Treasure Hunters makes for a moderately compelling hour thanks to hypocrite and moron teams

In recent days, a number of people have asked why I haven’t been keeping up with Treasure Hunters, NBC’s new series. My answer has two words: Hell’s Kitchen. The show airs opposite Treasure Hunters every Monday, and while I watched the first episode, I am more committed to watching Chef Ramsay humiliate people by calling them “donkey.” Thankfully, NBC now offers repeats of Treasure Hunters at 8 p.m., prior to the actual episode, and since FOX pre-empted Gordon last night, I caught up.

Despite the fact that it improves on The Amazing Race‘s format, in part by returning to the race’s first-season roots (during which teams had to actually solve clues rather than just read directions), I don’t find Treasure Hunters anywhere near as compelling. The product placement is much less organic (and poor: the teams don’t even use RAZR phones except to receive clues), the legs of the race and equalizers are a lot more forced, and there’s nowhere near as much dramatic tension, because the editing is kind of slow. The clues are also sometimes explained to us way to soon, so we feel smart and can’t really identify with their cluelessness, so to speak.

Still, for summer reality TV, it’s entertaining, mostly because it’s very well cast. The Texans known as the Wild Hanlons are hysterical, particularly Pat, who is perhaps the biggest idiot reality TV has seen in some time. Watching him over-analyze everything without thinking makes for some great television, as does their odd form of laziness.

There is also the team known as the Fogals, one of those hypocritical religious teams in the tradition of the Weavers. They pray for guidance and assume all of their actions are infallible, and frequently pray immediately after they stab other people in the back. Their duplicity reached such proportions that other teams coined the phrases “Fogal me” and “Fogaled,” which essentially mean to be screwed over by self-proclaimed children of God. Last night, they got what was coming for them, when other teams “Fogaled the Fogals.”

Treasure Hunters is a welcome addition to NBC’s lineup, but with Big Brother 7 and Project Runway 3 starting soon, I’m not sure I have enough space in my brain to keep track of all the idiots.