Moms must have hated Finders Keepers. Not only did the Nick game show allow kids to thrash their rooms, it actually rewarded them for doing it well. Created in the wake of the popular Double Dare (and originally featuring the same announcer, “Harvey”), Finders Keepers toned down the levels of slime and slop, but when the competition got fierce, it could be just as messy as its sister show.
Two boy/girl teams (red vs. blue) started the game with a round of hidden pictures. Host Wesley Eure gave the kids a clue to an object drawn somewhere on the large picture, and the contestants had to buzz in once they thought they’d found it. If the kids circled the right object with their electronic pen within ten seconds, they won $25 and a chance to search a room in the next round.
After four hidden pictures, the action moved to round two, the first chance to run amok the game’s cutaway two-story house. For each hidden picture they’d found, the kids were taken to one of the house’s eight rooms, where the host read a clue relating to a hidden object. If the team found the mystery item in thirty seconds, they won an additional $50. If not (or if they found the wrong object), the other team got the cash.
But these were no ordinary rooms. The day-to-day layout changed, and at times the house included rooms like the Dungeon, Frankenstein’s Lab, the Egyptian Tomb Room, The Princess and the Pea Room (hint: look under all the mattresses), the Sewer, Dracula’s Den and more. Even in the “normal” rooms like the Attic, Bathroom and Living Room, hidden surprises would often pop out to distract and confuse the finders-everything from ping pong balls to feathers to fog to (of course) green slime.
Rounds three and four repeated the hidden picture/hidden object cycle, but with the stakes raised to $75 per picture and $100 per object. The second go-round of room hunting also included an “Instant Prize Room,” where a bonus gift awaited the lucky team who found the hidden object.
After four rounds, the points were totaled and the winning team moved on the to climactic Room-To-Room Romp. In ninety seconds, the kids had to race through six rooms, picking up a clue in each room that would lead them to the next. Some were easy, others more challenging, and the distractions were still there to slow the contestants down. Only the best finders won the grand prize, but nobody went home empty handed. As with Double Dare, every task completed won a smaller prize.
After one season on Nick, Finders Keepers moved into syndication, where Larry Toffler took over hosting duties. The show’s format remained the same, but instead of circling hidden pictures with an electronic pen, the kids now had to place a colorform of the object on top of the hidden picture on a giant board.
Finders Keepers returned to Nickelodeon after its one syndicated season, but no new episodes were filmed. After one more year, the show was off the air. A British version revived the idea in 1998, but it has yet to cross the Atlantic to the U.S., possibly due to the powerful influence of the mom lobby.