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Friday, August 10, 2012

Amazing Race, How Sweet That Show

Have you ever dreamed of going on a trip around the world? I know that I have.

I'll be completely honest with you. I haven't done much world travel in my life. I've never left North America. Heck, the furthest I've ever ventured outside of my current area of residence is Montreal, Quebec.

This is something that I would like to change. I want to go out and experience the wonderful places that the world has. I'd love to be able to visit all of the various places that I have only ever read about. In fact, my friend who came up to visit me this past week has extended an open invitation at any time to hang out with her in New York City, and I'm definitely planning on making that a reality within the next year or two.

I'm not exactly sure what inspired my desire to go all around the world, but I think it was triggered right around the time that a particular reality television series debuted on CBS. It's a show that literally has hundreds of filming locations each season, and that is still going strong after eleven years on the air.

The show also inspired one of my all time favourite quotes that I have ever heard on a television show. One of the teams that competed on the show best described the series as “a love letter to the planet”, and you know something? I agree with that statement.

The show that I'm discussing today is “The Amazing Race”, the reality program that has seen hundreds of teams racing around the world for the chance at one million dollars since September 5, 2001.

But don't think that the one million dollar prize is the only incentive for the teams to compete in the show. I mean, yes, a million dollars is always a nice chunk of change for a couple of people to share...but I bet that if you ask anyone who ever competed on the race itself, they'll tell you that the opportunity to go all around the world was worth even more to them than the money itself.

The Amazing Race” was created by Elise Doganieri and Bertram van Munster, who ended up creating the show as a result of a bet! Bertram van Munster issued a challenge to Doganieri to create a television show outline in five minutes or less while both attended a trade convention. Doganieri suggested a show where people raced around the world, and the two of them immediately pitched the idea to CBS, who were interested in putting the show on the air. The show went into development in 2001, and New Zealand born television personality Phil Keoghan was asked to host the show. Since 2001, several other continents have launched their own versions of “The Amazing Race”, including Asia and Australia.

TRIVIA: Phil Keoghan originally applied to be the host of another CBS reality television series, “Survivor”, and actually made the short list. Ultimately, Jeff Probst was given that job, but CBS executives were so impressed by Keoghan that they offered him the hosting gig of “The Amazing Race”.

The Amazing Race” casts between ten and twelve teams of two (or in the case of the eighth American season, ten teams of four) to compete in the race. The starting line for each race always takes place in a metropolitan American city (New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago are common), and Phil always says the following to the teams before the beginning of each race.

The world is waiting for safe...GO!”

And from there, the teams were let loose on the world, with each one trying to stay one step above the other teams.

The way the show works is that each episode has the teams going to a different country in the world, allowing each team to experience the cultures and traditions of the nation by completing various tasks hidden in clue boxes around local landmarks.

Most often than not, these tasks are named after various traffic signs that can be seen on city streets all over the world. The most common ones are roadblocks and detours. In roadblocks, one member of each team must complete a particular task before being given the next clue, and on a race with twelve legs, each member of the team can only complete a maximum of six roadblocks a piece. Detours, on the other hand, allow teams a choice between two tasks, each of which have their pros and cons. Teams must decide which task is best suited for them, as both members have to take part in the task. Both teams have to finish the tasks as quickly as possible, for at the end of each leg is a pit stop. In most cases, the last team to cross the pit stop at the end of each leg is eliminated from the race, and sent to a mystery location where they are sequestered from the rest of the race. Some legs are non-elimination legs, and teams won't be eliminated for coming in last, but will usually have some form of penalty (usually an additional task to complete).

In addition to detours and roadblocks are other challenges which only appear in a few legs on the race. These include “Fast Forwards”, which allow teams to skip all tasks on the leg that they are currently competing in, “U-Turns”, which allow teams to force a trailing team to complete BOTH detour options., and
Intersections”, where two teams have to work together to complete one task.

And, what exactly do some of these tasks involve?

Well, this...

...and this...

...and, we can't forget this.

What I find most fascinating about “The Amazing Race” is the fact that the tasks are very much nation oriented. Sure, there are gross food tasks, and tasks that may seem incredibly impossible, but if you look at some of the tasks that have been featured on previous seasons of “The Amazing Race”, the tasks have included building huts, water pumps, and other essential things needed to improve life quality in underdeveloped nations (which the show visits at least two of these nations per season). Imagine the high someone gets when they donate their time to helping their local community become a better place and multiply that by one hundred. That's “The Amazing Race” in a nutshell.

Of course, I don't think I can end this blog entry off without paying homage to some of the most memorable teams that have ever competed in “The Amazing Race”, because they are truly the ones who make the show. Some of the teams were very good, and some of them were very bad. But, really, you can't have a show without teams, so let's have a look at some of the more memorable ones.


I'm of mixed opinion when it comes to teams who have competed in other reality shows. Some of them are captivating to watch (Rob and Amber Mariano from “Survivor”, Jeff Schroeder and Jordan Lloyd from “Big Brother”), some didn't last too long (Ethan Zohn and Jenna Morasca from “Survivor”), and some had no business competing in the show at all (Brendon Villegas and Rachel Reilly from “Big Brother”). While I don't mind having people like this on “The Amazing Race”, I definitely prefer watching the teams of regular people over reality stars still trying to squeeze out the last drops of their 15 minutes of fame.


Say what you want about the fifth season team “Charla and Mirna”. I'll admit that Mirna wasn't exactly my favourite person on the race, mostly because of her condescending attitude towards other teams. Her cousin Charla was a delight though. Charla was the show's first little person who competed in the race, and she was a force to be reckoned with.

There was also another team that competed in the fifteenth season of “The Amazing Race” named Zev and Justin who really impressed me. You see, Zev was diagnosed as having a condition known as Asperger's syndrome, which causes people to have it to have difficulty communicating with people on a social level. Some people might see the idea of running a race with a partner having Asperger's as a major handicap, but Justin never did. The two worked very well together, and in some cases, Zev's Asperger's syndrome worked to his advantage on certain tasks. It's a shame that Zev losing his passport on one leg of the race caused the team to be eliminated, but they redeemed themselves by competing in a future All-Stars season, making the final four.

By the way, Charla and Mirna were also included in an All-Stars season.

TRIVIA: The eleventh and eighteenth seasons of “The Amazing Race” were All-Star seasons.

Other teams that were memorable included Peter and Sarah from season 10 (Sarah had a leg amputated), and Luke and Margie from season 14 (Luke was deaf).


Well, I'll readily admit that Rachel and Brendon from last season were one of those teams. With moments like this one, it's easy to see why.

But there were so many other teams that could easily fit this description as well. You know those teams that just annoy you for whatever reason? Let's take a look at some of them below in a little Top 5 list.


Tara and Wil were a separated couple who went on the race to see if they could get back together. In my opinion, they should have stayed separated. They did nothing but argue with each other constantly. I think I lost how many times Tara screamed “YOU IDIOT!” at Wil during the whole season. So how fitting was it to see them in first place just a couple of miles away from the finish line only for Chris and Alex to pass them by because they were too busy arguing with each other. It was priceless. And, that's not the only team that ended up having a terrible moment because of arguing...


I really hated to put them on this list, because when they were on season twelve, I loved them. Their distinct black and pink look definitely stood out against the other racers, and I thought that they such unique personalities. Flash forward six seasons, and I couldn't recognize the team that I once loved. With Vyxsin breaking down in tears every five minutes, and Kynt screaming at her every five minutes because of her breaking down, I couldn't wait to see them eliminated. It was that painful to watch.


Have you ever been at a water park and seen all of the various water slides that are scattered all over the entire park? They're supposed to be fun, right? Not for Mika. When the teams had to complete a task in Dubai where all they had to do was slide down a waterslide, Mika was too afraid to do it. I suppose the fact that the slide went through a pool that was filled with sharks may have had something to do with it, but the sharks were in a place where they couldn't eat the racers. Regardless, I don't know what was more disturbing, Mika crying because of her intense fear, or Canaan trying to throw her down the slide. As a result of this, Flight Time and Big Easy from the Harlem Globetrotters managed to slide past them, ending up with the elimination of Mika and Canaan. Too bad.


The only winners of the race that I did an actual facepalm over. I didn't find Zach to be all that annoying, but let's just say that he had difficulty going with the Flo. Flo essentially cried and complained her way to the finish line the entire time. I had to use my mute button to get through the finale. Aside from the fact that they managed to get ahead of brothers Ken & Gerard (one of my all-time favourite teams), Flo nearly QUIT the race because Zach decided that it would be easier for him to complete a roadblock by converting his pants to shorts, which Flo did not take well AT ALL. I still can't believe they won.


Well, let's get the obvious out of the way here. Jonathan was an abusive monster and Victoria was his doormat. That was the impression that I got of the two right from the beginning of the sixth season. Jonathan would yell at Victoria if they made a wrong turn, screwed up a detour, if it rained, if a cat crossed their path, if a grain of salt was present on the table, etc. And Victoria would just sit there and take it. But their greatest shameful moment? Watch it below.

I will say this though...I felt horrible for Victoria, and I was kind of hoping that Phil Keoghan would have told Jonathan off right then and there. I do believe that I read somewhere that the couple has since split up. For the sake of the world, I hope this is true.

Now to conclude this look at “The Amazing Race”, I wanted to share with you some of my favourite moments over the 20 seasons of the race. It could include my favourite teams, funny scenes, or just feel-good moments.


Twenty teams have managed to win “The Amazing Race”, and some of them displayed good sportmanship and likeability from the very beginning. I wish to single out Season 1's Rob and Brennan, Season 2's Chris and Alex, Season 7's Uchenna and Joyce, Season 9's BJ and Tyler, Season 13's Nick and Starr, Season 14's Victor and Tammy, Season 17's, Nat and Kat, and Season 20's Rachel and Dave for being great winners. There were some fights, and some tears, but they ran a great race.


There were many teams of firsts. We talked about Season 10's Sarah being the first amputee, Season 5's Charla being the first little person, and Luke being the first deaf contestant. But did you know that Season 4's Reichen and Chip were the show's first gay married couple (though since then, the two have split up).

The oldest person ever to compete in “The Amazing Race” was Mel White, who was 70 on the 18th Season. The youngest person ever to compete was then nine-year old Carissa Gaghan, who raced with her family on the 8th season “Family Edition” of “The Amazing Race”.


Sometimes you see moments that you have to do a double take on. And these moments usually lead to great moments as the season progresses. On season seven, Uchenna and Joyce were faced with having to shave their heads in order to progress to the next clue. For Uchenna, it was not hard for him to decide as he was bald anyway. Joyce had a full head of hair, and really debated on what to do. She made the difficult choice to shave it all off for the sake of the race.

That decision was a good one, as it helped them win the race.

Another unexpected moment was the watermelon catapulting challenge from Season 17, and home shopping hosts Brook and Claire were one of the last teams to complete the challenge. Well, Claire's aim with the catapult was a little bit off, and this lead to one of the most talked about moments on the whole race.

Can you say, OUCH!

Fortunately, Claire was surprisingly uninjured, and the team managed to place second overall. Plus, their bubbly personalities and never give up attitude cemented them as one of my all-time favourite teams. And, speaking of which, I'll end this note off with my list of my Top 15 Amazing Race teams of all time.

15 – VICTOR AND TAMMY (Season 14)
14 – B.J. AND TYLER (Season 9)
13 – NICK AND STARR (Season 13)
12 – KELLY AND JON (Season 4)
11 – KEN AND GERARD (Season 3)
10 – UCHENNA AND JOYCE (Season 7, 11)
09 – DUSTIN AND KANDICE (Season 10, 11)
08 – JET AND CORD (Season 16, 18)
07 – NAT AND KAT (Season 17)
06 – JON AND AL (Season 4)
05 – BROOK AND CLAIRE (Season 17)
04 – JOHN VITO AND JILL (Season 3, 11)
03 – DANNY AND OSWALD (Season 2, 11)

02 – BOPPER AND MARK (Season 20)

01 – KRIS AND JON (Season 6)

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