Treasure Hunt (UK game show)

Treasure Hunt was a popular UK game show, based on the format of the French show La Chasse au Trésor, created by Jacques Antoine. It appeared on Channel 4 between 28 December, 1982 and 18 May, 1989 and was revived by BBC Two between 16 December, 2002 and 2 August, 2003.

The game

A team of two contestants, always in the studio, had to use a library of (deliberately relevant) maps and reference materials to solve up to five clues, and communicating instructions via a radio link to a skyrunner who had the use of a helicopter. The contestants were given the first clue for free, the solving of which would lead to the location of the second clue and so on until a trinket or other significant object was found by solving the final clue. The contestants won a higher cash prize each time they solved a clue correctly. This was all done "against the clock". Even once the contestants had solved the final clue, the skyrunner still had to confirm they were correct, by reaching the final target. On a few occasions, the contestants solved all five clues with time to spare, in which case a bonus clue was given to the contestants. This typically resulted in their winning a bottle of champagne. One such occasion was the North Yorkshire episode (4.10), in which the bonus clue instructed them to go to "Great British Hospital X-ray Unit". This was actually code for "return to the helicopter, registration G-BHXU", but Anneka alarmed the passers-by outside Skipton Castle by frantically asking "which way to the hospital".

Understandably, the skyrunner and helicopter did not have freedom to fly and land anywhere they wished. Although the pilot could to an extent request permission from airspace authorities to fly off-course, as happened on occasions, landings needed to be agreed in advance with landowners of a suitable location near the clue. On occasions the helicopter would land in a clearly marked out area, especially at public places. It is open to interpretation how much detail of the route was known in advance by either of the studio presenters or even the skyrunner herself, and hence to what extent the contestants were helped to correctly direct the skyrunner to the approximate location. Kenneth Kendall has always stressed that he did not know the clues and locations in advance, and any help that he gave the contestants was from his own knowledge. According to a "making of Treasure Hunt" programme, Anneka Rice was confined to the hotel on the day that the cameraman, video recordist and helicopter pilot undertook a rehearsal (typically the day before the programme was recorded), so she had no advance knowledge of the locations. This did not stop her carrying out research about the general area in order to have a stock of interesting facts to fill in any awkward silences that might arise while the contestants were thinking.

Presenters and crew

In the original version, the presenter was former BBC newsreader Kenneth Kendall and the skyrunner was broadcaster Anneka Rice. In the first series, Kenneth was joined briefly in the studio for the handover of the first clue by the original clue-setter, Ann Meo. She would later rejoin the contestants if they had been successful in finding the treasure to offer her congratulations. If they had been unsuccessful, she would be heard as a voiceover explaining where they had gone wrong. From the second series onwards this role was expanded, another studio-based person acted as adjudicator, giving the contestants tips on how they were doing against the scheduled time, and providing additional information about the locations visited. In series 2 this was Annette Lynton ("Nettie") and from series 3 onwards, TV-am weather girl Wincey Willis. In 1988, Rice left to have a baby, and her place was taken by tennis player Annabel Croft. Croft was billed as 'Special guest Skyrunner' for the series. In this series, the set was revamped due to a move to Thames Television's facilities (the original studios were at Limehouse in East London which was by this point earmarked for demolition to make way for Canary Wharf), and Willis was promoted to sharing main billing with Kendall. It was stated at the time that Rice would return after giving birth (supported by Croft's 'Special guest Skyrunner' billing), but it turned out to be the show's final series.

In the BBC's 2002-03 version, newsreader Dermot Murnaghan presented, the skyrunner was Suzi Perry, and there was no adjudicator. Advances in broadcasting technology meant that this new version could come from a much greater range of locations; however, the new version was quite short-lived. It is thought that the BBC felt the moderate ratings (not helped by a complete lack of promotion for the series) did not justify the budget required for the show.

Keith Thompson of Castle Air Charters was the usual helicopter pilot in both versions, though for overseas editions a local pilot was often used. There was always a "chase" helicopter which relayed radio signals back to London and, although this could never be used "tactically" by the contestants, it was not hidden from the viewers. The two crews would sometimes fly in formation to generate exciting footage. Both helicopters were usually Bell 206 JetRangers.

A feature was made of the camaraderie between the female presenter and the male recording and flight crews. This extended to many infamous shots of the presenter's rear as she ran from clue to clue in a jump-suit, which became the main focus of the programme's portrayal in the satirical TV series, Spitting Image. Cameraman Graham reaching in front of the camera to wipe away rain, sea spray, etc. with a cloth also became a well-known image from the series.


When first shown on Channel 4 in 1982, Treasure Hunt was one of the earliest major series on the then-new channel. The unusual format earned extra publicity for both the programme and the channel, which was striving to justify itself with new and different programming.

The 1982-89 series were later repeated on terrestrial television and the Challenge satellite and cable channel. The first episode was repeated on 30 October 2007 on the digital channel More4 as part of Channel 4's 25th anniversary celebrations. This was an one-off and there are no current plans to repeat the TV show.

The original run of the first series was watched by up to 900,000 viewers; however, by the mid-1980s, ratings were some of the highest for Channel 4 at around seven million.

Two charity editions of the show were produced, one locally in the London area for the Thames Television telethon in 1985 and another broadcast across the UK as part of the ITV network's Telethon '88. The show was also featured in an edition of the BBC children's aspiration show Jim'll Fix It (in which a viewer joined skyrunner Anneka Rice in the famous Treasure Hunt helicopter over the county of Surrey), The Paul Daniels Magic Show (BBC) and The Krypton Factor (Granada for ITV).

For all the UK series, the programme was a Chatsworth Television independent production in association with Tele Union Paris.

Media clips


An eponymous board game based on the show was published in the UK. It involved moving pieces around a map of England and Wales.

A one-off Welsh language version, Helfa Drysor (Welsh for "Treasure Hunt"), was produced for S4C in 1985.

In 1989, Rice began her own BBC series, Challenge Anneka, in which she was set a different task to complete each week. Although essentially unrelated to the original concept of Treasure Hunt, there were some similarities between the shows, primarily the principles of Rice being up against a time limit and having a real chance of success or failure to complete a task with the aid of others.

BBC Three Counties Radio airs Treasure Quest each Sunday from 9am until 12pm. Andy Gelder in the studio and varying assistants in the radio car help two contestants to solve six clues over the three-hour period. BBC Radio Norfolk began their own version of Treasure Quest in 2008, on Sunday mornings from 9am to 12pm, with David Clayton presenting and Becky Betts in the radio car.

On London talk station LBC, presenter James O'Brien hosts The Treasure Hunt on Wednesday lunchtimes as part of his weekday show. In this format, callers ring in and request things they have been trying to get hold of, hoping that other listeners have the required items. Although otherwise unrelated to the original concept. the programme opens with the Treasure Hunt television series theme tune, and in August 2007, Anneka Rice recorded a voice-over lead-in for it.


Original series

Series Start date End date Episodes
1 28 December 1982 17 March 1983 12
2 4 January 1984 29 March 1984 13
3 27 December 1984 5 April 1985 13
4 27 December 1985 20 March 1986 13
5 12 February 1987 14 May 1987 14
6 18 February 1988 19 May 1988 14
7 16 February 1989 18 May 1989 14
8 16 December 2002 20 December 2002 5
9 14 April 2003 2 August 2003 10

ITV Telethon Specials

30 October 1985
29 May 1988


External links

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