The Search Press Release
Issued 14 December 2006.
The Search is a new seven-part global treasure hunt entertainment series. Presented by Jamie Theakston, the series will follow ten bright contestants as they battle against each other to crack fiendish codes and unravel ancient mysteries around the world.
From Renaissance Italy to the wild jungles of Central America; from the Taj Mahal in India to ancient Egyptian tombs that have never been filmed before; each show takes viewers to stunning and surprising locations across Italy, France, India, Egypt, Peru and Mexico.
On their quest the intrepid treasure hunters will uncover the Grail Trail, the hiding places of medieval heretics, the secret of the lost Inca gold and the legacy of Egyptian Kings. In each new location the contestants will decipher exciting codes and puzzles, from the Fibonacci code to the hieroglyphics on Ramese III's cartouche.
The Search contestants include experts in the fields of art, art history, science and architecture, but are they up to this challenge and who will win? In each show one of The Search contestants is eliminated from the adventure. It's up to their fellow contestants to decide who will go home, by the handing round of a "poison chalice". The remaining four contestants complete their journey back in the UK for the final show of the series, as they battle it out to win the grand prize: £50,000 in buried gold.
The Search locations are Italy (show 1), France (show 2), India (show 3), Egypt (show 4), Guatemala (show 5), Peru (show 6) and the United Kingdom (show 7).
The Search contestants are:
Adrian, 64, from Lincolnshire, now lives in London
Adrian has been a vicar for 40 years, and is currently vicar of All Saints Church where Lady Thatcher is sometimes in attendance. He has a degree in Theology and English from Oxford, and writes "Thoughts of the Day" for Teletext. He is married and has two children.
Alan, 58, from Manchester
Alan has studied Egyptology and ancient history for over 30 years and is literate in hieroglyphics. He specialises in Egypt's Old Kingdom period, with a particular interest in pyramid sites, and has lectured on his specialist subjects in the UK for over 20 years.
Alexandra, 27, from London
One of six children, Alexandra was brought up in both Greece and the UK. She is now working as an architectural interior designer.
Kristian, 27, from Cambridge, now lives in London
Kristian has a BA in Medieval Languages from Oxford, and did a post-graduate degree in Law. He now practices as a solicitor. Kristian loves sport, in particular football and rugby.
Mairianne, 24, from Devon, now lives in London
Mairianne is currently a city headhunter, but it was her singing skills that got her into university. She received a choral scholarship to Oxford where she did a BA in music, and while at Oxford she was also captain of her boxing team.
Monica, 51, from London
Monica has a BA in Arabic from Oxford, and got an MA in Medieval History from UCL as a mature student. She is a freelance editor and single mum with a 19-year-old son. Monica wanted to be an actress but gave up after four years of no success.
Nat, 25, from Birmingham, now lives in London
Nat graduated from Oxford University with an Honours degree in Classics, and then went on to Institut d'Etudes Politiques in Paris where he studied Political Philosophy. He has directed and produced a number of plays for the Oxford University Classical Drama Society.
Saskia, 24, from London
Saskia is a PHD student studying Bioinformatics (maths) at Oxford University. She grew up in Germany where her dad is a Professor of Genetics, and is fluent in German, French and Spanish, as well as having good Latin and basic Ancient Greek. Saskia thinks she could look at any European language and understand it.
Simon, 32, from Manchester, now lives in London
Simon is an art history lecturer and art critic, and has an MA in Contemporary Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art.
Suzy, 29, from Hartlepool
Suzy is a corporate fundraiser and artist, but also a self-confessed treasure hunting enthusiast. She has an MA in Tourism Management and a BA in Business Administration, and is married with two daughters.
The Search was devised by presenter Jamie Theakston.
Extracts from a Channel 4 Press Office interview with Jamie Theakston:
For his latest TV venture, Theakston is not only presenting it, but producing it as well, from his own concept, and made by his own production company. And we're not talking about a couple of cameramen in the cosy confines of a studio either. For The Search, his first-ever production, Theakston has opted for a hugely ambitious global treasure hunt involving five continents, ten contestants, a mountain of research, and a vast retinue of staff. It will transmit as seven hour-long episodes on Channel 4 from January 7th.
In all of your TV work, which show has been your favourite?
Well, I think I'm most proud of The Search, the one we've just finished. It's consumed the last six months of my life. I first came up with the idea maybe two years ago. The idea came from a book that I'd always loved when I was a kid, called Masquerade, by a chap called Kit Williams. He was a jeweller and an illustrator, among other things, and he buried a golden hare that he'd made. He buried it somewhere in the UK, and the book was a series of illustrated codes that essentially led to the whereabouts of the golden hare. So that was essentially how I came up with the idea for the show.
So you're not just presenting - this is really your baby?
Yeah. I set up a production company, and this is our first commission. My first production credit, I guess.
Explain a bit more about the concept behind it.
Essentially it's a global treasure hunt. Ten contestants have to solve various historical clues, and the clues will eventually lead them to a hidden treasure worth £50,000. That's the basic overall concept.
How did you choose the people to take part in it?
Casting the contestants was actually one of the most difficult things of all. We saw hundreds of people. We whittled them down to about 50 or so, we sent those 50 away on these weekend away-day things, where we got them solving problems, and we filmed them, and they told us about themselves, and from that 50 we put on tape, we got down to ten. They're essentially selected not only for their ability to do the show, to figure out some really pretty tricky answers, but also they're all experts in different fields. We've got an art historian, we've got a mathematician, we've got an Egyptologist, that sort of thing. They'll have to utilise their expert knowledge in order to solve these clues. So they're not just randomly selected, they've all been chosen for a reason.
So where, geographically, does the programme take you?
We start off in Europe, we make our way down through Egypt, through India, and then through Central America and South America.
You really invented this show so you could have a nice holiday, didn't you?
That's pretty much it, yes. It became slightly embarrassing when we'd go to places I'd never been. I'd never been to Central America, to India, to South America, so whenever we'd arrive I'd be all excited, and I think the crew began to wonder if I'd just picked these places because I'd never been to them. But I assure you the reality of it is that the places we visit are very much a part of the show, because each show follows a historical spine. So, for instance, in France our contestants are following the mythical grail trail from Paris down to the South of France. In Peru, they're following the Inca Trail, trying to find the gold that was supposedly hidden from the Conquistadors in the 1750s. It takes them from Cusco across the Andes to Machu Picchu. In Egypt, there are certain tombs that they uncover that have never been filmed in, that have hieroglyphs that no-one's ever been able to decipher. They have to try and decipher them. So they're not just randomly carrying out random tasks – there are proper reasons for where they are and what they're doing.
How long did the filming last?
We probably started filming about four months ago, and out of that, it was probably about two months of actual filming. It wasn't always easy for the contestants to take that amount of time off work, so we had to exclude some of them because they couldn't make that sort of commitment. When we were filming, it was like a sort of global circus rolling around the globe. It's the biggest production I've ever been involved with. We had ten camera crews, there's the contestants, and the second unit looking after the contestants, all the production team. It became a running joke that anyone who was stuck behind us in check-in at airports, their faces just fell, because it would take us so long to get all of our kit onto planes. Often we'd charter a single plane, for all of us, but there were times when we had to get domestic flights.
It all sounds pretty ambitious for your first production.
Stupid, really! I'm not sure our production company will make another show for another 12 months. I think we're all pretty much exhausted, really. And so much of the show was about reacting to circumstances. We'd be out on the top of Mount Sinai in Egypt, and we'd have to try and rejig stuff and do it on the hoof, as it were, sometimes in quite extreme conditions. If you're in the jungle and something goes wrong, you've got to get around it. It's been a real challenge, both for the production and the contestants.
And how would you have done if you'd been one of the contestants? Would you have been a valuable contributor to the team?
[Laughs] No, I think I'd have been absolutely rubbish. I'd do all right now, of course, because I know all the answers. But I think that's called cheating.
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