“Who Won The Amazing Race Season 16?”
May 9th, 2010
I don’t know if it’s because this season of Survivor has been so full of twists and turns, or whether it’s just the format showing its age, but I really can’t say I was invested in the conclusion to The Amazing Race’s sixteenth season (or in the episodes leading up to it, as I’ve fallen away from reviewing the show). The show has remained engaging this year – I haven’t stopped watching, after all – but it just hasn’t felt like “must-see” TV. The people running the race didn’t seem to have a lot of energy, and there wasn’t the sort of tension that we’re used to seeing on the race.
If I were to look at just the teams themselves, this finale seems pretty exciting: you have Jet and Cord as the fan favourites who have remained endearing and positive throughout the race, you have Dan and Jordan as a scrappy team who have a good story (Dan participating so that Jordan can achieve his dream of running the race), and you have Brent and Caite as the young and attractive team that we tend to root against. However, the show never quite figured out how to tap into these various roles, and spent so much time on Caite’s self-centered attempts to prove herself to the world that they missed creating any other narratives. I understand that Carol and Brandy were bitchy enough that they needed to be featured, but I don’t feel like the series’ narratives have been well drawn in the editing room this year (which isn’t something I’d normally say about the show).
However, tonight’s finale still managed to bring enough tension to keep me on the edge of my seat, as there were enough strategic moves and enough clever bits of race logic to keep things interesting as the race gets its sixteenth winners – unfortunately, the episode stumbles at the finish line, stumbling with late clues and allowing the drama of the race to spoil the ending.
March 28th, 2010
Most weeks, The Amazing Race is a show which tends to expand rather than create our knowledge of the various locations it visits. The value of the show as a representation f different cultures is always a little bit limited, translated as it is into gimmicky challenges and pit stop stereotypes, but it’s usually just an expansion – rather than the a creation – of knowledge. And so the show is rarely expected to be providing any substantial cultural education, and while I think that we might visit countries vicariously through the race, we don’t necessarily except to learn about them.
However, this week The Amazing Race went to a place that most of the contestants, and many viewers, may have never heard of: the Seychelles, a series of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, was a place that I had no previous knowledge of, and if I were to take the Race’s word for it the islands are defined by a sedentary lifestyle represented by tortoises and stubborn oxen. While the Race richly captures – sadly in standard definition – the beauty of the islands, and drops a mention of a large number of shipwrecks, the hectic nature of the race means that you spend more time with the people who are struggling with their new surroundings than you are with the surroundings themselves.
And while it is possible for this to make some sort of statement, for the players’ struggles to adapt to local customs to tell us something about the challenges facing their populations, this week’s episode was so filled with bone-headed mistakes that I wouldn’t be surprised if the people of La Digue island weren’t considered coconut Nazis by the time the hour is over. Finally living up to the potential indicated in the first episode of the season, this season’s group of racers has officially won the title of “Dumbest Season Ever,” and the poor Seychelles were just the setting for their clown-like farce.
“I Think We’re Fighting the Germans, Right?”
March 14th, 2010
It’s been three weeks since I’ve been able to review The Amazing Race, which is pretty unfortunate. It just so happened that one week was the Academy awards, and the week before was the closing ceremonies of the Vancouver Olympics. I enjoy this show enough to keep watching it when these sorts of conflicts arise, but blogging about it is another story. There just isn’t enough time in the day, especially when the last few weeks have ultimately been what one would call predictable: there was no doubt that Monique and Shawne were too far behind two weeks ago in Argentina, and last week’s episode smelled like a non-elimination even before the fairly predictable conclusion (even if the nice Beatles touches were pretty enjoyable, and even if I was glad that Jeff and Jordan were not done in by an errant taxi ride that wasn’t their fault).
So, I figure I owe it to the show to put some thoughts on the table in regards to this week’s episode. Thus far, the cast is more or less living up to our early expectations: there are no teams that I abhor (although there are times where Carol/Brandy cut it pretty close), there are no teams I really love, and there are no teams that are running a really intelligent race.
However, there is one team that I like much better than I expected to, and that is running a far better race than I expected them to, and those sorts of underdog stories (See: Hippies) are the sorts of thing which keep my engaged all season long.
“When the Cow Kicked Me in the Head”
February 21st, 2010
At this early stage of The Amazing Race, there are two primary ways for teams to be eliminated. The first is to make a critical mistake, like when Zev and Justin went out early last season over a missing passport, or when teams drive by the Roadblock convinced that it couldn’t possibly be the right location. The second, meanwhile, is not being willing to take some risks to rise to the front of the pack, choosing to remain complacent and basically non-competitive. There is something tragic about the first example, certainly, but at least it was a mistake that was born out of racing too quickly; the latter point, meanwhile, isn’t actually racing at all, and there’s something about that which I consider to be honourable but, well, crazy.
So it’s telling that, despite a fairly substantial bunching situation mid-leg, this week’s leg ended up coming down to what teams made the least critical mistakes, and more importantly which teams were hungry for victory. In the end, despite fairly big mistakes from a couple of teams, the elimination came down to who wanted to race, and who wanted to enjoy their experience.
And while I have a great deal of respect for those who enjoy their time on the race, and wish more people prescribed to that particular mantra, trying to race solely on that principle is maybe the worst Race strategy I’ve ever seen…and I think they’re probably okay with that.
“Nanna is Kickin’ Your Butt”
Februrary 14th, 2010
When CBS sends out the season premiere of The Amazing Race to critics, it kind of ruins it.
Not only will this review be infinitely later than Fienberg’s, thus making it at least a tiny bit irrelevant, but their previews of the season (and even the press that Phil Keoghan did ahead of time) also ruined the two surprises that were in store for us. Sure, it’s not a big deal that we knew in advance that the teams would be forced to take public transportation in order to get to LAX from Downtown LA, or that a number of teams would make stupid decisions, but it meant that we knew exactly what we were getting, and thus it feels less “noteworthy.” I doubt it affected my enjoyment of the episode, but it makes writing about it kind of uneventful.
However, I want to highlight a few things about the leg, including both the public transportation and the stupidity, and at least give some sense of what appears to be going down at this early stage in the season.