The Best TV Show About Treasure Hunts You’re Not Watching

…And the Problem with Winning

Two men amble about in fit-for-a-poet British countryside, birds chirping and cawing, sun shining. The duo have their ears cupped in large headphones and their eyes sweep the ground, following the arc of their metal detectors. “Anything?” asks one. The other replies, “F— all.” A British Thoreau would practically scream, “Look all around you, mate!”

Don’t call those two men “metal detectors”—they are detectorists. The word also provides the title for Detectorists, a funny, charming BBC series now on Netflix. At the very least, it’s the funniest show on TV about treasure hunts—and how we’re always missing the treasure under our nose while in pursuit of something else.

The cast itself is a treasure. Remember that odd-looking gangly guy in Pirates of the Caribbean, the one who previously played the eccentric “assistant to the manager” Gareth on the British comedy The Office? (Think Dwight Schrute in the American version.) Yeah, him: Mackenzie Crook wrote and directed this series, and it turns out he has talent to spare. He also plays one of the detectorists, Andy, who does odd jobs because he can’t find work as an archeologist. He spends his free time searching for the buried riches of Saxon kings with his short, bulbous-headed, somewhat nerdy mate named Lance (the superb Toby Jones), who drives a forklift hauling (or dropping) crates of vegetables.

The duo are the Laurel and Hardy of detecting. When Andy and Lance follow the beeps of their detectors, while shooting the breeze about last night’s TV quiz shows, they invariably unearth worthless crap—soda can pull tabs, metal buttons, coins, and other detritus. When Lance proclaims that the gold of the Saxon kings is the Holy Grail of treasure hunt, Andy corrects him: “The Holy Grail is the Holy Grail of treasure hunting.”

They sound like losers—indeed, they have f—- all. But their lives abound with treasures. The viewer sees what they only dimly perceive: that the adventure of seeking adventure is itself the treasure. They saunter through British countryside under Constable skies, sweeping their detectors over grass, listening for pings and beeps, then rest under old trees to have lunch and talk about their problems and last night’s TV quiz show. Afterwards, they adjourn to a pub for a pint. It looks delightful. Someone should clue them in.

Even the Winners Get Lucky Sometimes

If Andy and Lance found treasure, it might end their adventures. Winning is overrated. Sometimes, at the end of our scavenger hunts, we hate having to award winners. For us, the element of a game is just the spice that makes the recipe spring alive, the jolt of adrenaline, the McGuffin that sets the plot in motion. It’s nice if your team takes home a Watson Adventures first-place medal, but the treasure was the adventure itself: Watson Adventures Best Photos 2016You saw amazing museum displays! You spotted crazy details in paintings! You visited cool places marked by unusual history! You took creative team photos (like the one at right)! You laughed at silly jokes, both yours and ours! You got to know your teammates better! You had fun! You already won, before the final score was tallied.

Andy and Lance need disruptions and complications to make them aware of how good they have it. Andy’s wife thinks he’s too interested in Sophie, a gamine who shows sudden interest in metal detecting. Rival detectorists threaten to horn in on our heros’ turf. And Lance keeps looking for excuses to drop into the New Age shop of his ex, who’s busy, um, entertaining her virile lout of a new boyfriend. As Lance muses when he pens a lovelorn tune for her, “This is a song about how you don’t appreciate the good things in your life…until they bunk off with the manager of the local Pizza Hut.”

Or as Andy’s girlfriend, Becky, puts it, “Honestly, I bet you’d be amazed at the things you’ve missed because you’ve been locked in your own little world staring at the floor.” Word to the wise: Stare at the Detectorists. Then remember to enjoy the hunt all around you.

Go on a Treasure Hunt

See what you can discover on our weekend scavenger hunts for the public in seven cities: check out the schedule . To ask us about arranging a private scavenger hunt for your favorite group, or a corporate scavenger huntcontact us online or at 877-946-4868, extension 11. 

Check out the rest of the blog for fun stuff—like 2016’s best scavenger hunt photos and six great moments in gift-giving—and useful tips for planning private and corporate eventsAnd while you’re at it, find us out on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@watsonhunts #watsonadventures)!