There is a host of shows out there that promise to uncover ancient mysteries and treasures using modern technology. We know them by their inconclusive, blurry infrared footage and unblinking, serious attitudes. But ex-Marine-turned-comedian and adventurer Rob Riggle has their number.

Want a show that’s heavy on the mystery, light on the history and as thrillingly silly as the Art Of Manliness? Hold onto our whips and fedoras, ladies, because here comes Rob Riggle: Global Investigator. He’s ready to take on the five ancient challenges of creating the ultimate archaeology bait-n-switch show.

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Challenge 1: Spice it up

“I told Discovery I wanted to be Indiana Jones. I said why don’t I go around the world solving mysteries like Indiana Jones, but since it’s me I’ll throw in the comedy. Basically, the show is the Pink Panther meets Indiana Jones,” explains Rob. “I think what we do is actually the perfect mix of a real Discovery show, where you get the facts and history, and we bring in experts to give us the theories and facts. So we do some real work there, but then we throw a little comedy pixie dust on top of it to hopefully provide a new offering to the Discovery audience,” he says.

“I wanted to pick mysteries that I was sincerely curious about, and I tried to make them fact-based. So there was some sort of touchstone in history that was real, that we could at least go to. Or there’s just enough people talking about it… that’s why we picked things like the Holy Grail or the 9th Legion. People did try to pitch ‘How about Bigfoot?!?’ But I was like, ‘I don’t think so’.”


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Challenge 2: Suffer

We’re not watching Indiana Jones to see him get chauffeured to a dig, stroll in through the tomb door and delicately hold an artefact to the light while saying “ah”. We like him dirty and miserable. Rob delivers. In the Florida Keys while he was searching a swamp for the legendary sunken treasure ship of pirate Black Caesar (episode 3), he found himself stuck in what he calls “fire mud”, a phenomenon straight out of A Series Of Unfortunate Events.

“Simultaneously, the producer and everybody who was in the water just started screaming. It was like having, you know, Icy Hot (an American product like Deep Heat) on privates, and we couldn’t do anything about it. If you touched it, it made it worse. And the director’s in the boat going, ‘We need another shot. We need another. So I put him on the clock like, ‘You’ve got five minutes to get all your shots because I’m dying.’ That was an interaction that I did not anticipate,” says Rob.


Challenge 3: Baffle the brains

No adventure is complete without a trail of bemused academics whose life’s work has just been misinterpreted by an upstart who “knows how to get results”. But let’s go one better. Rob Riggle: Global Investigator will be drawing on a host of experts to bolster the investigation. But instead of bothering academics, Rob will be talking to enthusiasts who’ve been misidentified as historians, like novelists Tony McMahon and Iain Grimston… or actual scientists whose field of expertise lies well outside the bounds of the investigation – like archaeologist Klint Janulis. His speciality is the paleolithic era, but he gets roped into Rob’s Templar Tunnel, Holy Grail quest in episode 2… a mystery centred around the medieval era. Researching the show’s experts is a delight and a quest in itself.


Challenge 4: Layer in the truth

There is an art to layering a sentence in a treasure hunting show, and Rob has it down pat. You start with a big promise, build on it until it sounds like discovery will happen at any second, then gradually whittle away at it until all hope is gone. For example, in Rob’s introduction to the Lost City Of Atlantis piece, he tells us…

  • “I’ll figure this thing out by tomorrow, latest, tops.” The daring beginning! Saucy and confident.
  • “For centuries, Atlantis was dismissed as a myth.” The set-up. We’re about to overturn this, right?
  • “But thanks to advances in underwater exploratory tech…” New tech means new science and new discoveries!
  • “…scientists have been finding ancient sunken civilisations all around the globe.” We trust scientists, yes. (more excited by the second)
  • “None have been confirmed as Atlantis.” Wonk wonk. The truth arrives to ruin the party.
  • “But the existence of these cities strongly suggests that a civilisation matching the description of Atlantis is waiting to be found.” Does it, though?

And that’s setup part 2: Can Rob find the lost city, accomplishing what centuries and scientists and lunatics could not? The door is wide open. Believe anything!


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Challenge 5: Mention the Knights Templar, we dare you

Finally, no treasure hunting show is complete without Templar treasure and the ghost of the Holy Grail. Rob goes the distance, underground, in the tunnels beneath Scotland’s Gilmerton Cove in episode 2. The tunnels are actually thrilling in their own right. Research in 2017 (using, yes, new technology) revealed that they were far more extensive than had previously been believed. They’re also filled with “witch marks” and stonemasons’ carvings. They’ve been open to the public since restoration in 2003, despite Rob’s claims to be the first person allowed to explore them. And the moment Rob sees Freemason carvings, we’re back connecting the Freemasons to the Knights Templar and the Grail, and the tunnels (possibly!) to Grail hotspot (since the 1980s) Rosslyn Chapel, roughly 7km away. Convinced by the flimsiest of evidence, Rob vows to return one day with a permit to dig the Grail out of the tunnels.


And that’s the real challenge: always leave them wanting more, kid.

Watch Rob Riggle: Global Investigator S1 from Tuesday, 28 April on Discovery (121) at 20:00

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