the final season.



Up two levels to GEOFF EDWARDS' WORLD

Up three levels to GAME SHOW UTOPIA