Archive for the ‘The Amazing Race’ Category

The Amazing Race – 17.02: A Kiss Saves The Day

October 5, 2010

“Wow, look at all the trash” – Chad

This week, I’m reminded of the harsh realities of…well, reality TV, in that you may like some or even a lot of the people you see on the screen, but a lot of time, they’ll be eliminated in favor of people that you cannot stand.  It’s a good thing that this season of The Amazing Race is filled with a ton of surprisingly pleasant teams, but the writing was on the wall for Andie/Jenna last week when they struggle with the first leg and came in 9th.  I was hoping they had at least one more episode left in them, but in the busy streets of Ghana, we bid goodbye to them this week.  In terms of team relations, The Amazing Race has always done a pretty good job in introducing a new and interesting team dynamic into the mix every couple seasons, and the relationship between Andie and Jenna was one of the most interesting I’ve seen over the years: a recently reunited mother and the daughter she decided to give up for adoption.  It’s always difficult to maintain an air of pleasantness on a competition as demanding and taxing as the race, and I had my concerns as to whether or not the relationship between the two would degrade over time.  We’ve seen long-term relationships go sour over the course of the race, so it seemed like it would be even more difficult with people who barely knew each other.  Running around the world isn’t exactly the best backdrop for trying to reconnect with someone you haven’t seen in 21 years.  And yet, even when things got difficult between the two on the two legs they shared of the race, they were never anything but patient and understanding with each other.  I do hope they are able to take the time they’ll have together sequestered until the end of the race to get to know each other better.  They really look amazingly like each other, and I can only imagine how they had reacted to this revelation the first time they met.  It’s an odd story to be told in the format of a reality competition series, but for the brief time we were allowed to witness it, I was actually pretty touched by it.  I hope those two make it in the long run.

The other thing I took away from this episode is how much of the race is dependent on taxi luck.  Since you spend most of your time being transported by taxis to each destination, a lot of your success on the race depends on getting a taxi driver who knows what he or she is doing.  One team had a taxi that eventually stalled while trying to get to their first location, causing them to drop to last place.  In another instance, several teams that were already pretty far behind the rest of the pack all had taxi drivers that didn’t know the location of their next destination, causing all three of them to overshoot the location by quite a bit.  On the flip side, Nat/Kat’s taxi driver (who was among the teams behind the rest of the pack) eventually grew some courage and managed to pass several teams en route to the pit stop of the leg, boosting them from being somewhere near the end to about the middle of the pack.  It kinda sucks that a large portion of the race is out of your control, and it doesn’t always make for the most satisfying television, especially when it is the cause of the elimination (not that it necessarily was in this particular case), but it is just an inherent part of the race that there is not really a good way to get around.  C’est la vie, I suppose.

Who I’m rooting for: Pretty much the same as last week.  Everyone except Chad/Stephenie and Nick/Vicki. I think next week will be the turning point in which I start to pick out my favorites in the field, but for now, I’m having a lot of fun just watching everyone have fun on the race.

Who will win: I suppose it’s easy to get swayed by them after their display of sheer endurance from last week and the way they excelled at something they already know how to do this week (hocking goods), but this week I change my prediction to Brook/Claire, the home shopping channel hosts that got whacked in the face with a watermelon last week.  They have a certain tenacity about them that is unbelievable.  I still predict that it is a female/female’s team to take it this year, even if it isn’t these two.


The Amazing Race – 17.01: They Don’t Call It The Amazing Race For Nothin’!

September 27, 2010

“This is the first time I’ve ever even heard of Stonehenge, and then I found out that it was a bunch of rocks.” – Vicki

Continuing my streak of talking about my favorite shows, the seventeenth season of The Amazing Race premieres.  We talked about my favorite show of last year and my favorite show of a few years ago.  This show is a very serious candidate for my favorite show of all time.  A simple idea but a very complex concept to execute: follow teams of 2 as they compete to do tasks in countries spanning the entire globe.  Along the way, teams that lollygag get eliminated.  It’s The Travel Channel on crack.  The very nature of a race keeps the show moving at a very fast and exciting pace, but it’s the moments where they slow down and explore the beauty of the areas of the world we rarely get the chance to see that is the defining and irresistible part of the show.  I went into the first season of the show some 10 years ago somewhat skeptical of whether the concept could really work.  15 minutes in to the first hour of the series, the 11 teams have already transported themselves from New York to Africa.  The fantastic shot of teams running down a narrow walkway in front of massive Victoria Falls is unforgettable and one that is burned into my head.  “This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen!” exclaimed a breathless Kevin, one of the team of best buds and former frat bros.  I was instantly in love with the show.

Other than the fantastic locations, it’s also the selection of cast that defines the show.  Over 16 seasons and 10 years, the casts have naturally had their ups and downs, with teams of funny and downright pleasant people and teams of insufferable egomaniacs (with some seasons featuring more of one than the other).  The first episode invariably features a 5-10 minute quick review of all the teams, and it’s usually then that you can more or less immediately tell who’s going to be fun and who’s going to be annoying (red flags are teams that use the words “competitive”, “intense” and “underestimated”).   Surprisingly, this season there were very very few red flags raised, both in the introductory segment and in almost the entire 80-85 minutes that followed.  One notable things about the cast this year is the relatively large number of woman/woman teams.  In 16 seasons of the race, there has never been a team of two women to win the whole thing, so the producers were clearly looking to tip the odds in their favor.  Even more notable is the fact that there are no teams of cheerleaders or models or those who make their living solely off the fact that they look good (not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with teams like that, but it’s just nice to see that we’re not relying on them this season like we normally do).  Instead, we have all woman teams of doctors (intelligence!), home shopping channel hosts (interesting!), birth mother and daughter given away for adoption (fascinating twist on the family team!), and beach volleyball players (athletes!).  Also of note is the team of Michael and Kevin.  Kevin is kevjumba of Youtube “fame”, but the casting I find more notable is of his father, Michael, a first-generation Chinese immigrant who speaks with a very thick accent and an imperfect grasp of English grammar.  Due to my own ethnicity, I do have a natural inclination towards Asian casting in television, and this is the first time I’ve seem a cast member who will probably require subtitles to understand most of what he says.  With the culture gap, it’s going to be very interesting to see both his own reactions and attitudes in running the race and the  way the two’s relationship will develop along the race.

The first episode featured some pretty amazing setpieces as the teams visited Stonehenge, staged an “assault” on an English castle, and completed tasks next to a jousting tournament in the English countryside.  Some teams flourished while others struggled.  The home shopping network hosts Brook/Claire suffered a mild setback, as a watermelon catapult malfunctioned on Claire, causing the watermelon to slam right back in her face.  She showed her worth by not only picking herself and completing the task, but managing to still finish in 4th.  Few standouts teams emerged in this first episode, but it was nice to see everyone for the most just getting along and having fun.  It seems like a good group this year with a mostly positive energy.  Mallory of the father/daughter team Gary/Mallory was full of spunk and vigor and seemed willing to take on almost any task.  Interestingly enough, I actually managed to predict the first team to be eliminated solely on the introductory packages.  They shut me up in the first few minutes by managing to be the first team to get on the early plane out of the US and to England, but managed to not only squander their trivial lead (only 30 minutes, bad move on the producers’ part) but get completely lost in searching for almost all of their destinations.  Nothing in particular tipped me off that they would be first to be eliminated; I think they just seemed the least interesting team from the introductions and maybe I just wanted them to be the first to leave.  Farewell, Ron/Tony.  You may well have been interesting people, but you were not good racers.

Who I’m rooting for: At this point, the easier question is who am I not rooting for. There are a lot of very likable people on the race this year (although as layers are peeled back, I’m sure we’ll very soon start rooting against more and more teams).  So who am I not rooting for?  Young, dating teams are usually boring and a dime a dozen, but it’s especially easy to root against them when they’re “competitive” douchebags.  So yeah, I’m not rooting for Chad/Stephanie. Also, Nick/Vicki seem nice enough, but bumble around too much.  There are more interesting and capable people to be rooting for (like, uh, almost everyone else at this point).

Who will win: As I mentioned, they seemed to really stack the deck with strong woman/woman teams this year.  It just might be the time for one to finally take the checkered flag.  Of the woman/woman teams in the race, I’d put my money behind female doctors Nat/Kat. They seem able to handle the more athletic tasks of the race, and the fact that they are doctors means they have the ability to focus on the task at hand.