TV Review: New Season of ‘The Amazing Race’ Hardly a Game-Changer

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CHICAGO – There is absolutely nothing amazing about “The Amazing Race.” There’s also nothing that’s exciting, innovative, insightful or original about this long-running reality contest, despite the fact that it’s garnered twelve Primetime Emmys. A more accurate title would’ve been “The Diverting Race,” since the show merely consists of cardboard thrills and cartoonish characters that appeal only to one’s inner fast food junkie.

The premise is a simple one: eleven teams race around the world in a network-designed obstacle course that culminates in a grand prize of one million dollars. If “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” were remade as a Reality TV show, it would’ve looked exactly like this. The premiere episode is always the weakest because none of the contestants acquire enough screen time to emerge as anything other than oversimplified caricatures. It doesn’t matter who wins, because it’s impossible to care about anyone on the screen.

HollywoodChicago.com Television Rating: 2.0/5.0
Television Rating: 2.0/5.0

Since character development is not this show’s strong suit, it thrives on manufactured hype to generate consistently high ratings. Host Phil Keoghan has been making a big fuss over this season’s “game-changing” implementation of a new prize. Each episode requires the teams to race toward a pit stop, concealed within various exotic locales. The last team to arrive is eliminated, but now this season, the first pair to cross the finish line will win (drum roll please) the Express Pass, which allows contestants to avoid a challenge they’d rather not complete, thus appealing to America’s love of cutting in line and cheating to get ahead. This new rule does nothing to enhance the show, which simply rattles along its familiar path, as the contestants voice excitement, frustration, sorrow and elation in a typical series of sound-bites. The hour-long episodes move at a ludicrously fast speed and are edited to the point of dizziness. They also feature a tuneless, hyperactive score that sounds like John Williams having a spastic seizure, or perhaps a nervous breakdown.

New contestants face familiar obstacles in the seventeenth season premiere of CBS’s The Amazing Race.
New contestants face familiar obstacles in the seventeenth season premiere of CBS’s The Amazing Race.
Photo credit: John P. Filo/CBS ©2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved

In the latest premiere episode, titled “They Don’t Call It The Amazing Race for Nothin’!,” the teams fly from Massachusetts to England, where they search for Eastnor Castle. Though the show may have worked as a travelogue, no location is viewed long enough to leave an impression. Even Easter Island, one of the immortal wonders of the world, is only fleetingly glimpsed in the background. Once arriving at their destination, the race begins to resemble a Nickelodeon game show for adults, as the contestants launch watermelons and climb castle walls, while angry extras douse them with muddy water. Just like the majority of television offerings from executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer, the show operates on the most base level of “real-sploitation,” and does become more entertaining as it goes on, as viewers succumb to its guilty pleasures. The program’s extreme repetition, caused by watching multiple teams racing through the same obstacles, actually works to the show’s advantage, since it motivates viewers to shout clues at the screen, much like “Dora the Explorer” (which certainly represents the IQ of “The Amazing Race”’s target audience).

Phil Keoghan hosts The Amazing Race.
Phil Keoghan hosts The Amazing Race.
Photo credit: John P. Filo/CBS ©2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved

As usual, the show takes only five minutes to introduce its twenty-two new characters, most of whom blur into each other, except for the ones that can be quickly depicted as stereotypes. There’s Chad and Stephanie, a Miami couple whose constant bickering does not bode well for their relationship. Though Chad says he plans to propose to Stephanie during the show, he does nothing but whine and complain, coming across like a first-rate douche. When Chad finds himself falling behind the show’s designated team of nerds, the humbled jock thoughtfully replies, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” Sorry “Amazing Race,” but Susan Boyle already taught us that. These so-called nerds, Connor and Jonathan, are Ivy League a cappella singers who are nice enough to stop and lend a hand to their fellow competitors. Since one of them wears glasses, he’s instantly referred to as Harry Potter. And since they both sing, they’re labeled “Team Glee,” in a shameless attempt to attract “Glee” fans.

Other contestants come with their own built-in dramatic baggage. Andie and Gena are a recently reunited mother and daughter whose unfamiliarity with each other threatens to hinder their success. There’s also a doctor, Nat, who happens to be a type 1 diabetic on an insulin pump (her teammate, Kat, explains that Nat’s presence on the show is meant to be inspiring). Other highlights include the reigning Miss Kentucky, a dim-witted biker couple, a home shopping host who gets a watermelon in the kisser, and a delightful father and son team who recently became YouTube sensations. Michael is an immigrant, while his son is a first-generation Asian American, and their viral videos amusingly capture their conflicting cultures, though their considerable charm is wasted by a show interested more in gimmicks than relationships. Chad may be a sourpuss, but I did find myself chuckling in agreement when he observed, “This is the dumbest freaking crap ever!”

‘The Amazing Race,’ which airs on CBS, is hosted by Phil Keoghan. The show was created by Elise Doganieri and Bert Van Munster. The seventeenth season premieres on Sunday, September 26, 2010 at 7 PM CST.

HollywoodChicago.com staff writer Matt Fagerholm

By MATT FAGERHOLM
Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
matt@hollywoodchicago.com

Anonymous's picture

that sounds interseting to

that sounds interseting to me.. it thrives on manufactured hype to generate consistently high ratings :)

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